Kamala Harris, Who Briefly Skyrocketed After Attacking Joe Biden On Busing, Is Out Of The Democratic Race

Election 2020 Debate
ASSOCIATED PRESS

For a few brief shining moments, Kamala Harris was the star of the Democratic primaries. During the second round of the first set of debates, she went after Joe Biden for his opposition to federally mandated busing. She memorably talked about “that little girl” who once had her life changed by a busing program. That little girl, of course, was her. She then asked “Vice President Biden, do you agree today — do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then? Do you agree?”

It was described as a “blockbuster debate performance” that “propelled her into the first tier of candidates.” She rose in the polls. But it didn’t last. She quickly backtracked on federally mandated busing, which was never popular among either white or African American voters. And she set a pattern of waffling that made it difficult for voters to figure out exactly what she stood for. 

As an African American woman, one might have expected that she would have quickly attracted support from female and minority voters, but it never happened. Joe Biden still leads the field in terms of African American support. It’s true that Biden’s African American supporters are on the older side, but Harris couldn’t even attract the younger African American voters who are less enamored of Biden—those voters seem to prefer two white, elderly candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And donations from well off suburban women have flowed mostly to Sanders, not Harris. 

In the end, there is no mystery to Harris’ inability to connect with African American voters. She found out the hard way that African American voters have a list of priorities that looks a lot like white voters’ priorities. According to a survey commissioned by the Black Economic Alliance, the top three issues among black voters are affordable healthcare, college affordability and creating more jobs with benefits. It was unclear what Harris stood for on healthcare (she waffled on the private insurance issue). She didn’t emphasize jobs and economics the way Warren and Sanders do. And, as my fellow Forbes contributor has pointed out, she didn’t offer many specifics on driving down college costs. As a result, a once-promising candidacy has come to an end.

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For a few brief shining moments, Kamala Harris was the star of the Democratic primaries. During the second round of the first set of debates, she went after Joe Biden for his opposition to federally mandated busing. She memorably talked about “that little girl” who once had her life changed by a busing program. That little girl, of course, was her. She then asked “Vice President Biden, do you agree today — do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then? Do you agree?”

It was described as a “blockbuster debate performance” that “propelled her into the first tier of candidates.” She rose in the polls. But it didn’t last. She quickly backtracked on federally mandated busing, which was never popular among either white or African American voters. And she set a pattern of waffling that made it difficult for voters to figure out exactly what she stood for. 

As an African American woman, one might have expected that she would have quickly attracted support from female and minority voters, but it never happened. Joe Biden still leads the field in terms of African American support. It’s true that Biden’s African American supporters are on the older side, but Harris couldn’t even attract the younger African American voters who are less enamored of Biden—those voters seem to prefer two white, elderly candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And donations from well off suburban women have flowed mostly to Sanders, not Harris. 

In the end, there is no mystery to Harris’ inability to connect with African American voters. She found out the hard way that African American voters have a list of priorities that looks a lot like white voters’ priorities. According to a survey commissioned by the Black Economic Alliance, the top three issues among black voters are affordable healthcare, college affordability and creating more jobs with benefits. It was unclear what Harris stood for on healthcare (she waffled on the private insurance issue). She didn’t emphasize jobs and economics the way Warren and Sanders do. And, as my fellow Forbes contributor has pointed out, she didn’t offer many specifics on driving down college costs. As a result, a once-promising candidacy has come to an end.

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I’ve always been interested in how we should balance individual and minority rights with majority rule. After several years practicing law in New York city, I found my t...