Kamala Harris Adds Some #KHIVE To The #Joementum
Sunday morning, Kamala Harris joined the stampede of Democrats hopping on the Joe Biden express train back to Washington, DC. There was some speculation that Harris might endorse Biden earlier, prior to the Super Tuesday California primary, which was one of the few Bernie Sanders won. I personally think it was wise to wait because Sanders had a significant lead in the early vote, and a last-minute endorsement likely wouldn't have significantly narrowed the gap. More importantly, I think Harris, like Warren, has the right to endorse on her own damn timetable.
Harris was in Selma, Alabama, this weekend for the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. The California senator movingly linked her endorsement with this pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement.
HARRIS: I'll be walking across the Edmund Pettus again with John Lewis and so many great, great leaders and fighters. I'm just thinking about all the folks who for generations have fought and died for our civil rights and fought to help our nation achieve its ideals. And you guys know we have yet to achieve those ideals but one of the greatest things about us is we are willing to fight to get there. So I just wanted you guys to know because you have been supporting me for so long and I just wanted you to know I have decided that I am with great enthusiasm going to endorse Joe Biden for president of the United States. I believe in Joe. I really believe in him and I have known him for a long time.
Skeptics will point out that Harris was slimed as "opportunistic," overly "ambitious" and "calculating" because she dared confront Biden about his recent praise of Southern segregationists and past positions on busing. It was as if she was running for president! Biden's own campaign hit her back especially hard, which was not a surprise. Politics ain't beanbag or some other game I never played as a child because games are stupid.
That unforgettable moment during the first Democratic debate also demonstrated how vital it was to have a diverse roster of candidates. Suburban white moderates might appreciate Biden's comments about palling around with segregationists. It reinforced the narrative that the ideal Democratic president could "unite" white liberals with their racist Trump-supporting relatives. Harris called bullshit on the Kumbaya kick. She spoke for many black people when she expressed how "hurtful" it was to hear a supposed ally boast of having made common cause with our mortal enemies.
A black candidate was the only one who could've challenged the illusion of a "negative peace" in so personal terms. It's also why Elizabeth Warren was the only candidate on the Las Vegas debate stage who could've dismantled Mike Bloomberg so effectively over his past treatment of women.
Although Warren loathed Bloomberg and everything he represents, Harris made it clear from the start that she respected Biden and was confronting him like a disappointed friend not a backstabbing Judas in high heels, as the media and people close to Biden chose to depict her. Cynics might claim she's making a desperate about face, but that's just not true. Her praise of Biden is no more inconsistent with her past criticisms than any of Biden's former rivals who have now endorsed him. I believe Harris when she says she "believe(s) in Joe."
HARRIS: I really believe in him. And I have known him for a long time. One of the things that we need right now is we need a leader who really does care about the people and who can therefore unify the people. And I believe Joe can do that. I am supporting Joe because I believe that he is a man who has lived his life with great dignity. He is a public servant who has always worked for the best of who we are as a nation and we need that right now.
In her official statement endorsing Biden, Harris expressed her sadness at watching women candidates exit the race on by one. She said it's something Democrats must "reckon with," and I couldn't agree more. Some pundits have suggested the "solution" of the white male nominee choosing a female running mate and handing her a coupon for leadership she can redeem at an indeterminate date. True political power is what we win on our own, not what we're "given" as a consolation prize.
Harris was my first choice for president, not my "I guess" choice. I had few reservations about her. I certainly didn't wonder whether she could serve two terms or worry about whether she'd finish her first. But I feel better about our likely nominee whenever I hear politicians like Harris speak about Biden so fully from the heart. There's no malarkey in her words.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).