Vice President Kamala Harris taking the oath of office.

Black History Month: White Democrats Have a Kamala Harris Problem

America is historically, verifiably racist. No matter how many times conservatives say it’s not, the facts contravene their narrative. This nation was built on a combination of genocide of indigenous people and the use of African and Caribbean slaves to maintain the economy in half the states. The foundational documents of this country, drafted and signed in Philadelphia, designate slaves as only three-fifths a person.

Slavery existed unchecked until the 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States in 1865. And despite what Nikki Haley — a woman of color herself — might tell you, the Civil War was fought to end it.

Racism was codified in Jim Crow laws and policies, including manifold layers of segregation for decades post-Reconstruction.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and in 1965, the Voting Rights Act. These two pieces of legislation altered the social landscape for Black Americans in many respects, but did not erase racism. Many Americans point to the election of Barack Obama in 2008 and his re-election in 2012 as evidence that the U.S. is now “post-racial.”

But the George Floyd protests in 2020 proved that America is far from post-racial.

The legacy of police violence against Black people — especially Black LGBTQ+ people — is ongoing.

Book bans and attempts to end the teaching of Black history — which is American history — are indicative of the manifold fears white Americans maintain of being superseded and subsumed by people of color.

Replacement theory — the concept that Western elites, sometimes manipulated by Jews, want to “replace” and disempower white Americans — is a prominent conspiracy among white conservatives, particularly MAGAs.

It is this panoply of racist theories and their historical foundational legacy that underpins so much political discourse in the U.S. It’s also, arguably, behind the ongoing demand among white male pundits and some Democratic strategists to get President Biden to step out of the 2024 campaign or at the very least, change vice presidents to a white man, like California Gov. Gavin Newsom, or even a white woman, like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Headlines like “Democrats have a Kamala Harris problem” and “Democrats’ weird answers on Kamala Harris” and “The Kamala Harris Problem” and “The Case for Biden to Drop Kamala Harris” abound — unprecedented in recent American politics.

The anti-Kamala caucusing has only escalated since 2020 when Biden was vetting vice presidential candidates. White male Democrats — the smallest voting bloc in the Democratic “Big Tent” — have not voted majority Democratic in any national election since LBJ passed that legislation, which was widely perceived as making him a “race traitor.” Yet, they still feel entitled to speak over and through Black women, who are the largest Democratic voting bloc.

The last all-white, all-male ticket in the Democratic party was in 2004 with John Kerry and John Edwards. That is also the first time Democrats have lost the popular vote since 1988.

Harris is a unique figure in American history: The first female vice president but also, due to her mixed racial background of an Indian immigrant mother and a Black Jamaican immigrant father, the first Black and first Asian American vice president. She is also a graduate of Howard University, one of the most famous historically Black colleges. She is a singular figure — and as such a constant target.

Regardless of what some white Democrats might think, Harris is both beloved and admired among the Democratic base — including among LGBTQ+ people — for her long history of support for historically marginalized people. For 20 years, Harris has been fighting for LGBTQ+ rights. She was marrying lesbian and gay couples in San Francisco as District Attorney in 2004, before same sex-marriage was legal. She even reconnected with a gay male couple, Bradley Witherspoon and Raymond Cabone, whom she married on Feb.13, 2004, a day before Valentine’s Day.

One of the commentators leading the calls for Biden to exit has been gay pundit and pollster Nate Silver. In a recent post on Twitter/X, excerpting an article of his, Silver told his 3.3 million followers, “Biden needs to reassure the American public that he’s capable of handling public appearances that aren’t on easy mode. Or he needs to stand down. Or he’s probably going to lose to Trump.”

Silver said, “Biden is out of excuses. It’s reasonable for Americans to see a mid-80s Commander-in-Chief as a disqualifying prospect. The fact that Trump also has a number of disqualifying features is all the more reason for Biden to stand down. There are many other highly qualified Democrats.”

