Black Presidential Candidates Can't Stay in the Race By Themselves

Can't have the perfect candidate & the Black candidate simultaneously

Publisher’s Riff

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There will be days of thought pieces and open commiseration over the reasons behind the unfortunate withdrawal of Kamala Harris from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Some reasons will be clearer than others. But, what is clear is that there is now no Black woman in the race for president, just two Black candidates left and fewer “people of color” vying for the nomination. The top tier of Democratic primary candidates, once commendably diverse is now saturated with much more Whiteness and gray hairs than ever before. The next debate on December 12 may very well look like this

Why did Harris end up dropping out? It’s an all of the above, of course, and to avoid any deeper analysis on that discredits her as a credible presidential candidate. It’s true that much of the public discourse will be replete with racial and gender bias, given the not-so-diverse composition of the American newsroom. But, we can’t protect her from thoughtful critique just because she was the lone Black woman in the race - she’s a sitting U.S. Senator and former Attorney General of the largest and most populated state in the nation. It was a tough, lifetime of uphill battle to get there whereby she bruised folks and took bruises along the way. Ultimately, as the old saying goes, “she’s a big girl,” she knew what she was getting into and it’s never a pleasant process.

That said, this is what ultimately toppled Harris, here’s YouGov

Quinnipiac national …

Here’s how she looked in South Carolina

Black voters were a very tough and, at times, unforgiving crowd for Harris from the start. Even as she was celebrated by the Black political and media class as the only Black woman in the U.S. Senate and the only one running in the 2020 presidential race, she still ranked lower among Black voters than even Elizabeth Warren. And she knew, above all else, that you can’t win the Democratic nomination without solid Black support.

Harris’ assumption that her Howard University bona fides mixed with Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority membership would be enough to cement her Black electoral “street cred” fell short. That’s an outdated playbook, the rules are new. More into what voters are really looking for later - but, the ones who do turn out in these primaries are cynically searching for authentic sure shots. On the matter of the Black vote, we can’t escape the fact that Black voters (and non-voters) were just rough on Harris for a variety of reasons, and, at times, excessively and unreasonably so.

It’s interesting: many of the same people who subscribed to the caricature of “Kamala is a cop,” who pelted her for her East Indian and Jamaican heritage as “not being Black” or “ADOS,” who skewered her for having a White husband, and who insanely clowned her for over weed jokes and not knowing her hip hop history …. are now many of the same folks now crying foul over the absence of a Black women from the presidential contender stage and the presence of fewer Black candidates. One wonders what the conversation will look like if she’s considered as a Vice Presidential pick.