That can’t be — famed Native American candidate Elizabeth Warren is surging in the polls! I kid, I kid, but unfortunately the cycle’s biggest disappointment isn’t joking. Kamala Harris practically had the red carpet laid out for her when she entered the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, including a move by her home state to go early in the voting process. Instead of catching fire, Harris wasted a momentary polling burst in the early summer and now polls routinely in the second tier or below.
Harris has an explanation for that, which is as ridiculous as it is predictable:
Discussing her campaign with “Axios on HBO”, Kamala Harris says electability is the “elephant in the room”, questioning whether America is ready for a woman — and a woman of color — to be president. pic.twitter.com/vykBmAvIhL
— Axios (@axios) October 28, 2019
The “elephant in the room” for Harris is her incompetence at closing the deal. It’s absurd to be talking about racism as her biggest obstacle when Harris can’t even get into double digits in the same state that elected her to the Senate. California maneuvered itself to the front of the primary pack, which all but handed Harris a boatload of delegates if she just managed to remain competitive in the Golden State. Instead, it’s been nearly two months since she last hit double digits in California, and almost four months since she last polled higher than fourth place. In the most recent KQED/NPR poll in the state, Harris finished fifth, slightly behind a gay mayor from South Bend, Indiana who arguably doesn’t much resemble the previous 45 presidents in terms of identity either.
Now, Harris has won statewide elections in California three times — in 2010 and 2014 as attorney general, and then in 2016 to the US Senate. Harris barely won in her first election 46/45 in a six-way race, but got 56% on her re-election bid four years later and then 61.6% in her win to the US Senate — over a Hispanic Democrat, thanks to California’s all-in primary system. Are we to conclude that Californians only recently found out that Harris is a “woman of color”?
For this claim, Harris presents a single, solitary anecdote for support — and it’s from nearly twelve years ago. When the Axios interviewer reminds Harris that Barack Obama won two terms in office from the same supposedly racist/bigoted electorate, Harris relates a conversation she had in the run-up to the 2008 Iowa caucuses in which an elderly black woman told her that “they aren’t going to let him win.” Except, of course, Obama won the 2008 Iowa caucuses with 32% of the vote, well ahead of Hillary Clinton’s 25%, and won Iowa in the general election over John McCain 54/45.
One also has to wonder at the long-range strategy behind tossing this race/gender card at Democratic voters. After all, Harris isn’t out campaigning for Republican votes at this stage. When she claims that “there is a lack of ability or difficulty in imagining” that a woman of color can be president, Harris is making that claim about the Democrats who are stampeding away from her candidacy and toward Warren, Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and even Pete Buttigieg.
Can Harris win a Democratic presidential primary by calling its voters racists and bigots? Almost certainly not, but it will be hilariously fun to watch her try.