Before I go on, I have to admit to you that I am breaking a personal rule of mine and a general rule of political analysis. This column is largely premised on anecdotal observation, and should therefore not be taken as absolute gospel political truth.
However, when you couple this anecdotal data with data from Kamala Harris’ run for President and the general reaction we’ve seen online, a picture starts to form and it is a picture you will absolutely not hear anyone else discuss in our national media, because they are very invested in the idea that the Biden/Harris ticket for the 2020 election is a strong one. The truth, though? It could not be any weaker.
In writing this, I spoke with several friends who are extremely progressive. Some black, some white, some Hispanic. Some are straight and some are LGBT. All of them have very strong opinions about this election, and most are not happy with the way the Democratic Party ticket has turned out.
Since Harris was officially named to the Biden ticket, I have watched on several social media feeds as friends who are of a different race and different political alignment have reacted. I want to divide those reactions into a few different categories and explain to you why Kamala Harris is trouble for Biden.
- White, Progressive
- Black/Hispanic Progressive
- White, Very Progressive
- Black/Hispanic, Very Progressive
The first category, “White, Progressive”, have almost universally had the same reaction. These are white progressives who are excited to watch history being made with the first black female vice presidential candidate on a major party’s ticket. They have filled their social media with inspirational pictures and quotes, hailing this as a fine moment in American History. Some of them appear to be assuaging their white guilt just as much as they are genuinely excited about the ticket.
For progressives who are black (or, in many cases, Hispanic), our second category, the response is generally pretty tepid. They are more interested in beating Donald Trump than excited about Harris. Their feelings on her appear to be mixed, and they are not overly thrilled to see her on the ticket. To them, it’s all about beating Trump.
The third category, the very progressive white voters, are livid that the “Democratic Establishment” has won again, giving them a ticket that is far more moderate than progressive. Regardless of what she currently supports, they fully realize that Harris has no guiding principles, and they believe that Biden and Harris together are just another attempt to keep the true progressive movement out of power.
The very progressive black and Hispanic voters out there also really dislike Harris, but their anger is focused far more on her time as a prosecutor. Her treatment of black defendants and prisoners within a system they understand to be truly racist and morally bankrupt is just a sign that she truly is more cop than black, and they want nothing to do with her.
Harris herself was not a very charismatic person on the campaign trail during the primary. She was unable to hold many positions for long, with her campaign twisting itself around the demands of the loudest voices on social media. She came across as cold and robotic at times, and found herself completely unprepared for Tulsi Gabbard. She had support, but couldn’t hold onto it as people started listening to her more and more.
Her prosecutorial style plays well to supporters and Democrats when she is in a Senate hearing. But on the campaign trail, she was lifeless. Rumor has it she has gotten better, but she still has to find a way to inspire people. So far, it’s been pretty hit or miss.
The caveat to all of this, though, is that 2020 is less about who is running for the Democrats and more about whether or not Trump can be beaten. All four of the categories I referenced all believe the same thing: Donald Trump has to go. They will still turn out in November in order to vote him out of office. The question, though, is just how successful they’ll be if they are not motivated.
That is where the Trump campaign should be focused, and I think that they will be. The coronavirus will not be a factor forever, and there are already a couple signs that the economy might yet rebound. The Trump campaign, then, can focus on depressing the Democratic enthusiasm by continuing their assault on Biden’s decades of unproductive work in Washington D.C. and Kamala Harris’ past and her lack of consistency. These are the angles that the Trump team should take (assuming the President can stay on message, which seems to be a continuing problem for him), and it is very likely that a lot of the more progressive voters could be so depressed by the election that they simply stay home.
Democrat voters are motivated, though. The question is how unwavering that dedication to beating Trump really is.