The disappointment on the faces of many cable news personalities when Kamala Harris dropped out of the primary race was obvious. Others have been chiming in on the question as well, including former NAACP president Cornell William Brooks. As the one viable candidate who was both female and Black, Harris ticked all the right boxes. Brooks sees her failure to gain significant, lasting traction in the primary as a result of endemic racism, while others blame the primary structure itself. (The Hill)
Some are accusing the media of going easy on white candidates. There are also arguments that late-arriving billionaire candidates are drowning out other campaigns.
“It’s very troubling and I’m worried that Democrats might be setting themselves up for failure,” said Cornell William Brooks, a former NAACP president and current director at the William Monroe Trotter Collaborative for Social Justice at Harvard University.
“The demographic shift in this country, which is most pronounced in the Democratic Party, is toward a younger, more progressive and more diverse electorate. We could be looking at a debate stage that’s far different from that.
Calling the primary process “profoundly unfair and anachronistic,” Brooks goes on to point out that Iowa and New Hampshire are two of the whitest states in the nation. This presumably accounts for Harris’ failure to drive a large following.
The number of things wrong with this argument is stunning, whether you’re talking about racism or sexism. (Both isms are alleged by people quoted in the linked article.)
First of all, as I was saying to some friends on Twitter yesterday, the only people voting in the primaries (and being regularly polled) are Democrats and left-leaning independents. If you think there’s an entrenched problem with racism, Democrats should look in the mirror.
Also, when it comes to racism and sexism, you should keep in mind that Barack Obama carried Iowa. He was also elected president. During the 2016 election, Democrats managed to nominate a woman. How did they achieve those feats if the Democrats are such a bunch of haters?
In terms of the fact that Iowa and New Hampshire always go first, you’ll get no argument from me. I’ve been calling for massive changes to the primary system for years. But it’s also not much of an excuse. While there’s something to be said for the momentum candidates can generate with an early victory, the Democratic primary immediately shifts to far more diverse states after those first two. (Nevada and South Carolina.) And in the end, the primary is a marathon, not a sprint. Winning the first two states doesn’t guarantee you anything.
It’s also rather insulting to assume that black voters will automatically gravitate to a candidate based on their skin color. Take a look at who is clearly lapping the field in South Carolina. It’s one of the septuagenarian white dudes.
There’s an alternate theory out there to explain Harris’ failure to launch, but some analysts seem to be afraid to say it aloud. Maybe she didn’t catch on because she was just a poor candidate who ran a terrible campaign. She flip-flopped on her positions multiple times and her staff appeared to be in a constant state of chaos and crisis. Her fundraising was uneven at best. No matter how many mistakes were made or who made them, the final blame falls on the captain of the ship when it hits an iceberg. And that captain of that sunken vessel was Harris herself.