Opinion | The end of Kamala Harris’ campaign is a big loss for Americans

Sen.+Kamala+Harris%2C+D-Calif.%2C+greets+the+crowd+at+a+campaign+rally+at+the+FFA+Enrichment+Center+in+Ankeny%2C+Iowa%2C+on+Feb.+23.+

Marcus Yam | Los Angeles Times

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., greets the crowd at a campaign rally at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, Iowa, on Feb. 23.

By Devi Ruia, Senior Staff Columnist

Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., dropped out of the 2020 presidential primary earlier this week, citing a lack of finances as her reason for suspending her campaign. Despite stellar debate performances and being called a front-runner at the beginning of her candidacy, the likelihood of Harris winning the Democratic nomination was looking bleak in the weeks leading up to her decision to suspend her campaign.

Harris did not run a “perfect” campaign, though no 2020 primary campaign has been without missteps. Throughout her campaign, she faced a lot of valid questions from many Democratic voters about her record on criminal justice during her time as District Attorney of San Francisco and later as the Attorney General of California. Recently, former staffers even questioned the leadership of higher-ups in the campaign.

However, Harris was a vital voice in the Democratic primary. She has an impressive background and ran a historic campaign that had to contend with hurdles no other candidate had to face. Whether or not Harris was your candidate, the loss of her perspective in this primary is a big loss for everyone.

While the questions raised during the campaign about Harris’ record on criminal justice were certainly justified and necessary, the “she’s a cop” narrative popularized by social media was not. Pushing this response as a joke and a legitimate criticism of her background is one thing, but using it in place of an actual discussion or debate about Harris’ shortcomings, past missteps and just plain bad choices was a disservice to her as a candidate and to primary voters as a whole. Plus, a lot of these narratives about Harris were perpetuated by Russian bots at the beginning of her campaign.

Exaggerated, negative narratives about Harris seemed to be a frequent obstacle that her campaign faced. These narratives weren’t just perpetuated by Russian bots and average Americans, but by the media as well.

“The way the media has treated [Harris] has been something else,” Julian Castro, another presidential candidate, said. “The way they’ve held her to a different standard, a double standard has been grossly unfair and unfortunate.”

Castro further criticized the media narrative surrounding the Harris campaign, saying that the double standard was due to the fact that the media treats candidates of color differently than white candidates. Harris was the only black woman in the race, thereby facing combined scrutiny for her race and gender.

“We can’t deny just how underestimated, devalued, and under resourced Black women leaders are in this country,” tweeted Raquel Willis, executive editor of Out magazine, about the end of Harris’ campaign.

However, the fact that Harris was the first black woman and the first Indian-American woman to have a real chance at the nomination is such an important part of why her voice was so necessary in this primary. As a black woman, Harris was an incredibly important voice in the primary that prioritized criminal justice reform and ending the black maternal mortality crisis. She was able to inject personal experience of being a black woman into the story of her campaign. Not only was Harris’ background important in terms of how it informed her policies and statements, the representation that she provided black and South Asian women with on the national stage was incredibly valuable.

Harris even filmed a cooking video with Mindy Kaling, another iconic and accomplished Indian-American woman, who is an acclaimed writer and comedian. The two made masala dosa, a popular Indian dish, and had a fun discussion about their shared Indian heritage. As an Indian-American woman myself, that video is something that I will never forget. Being represented like that is such a profound and powerful thing and Indian-American women have never had that type of representation before, especially not from a serious presidential candidate.

Harris isn’t the only candidate with an impressive resumé and a historic campaign that ended too soon. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was another contender for the Democratic nomination who suspended her campaign back in August. While Gillibrand was obviously not the only woman running in the 2020 primary, she was the only candidate to run a “women-plus” campaign. This meant that Gillibrand was running a campaign focused on issues that primarily affect women — a previously unseen campaign strategy.

Both Harris and Gillibrand brought so much to the table that we just haven’t seen before from presidential candidates. Their perspectives were vital and it’s absolutely abysmal that they’re not still part of the race and that white male billionaires who have basically bought their way into the primary — lookin’ at you Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg — have yet to drop out.

Not to mention that now that Harris has dropped out, not a single candidate of color has qualified for the December Democratic primary debate. All six candidates who have qualified so far are white — despite the fact that this primary has been hailed for its diversity. Hopefully Julian Castro, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and/or Andrew Yang are able to qualify for the debate before the deadline — but no matter what, Harris’ absence will be felt.

Though her dropping out of the primary is a huge loss for voters, Harris is still a fantastic senator with a no doubt impressive career ahead of her. She’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“Although I am no longer running for President,” Harris wrote in a Medium piece announcing the end of her campaign. “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 is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She has a history of being incredible at questioning witnesses in Senate hearings — and Trump’s impeachment trial is likely to hit the Senate soon. The American people should keep their eyes on Harris and plan to actually combat the unfair double standards faced by black women both in life and the next time one runs for office.

 

Devi primarily writes about politics for The Pitt News. Write to her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter for more hot takes @DeviRuia.

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