Kamala Harris, a graduate of historically black Howard University, announced her bid for the 2020 presidential campaign around 7:30 this morning on ‘Good Morning, America.’
By the time the noonday news segments were airing, several op-eds in national news papers were making the rounds on social media and in email inboxes about Harris’ record as a California prosecutor, and state Attorney General.
The New York Times, the Intercept,and Mother Jones all offer varying takes on Harris’ professional work on issues like attorney misconduct, punishment for youth truancy and policing reforms. They all published within hours of her announced presidential candidacy, the first black woman to declare such a campaign since Carol Moseley-Braun in 2003 and Shirley Chisolm in 1972.
Debating Harris’ record is a legitimate effort, as it would be for any middle-aged white male candidate who has had the spirit and finance to pursue such ambitions. What separates the debate around Harris’ campaign is the speed with which the criticism and potential talking points which have surfaced on day one of the formal Harris For President campaign.
These same issues were present for Harris successful campaign for U.S. Senate. Maybe they’ve always been there and not just in the national line of sight for the average American voter or Twitter commentator. Typically, the HBCU community would love to chase down such a coordinated effort as racism or sexism against one of our graduates, but the truth is that at the heart of this campaign are black folks taking issue with her politics as enacted through legal activity.
At first blush, it is a painful echo for what has long plagued black folks pursuing power and influence inside and outside of politics; who really is responsible for smear campaigns against our best and brightest, and how much should we trust them? Through the lens of conspiracy, this has the look of a Democratic National Committee hit on a candidate seen by many as a front-runner for the party’s nomination, with echoes of how Bernie Sanders was railroaded in the effort to support Hillary Clinton.
This round of political mudslinging may be that, but it may simultaneously be a sign of how far we’ve come as a country and as a people. Could it be that all kinds of people are supporting and opposing Harris for DNC-driven political reasons, and for individual and meaningful grievances with a candidate?
On day one, there are reasons to worry about a successful Harris 2020 bid, and reasons for HBCU stakeholders to give it a chance. Her prosecutorial moves from years ago are now dueling with today’s actions as a candidate looking to court key communities.
A press conference at her alma mater, a meeting with members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc in South Carolina later this week. A likely slate of HBCU outreach in the years to come. Harris will know how to play this game and play it well with a changing Democratic base.
All of it suggests that Harris may earn the right to be canceled, or earn the right to be supported. But with all that we know about her past record, today is not the day for a submarine effort which could’ve been launched against her bid for senator in 2017. The timing, the details, and the prospects don’t quite stack up for her to be out just hours after she got in.
She’s earned the right to explain herself and to win us over. Now let’s be sure to pay attention to make sure she’s doing more than simply speaking our language.