The dramatic fall of Kamala Harris for President

Senator Kamala Harris gives a thumbs down as she speaks during the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

NEW YORK – California Sen. Kamala Harris put up the epitaph to her financially-strapped and beleaguered campaign, a day after a new Hill-HarrisX poll of the Democratic presidential primary race showed that newcomer Michael Bloomberg had topped her as well, buzzing to 6%, an uptick of 100%, while Harris plunged to a humiliating 2% – a fall of 100%, showing irreversible decline.

“Although I am no longer running for president,” Harris said in her announcement on Tuesday, “I will do everything in my power to defeat Donald Trump and fight for the future of our country and the best of who we are.”

Harris, thus, ended her campaign with a resolution similar to when she entered the fray, beginning of the year, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in Oakland, California, before a whopping crowd of 20,000 – to fight for people, defend the vulnerable from the high handedness of the rich and mighty.

In that rally, she pleaded her case, saying, to thunderous applause: “”It was just a couple blocks from this very spot that nearly 30 years ago as a young district attorney I walked into the courtroom for the very first time and said the five words that would guide my life’s work: ‘Kamala Harris, for the people.’”

Harris has acted judiciously to bow out gracefully from the crowded race, well before the primaries. Her decision shows concern for the party, and for the larger cause of defeating Trump. It remains to be seen how many more Dem candidates will follow suit before the Iowa contest. And importantly, if it ultimately matters after the Presidential election votes are counted, in November next year.

If Harris had stuck it out any further, despite polls showing her inevitable doom to the bin of also-rans, there was only one inglorious road that lay just ahead of her: further danger to her credibility, and likely increase in bitter mudslinging and war of words on national stage with other Democratic candidates, on the lines of the sparring she’s had with Joe Biden and Tulsi Gabbard, denting her chances to be a viable running mate. It’s a position well within her reach despite her backing down so early – especially if a White male were to get the Democratic nomination.

Analysis has poured in since Harris stepped down. Politico harped on her misguided slant to the Bernie Sanders’ left-wing prescription of single-payer, Medicare for All method, for fixing the nation’s health care system. It proved to be politically toxic, torpedoed her campaign. It’s an issue that has been vexatious for other top candidates too, including Elizabeth Warren, and Sanders himself, Politico analysts said.

Then there was the “waffling”, as Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post put it, analyzing Harris’ campaign demise.

“Harris also waffled between embracing her record as a prosecutor and downplaying it. She cycled through palate-pleasing slogans – among them, “the 3 a.m. agenda” and “justice is on the ballot.” But they did not add up to a vision,” Tumulty wrote, adding, “The problem was not that she didn’t have positions on the issues. She had plenty of them, on topics from teacher salaries to equal pay for men and women, gun control, taxes and immigration. But given the choice of going left or going right, Harris too often seemed to be trying to choose both.”

Julia Crave, writing in Slate, had a similar analysis, after pointing out that the initial burst of momentum for Harris showed that Democratic voters were indeed receptive to a black woman candidate.

“But after that first burst of momentum, she failed to stick her landing. Voters were never able to figure out who she was or what particular problem facing Americans she cared about most,” surmised Crave, who dwelt at length on similar weak points of Harris’ career as a prosecutor.

Columnist Charles M. Blow, writing in The New York times, pointed out a critical aspect of the primary contest which ended the aspirations of Harris.

“It is fair to ask what role racism and sexism played in her campaign’s demise. These are two “isms” that are permanent, obvious and unavoidable in American society,” Blow wrote. “It is fair to ask how those features impacted media coverage, or the lack of coverage.”

He added: “It is fair to ask about the Democratic debate rules and how they prioritize donations in addition to polls, thereby advantaging the opinions of people who can afford to give over those who can’t. It is fair to ask about the Democrats’ schedule of caucuses and primaries that begin with two states — Iowa and New Hampshire — that are overwhelmingly white, so that candidates who poll best there get the benefit of momentum even before a ballot is cast and also before the contests move to states with more minorities.”

Blow pointed out the key reason, however, why Harris is out, and Biden is still in the mix, on top of the totem pole: black voters never latched onto Harris despite her African American and Indian American roots, while Biden remains firmly in favor with that block of voters.

While the positive take away from that is that American voters today seem to have come a long way from racial politics, and voting based on color of the skin, since Obama took office, it’s of little consolation to Harris, who would feel aggrieved with her not able to curry favor with a constituency she thought she could downright own.

And although Harris herself questioned whether or not America was “ready” to elect an African-American woman as President during an October interview on ‘Axios on HBO’, Fox News’ ‘The Five’ co-host Juan Williams, didn’t mince words on what he thought of Harris’ campaign.

“If you’re saying, ‘oh, it seems to me that there’s bias at play,’ wouldn’t you think, ‘Oh, there’s a tremendous well of support coming from blacks, Latinos, women?'”, Williams said, adding for emphasis, “No, it wasn’t there for Kamala Harris. I think she didn’t run a very good campaign.”

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)



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