The political rise of Kamala Harris in California was fueled in part by one Donald Trump, who gave a total of $6,000 in 2011 and 2013 to her campaigns for state attorney general, with first daughter Ivanka Trump chipping in $2,000.
Harris will, however, be subject to unrelenting, and likely shifting, attacks from Trump, his minions and FNC pundits over the next eighty-three days. They will desperately seek a line of assault that “sticks” against the California senator.
“Anyone who wants to detract her based on anything is going to face a wall of Black women like they’ve never seen,” MSNBC host Joy Ann Reid happily predicted minutes after Joe Biden selected his running mate.
Hope the prediction holds. Something very different happened in 1984.
The day and night Geraldine Ferraro hit Seattle was a joyous experience in our household. I helped cover a gigantic Ferraro rally at the Pike Place Market.
More than 8,000 people turned out on a sun-splashed day.
My partner Mickie was able to afford the evening’s Ferraro fundraiser, and came back pumped at the brassy, enthusiastic candidate. She regaled Jennifer, our black standard poodle, far into the night with descriptions of the event.
The enthusiasm quickly turned to anger.
Ferraro was described as “aggressive” for her assertive style. The Washington, D.C., press corps were soon in a feeding frenzy over her husband’s business dealings. Ferraro stood and took it in a long, awful news conference.
Vice President George H.W. Bush, the morning after his TV debate with Ferraro, told a construction union leader: “We kicked a little ass last night.” Barbara Bush described Ferraro with the words: “I can’t say it, but it rhymes with rich.”
The toughness of Gerry Ferraro was turned against her. At our home in Madrona, Mickie seethed that nobody was coming forward to her defense.
Senator Harris will face fire on similar grounds.
She is, by training, a prosecutor. While most members of Congress deliver rambling mini speeches at hearings, and read questions written by staff, Harris has been the interrogator, the Senator who follows up. It has been that way in the Intelligence Committee, and later in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.
The rap is coming together.
Harris is “aggressive” and perhaps “too ambitious.” Scoff if you wish, but it’s a line long used against women seeking higher office. It was apparently a worry of ex-Senator Chris Dodd, who helped Biden with his vetting efforts.
Cable television programs, earlier today, were filled with stories about women’s groups preparing to fire back at the “ambitious” charge.
Wise to note, far more programs are hosted by women (like MSNBC’s Joy Reid) than was the case thirty-six years ago, when cable was a young medium.
But don’t lean back and expect feminist groups, or Harris Howard University sorority sisters from Alpha Kappa Alpha, to carry the freight. The defense of a no-nonsense woman, on the national stage, must be carried out on the local level.
How to go about this?
Steel yourself and call in to challenge a right-wing radio host who is denigrating Harris. The obvious questions: Do you want a dumb vice president? Do you want somebody not smart enough to smoke out an overly optimistic aide or duplicitous Cabinet secretary? Think of recent disasters that have befallen the country when, say, Vice President Cheney was running unchecked.
Tackle what is defined as “loyalty.” “I am for President Reagan – blindly,” V.P. George H.W. Bush once exclaimed. The fealty of Mike Pence, particularly as Trump has spewed inaccuracies on the coronavirus, is a benchmark in the march of folly.
Wouldn’t it be better to have a Vice President who is briefed? Who cuts to the quick when Biden has a tendency to ramble?
(Freshman Senator Barack Obama, hearing Biden run on at a 2005 Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, passed a note telling an aide, “Shoot me!”)
America is neck deep in the big muddy.
It will take an extraordinarily cool-headed, competent Biden administration to find a way out. What Republican administration has not left the country in a morass?
It’s wonderful to have an African American (and South Asian American) woman on the ticket. The Democratic ticket looks like America.
But the ability to govern is the acid test of politics, the acid final test (words borrowed from Adlai Stevenson). Kamala Harris brings the ability to master whatever portfolio she is given. She can find her bearings in a New York minute.
America needs such a partner in a new president.
Kamala Harris will be attacked for her competence. Have her back over the next eighty-plus days. No nastiness should be allowed to detract from those abilities recognized by Donald and Ivanka Trump as political donors in the last decade.