Earl Ofari Hutchinson
Former Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris problem had the same as every other Democratic presidential contender has. She tried and the others are trying mightily to make the case that they are they are their own candidate, their own person, with their own program and their own vision of what their White House will look like and accomplish. It’s a tough road to hoe. Obama made sure of that. His shadow looms just too long and large over the pack of contenders. He was too successful, too beloved, and too incessantly talked about. He blended rhetorical flourish, a centrist program on the economy and foreign policy and bridged the two competing factions within the Democratic party. He drew the relentless loathing and obstructionism of the GOP. And he made history by being the first African American to bag the Oval Office, not once but twice.
This crushing recent history will be tough, if not impossible for any Democratic presidential contender to overcome. The thought that a contender will always be measured by Obama colors their every move and action. It’ not fair, but it’s blunt political reality.
Harris was a prime victim. The early talk about her was that she could do what Obama did and that’s make history by being the first Black woman to grab the White House. But it was really more about walking in the footsteps of Obama then cracking a gender ceiling. That was the first problem. There was Obama again. She would not be the first Black President. For many African Americans this as not a small point. For nearly a decade they reveled in, stuck their chest out, and constantly bragged about Obama being in the White House. The novelty of having another Black in the White House has long worn off. This posed another problem for Harris.
She’d need to find some hook to motivate and inspire African American voters other than a racial first. Then inspire other voters to rally behind her candidacy. This required her to spell out a coherent, consistent, and workable program on the big-ticket issues from health care to criminal justice system reform. Instead there was confusion, mish mash, and the nagging sense that she was making things up as she went along.
Then there was the sneak attack on rival Joe Biden at the first Democratic presidential debate for his decade’s past stance on bussing. It got her a lot of attention and some plaudits. But it also got her a lot of scrutiny about her checkered tenure as San Francisco DA and California Attorney General. She forgot the ancient rule in politics that when you go on the attack against an opponent, your house better be squeaky clean, because yours will be looked at too.
For still others it was tough to figure out just what exactly Harris was, a centrist, a progressive, or just what. She at times sounded like both. It was both confusing and a turn off for many Democrats.
Really the only thing left was the gender card. But that was a non-starter for most Black voters. Among the general Democratic electorate, it meant even less. Hillary took that off the table. There are simply too many other women Democratic presidential contenders and officeholders to make that any kind of breakthrough for her.
Even if Harris by some miracle could have brushed aside these obstacles, there is one that she and the other contenders can’t. That is who can beat Trump? Democrats are frenetic about getting a Democrat who can win, forget symbolism, forget race, forget gender. The overriding mantra is just win, baby, win. This can’t happen unless a Democrat can win the five or six states that will decide the White House. To do that, a Democratic presidential nominee will have to make some kind of inroad into Trump’s hard-core base of white, less educated, rural and blue-collar voters in those states. Despite all the putdowns and diminishing of their importance in some circles, they vote in big and consistent numbers and will vote again in 2020.
Harris had no chance at winning any of them over. There’s absolutely no guarantee that any of the others, and that includes Biden can do any better. To offset the Trump pack in those states, a Democratic presidential contender will have to stir legions of Blacks, Hispanics, and youth voters to storm the polls in gargantuan numbers in those states. There’s absolutely no guarantee that any of the other contenders can do that either.
Obama of course did just that. He stirred legions to storm the polls for him and he was able to pull off the hat trick of getting a lot of the same voters who backed Trump to back him twice.
This was and is the Obama shadow that did Harris in. The same shadow is over the others.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of The Impeachment of President Trump? (Amazon Kindle).https://www.amazon.com/dp/B075XSXJM8 Free Amazon Reading Thursday, December 5He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network.