How Did Kamala Harris Fall So Far?

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What do New Year’s resolutions have in common with Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign? Both started in January and neither can quite make it to the end of December. 

The California Senator launched her White House bid on ABC’s Good Morning America at the beginning of the year, and announced its end on Tuesday in a blog post. “I’ve taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life. My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.” 

Several candidates have pulled their hat from the ring at this point in the race, however Harris’ announcement seems premature considering she had already qualified for the December debate. She had been a top-tier candidate, consistently placing top five in August polls, making her the first candidate of that caliber to drop out. How did her campaign fall so far from grace? The answer is threefold.

  1. An Especially Bad Campaign

Harris has been hemorrhaging staff in the past few weeks, notably losing a top aide to Michael Bloomberg’s campaign. Her State Operations Director penned a scathing resignation letter. “Our campaign For the People is made up of diverse talent which is being squandered by indecision and a lack of ‘leaders who will lead.’ That is unacceptable.” She goes on to lament the firing of staff hired only weeks prior, some after moving from D.C. to Baltimore.

As Harris pointed to in her blog post, she lacked the funds to continue. She writes “I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign,” seemingly alluding to self-funded Tom Steyer and new addition to the race Michael Bloomberg. However, most candidates in the race are not billionaires. Senator Bernie Sanders mangages to clock in solid numbers despite his own measly millionaire status, and Andrew Yang had his best fundraising month yet in November.

Harris has had lackluster funding for months now. Her campaign regularly spent more money than it brought in. While this isn’t far outside the norm, when coupled with dropping numbers the consequences are exacerbated. Her campaign relied less on “small donors” and more on “big donors,” pointing to a less loyal base than someone like Sanders and his notorious “Bernie or Bust” voters. Kamala joined most of the 2020 field when she swore off Corporate PACs and federal lobbyists, which changed the standard operating procedure for funding presidential campaigns. While other campaigns adapted and flourished, Harris’ simply could not find its footing.

2. Joe Biden Hasn’t Gone Anywhere

Kamala Harris’ campaign peaked the night of the first Democratic debate. Her performance relied on attacking Biden over his position on school bussing back in the 1970’s. In the early debates, candidates launched lob after lob at then-lucid Joe Biden. He led in the polls, and he relied heavily on the Obama legacy to carry his candidacy. Other candidates such as Castro hit him on recent immigration issues, an attack as damning of Obama as it is of Joe Biden. Harris, however, sought to distance Biden from the Obama legacy by attacking his past as a Senator.

Biden voters will not be won over by calling Joe Biden racist. Anyone cheering this attack would have been from the progressive camp, which Harris lost hope of winning when she flip-flopped on healthcare. Obama beat Clinton in 2008 by inspiring a change, he was the “anti-establishment” candidate of that race (on the Democratic stage. I hear you, Ron Paul voters). Harris’ campaign sought to echo both Obama’s ‘08 campaign and Clinton’s ‘16 campaign resulting in a confused sometimes moderate/sometimes progressive tone. With one foot on the gas and one foot in the grave, Harris alienated moderates and progressives alike.

 

  1. She is a Cop

Kamala Harris’ best moment was on the debate stage versus Joe Biden, and her worst moment was on the debate stage versus Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. The fiery exchange aimed at Harris’ record as a prosecutor: “Now, Senator Harris says she’s proud of her record as a prosecutor and that she’ll be a prosecutor president. But I’m deeply concerned about this record. There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.” The two have had spats since, with Gabbard telling Joe Rogan “I’m probably not at the top of [her] friend’s list.” 

The exchange sparked a meme on various social media, namely #KamalaHarrisIsACop, which Independent claimed “killed Harris’ campaign dead.” Their article also argues the meme is a racist smear, echoing Harris’ assertion that America may not be “ready for a woman and a woman of color to be president.” A sentiment made funnier by Tulsi Gabbard’s recent rise in the polls. Perhaps Gabbard is immune to America’s sexist racism because of Russian bots. Or perhaps Harris’ fall from grace had less to do with isms and more to do with her destructive reign as a prosecutor. 

While nearly every campaign at the very least tweeted their condolences to Kamala Harris, everyone wants a slice of her base. NBC reported that her biggest fundraisers have been receiving calls and e-mails from Buttigieg, Biden, Klobuchar, and Booker. Cory Booker took the opportunity to lament the lack of diversity now apparent among 2020 hopefuls, telling NBC “I don’t understand how we’ve gotten to this place where there’s more billionaires in the race than there are black people.”

Harris herself will continue to serve in the Senate and resist the agenda of the president. “Although I am no longer running for president, 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,” she writes in her blog post. As long as California remains within the union, Americans will not be spared her voice in politics, but can rest soundly knowing she will not be the 46th president.

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Seth Wallace

Seth Wallace is a part-time libertarian activist based in Iowa City, Iowa. Apart from working on national and local elections, he is also involved in the local Young Americans for Liberty chapter.