“Trump also has a number of disqualifying features” is an extraordinary understatement. Trump has been found liable for rape and fraud in two recent trials and is under indictment on 91 felony counts in several other pending trials in three separate jurisdictions that include the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol. That latter event has prompted several states, including Pennsylvania, to move to get Trump off the ballot for violating the 14th Amendment for his participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

This ahistorical screed by Silver has gotten way too much traction. That Silver has called for a primary for Biden — a year too late for anyone to get on the ballot now that the primary is fully underway — highlights how little the “Biden is old!” crowd understands how primaries work in the U.S.

Silver mentioned several white replacements for Biden, but forgot all about Harris — the natural successor. Yet, anyone who is not Harris would be a write-in candidate at this point, as the primary ballots are set. The time for Biden to withdraw from the presidential election was last summer. Wisconsin House rep Dean Phillips has been on the ballot since New Hampshire and still has yet to secure more than 1% of the vote. There’s little energy for a not-Biden candidate. Among voters, there is little clamoring to have Harris exit. When she campaigns for the ticket, crowds — especially of Black, female and youth voters critical to the Democratic re-election — are huge and enthusiastic.

Should Biden decide now to withdraw, which is extremely unlikely, he would endorse Harris. Voters would vote for Biden-Harris on the ballot and Harris would accrue his delegates — and the nomination. Who other than Dean Phillips would challenge her? The die is cast.

It’s nearly all white male pundits and late-night comedians (also all white men) doing this hand-wringing over Biden’s age. The Black Caucus is strongly supportive of Biden. It’s implausible that Gavin Newsom, Pete Buttigieg or Gretchen Whitmer would set themselves up as write-in candidates against Harris: even if they wanted to — that’s career suicide for any future candidacy in 2028 or 2032.

A counter argument against Harris as potential president is that she is somehow a “cringeworthy lightweight” — despite being the sitting vice president and having been attorney general and senator of the most populous state, as well as district attorney of San Francisco. In addition to winning all these elections, Harris is known for her hard-hitting questioning of right-wing candidates, like Brett Kavanaugh, who she grilled over Obergefell v. Hodges, demanding to know if the potential Supreme Court justice viewed same sex marriage as settled law. She was equally harsh with Trump Attorney General Bill Barr on Barr’s handling of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and report.

Also, if Biden did step out and endorse Harris, these same pundits would likely argue that she’s somehow untested. Despite being vice president, attorney general and senator of 40 million people in California and district attorney of a major U.S. city, San Francisco. And she’s 22 years younger than Biden. Punditry aside, Harris is a great candidate on her own.

And yet the chatter continues. Last year, Sen. Elizabeth Warren failed to endorse Harris for the 2024 ticket in a radio interview and garnered backlash among Black women voters and Harris and her staff that has yet to be mended, despite attempts of Warren to apologize.

Rev. Al Sharpton told CNN that Harris is in a precarious political position: “If she doesn’t overshadow or shine too much, she can’t rise to the occasion.”

But he added, “If she shines too much, then she’s overshadowing the president.”

Many Black and LGBTQ+ politicians see Harris as a lightning rod for criticism because of her race and gender. Said one, “It’s the Hillary factor plus the Obama factor — they just can’t see her as president due to her gender and race.”

Laphonza Butler, president of EMILY’s List and the recently appointed senator of California, who is also a Black lesbian, told CNN last year, “What we have in Vice President Harris is a competent, capable, intelligent, authentic leader of color.”

Butler said, “People have to get comfortable seeing women, and women of color, in places of leadership, period.”

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, who was close friends with Harris when they were in the Senate together, highlights Harris’s work on key issues of  HBCU funding, police reform, expanding access to health care and LGBTQ rights. Booker told CNN, “I can’t think of a time that I’ve seen somebody have earned her chops but not get the credit where credit is due.”

Senate Pro Tempore Patty Murray was succinct, summing up the concern of many white pundits that Harris will be the next president — and expand the presidency beyond white men forever: “Everyone who says you can’t do something,” she said, “is afraid that you will.”

Story courtesy of Philadelphia Gay News via the National LGBTQ Media Association. The National LGBTQ Media Association represents 13 legacy publications in major markets across the country with a collective readership of more than 400K in print and more than 1 million + online. Learn more here: https://nationallgbtmediaassociation.com/