Can Kamala?

OPINION: Should Vice President Kamala Harris replace Biden or should the Democratic Party choose (insert lesser qualified white candidate here)?

President Biden Spends Fourth Of July At The White House
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris join hands in the air after watching the fireworks on the National Mall with First Lady Jill Biden and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff from the White House balcony during a 4th of July event on the South Lawn of the White House on July 4, 2024 in Washington, DC. The President is hosting the Independence Day event for members of the military and their families. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Years ago, I received the first of many recurring phone calls from a high-level source buried deep inside a presidential campaign.  

This was back when Donald Trump was just a once-impeached, alleged rapist with no felony convictions, years before a supposedly “brilliant” billionaire race pseudoscientist purchased a fledgling website to amplify his conspiracy theories. Back then, white people thought the court system was fair, believed anyone should be able to vote with an absentee ballot and thought it was important for “the losing candidate in the presidential election to publicly acknowledge the winner as legitimate.” They trusted Elon Musk’s genius when he assured his Twitter followers that it was “dumb” to panic over this nasty “corona” cough that was no worse than the flu. They truly believed Donald Trump would rid the nation of this low-risk virus by Easter

But, according to this Democratic insider, they were all wrong.

My source believed this COVID-19 thing could be worse than everyone thought. Aside from the obvious health risks, the virus could increase already existing racial gaps in unemployment, education and, ultimately, wealth. But because states were expanding access to absentee ballots and mail-in voting, there was also the possibility that Black voters could have a disproportionate impact on the upcoming election — especially if Black journalists could inspire confidence in these alternative voting methods.

To be fair, I was pretty skeptical. Like many Democrats, my source had a history of making huge promises that could never be fulfilled. After years of covering politics and teaching policy, I’d heard too many Democrats make pie-in-the-sky proposals like giving billions in rent relief or vowing to increase the number of Black-owned businesses. So when this campaign insider started talking about this wild idea called “student debt relief,” I knew I had to push back (Yes, they seriously tried to convince me they could find a way to just wipe out millions of student loans. Crazy, right?).  

“Let’s say your intentions are pure,” I said, interrupting. “Do you think it’s dishonest for a politician like you to promise something knowing it can never be achieved?” 

“Never say never,” the source replied. “I’m not a politician …

“I’m Kamala Harris.”

Kamala be knowing

Aside from being one of many politicians, scientists and not-dumb people who sounded the alarm while Donald Trump dillydallied during the COVID epidemic, Kamala Harris knew things. Before she was elected to America’s second-highest office, Kamala Harris served as attorney general and senator for the country’s largest state. Rent relief, digital equity plans and detailed proposals for racial equity never appeared on Biden’s website or his political platform until Harris joined the campaign. She is the source of many of the Biden administration’s biggest achievements. But ever since Joe Biden’s brain got stuck buffering during the presidential debate against Donald Trump, mainstream media has latched on to the movement to get Biden to resign his position at the top of the Democratic ticket. 

Suggesting that a presidential candidate should resign is nothing new. People have suggested presidential candidates resign for far less, including fainting, listening to a sermon and existing during a random act of terrorism. However, the same people who want Biden to step down for the sake of the country have latched on to another narrative:

Kamala Harris can’t.

According to people who love America, the Constitution and democracy, the person who the Founding Fathers, the Constitution and 81 million-plus people chose to serve as Biden’s backup plan is not qualified to actually serve as president. Some are floating the idea that California governor and alleged vampire Gavin Newsom should leapfrog as Biden’s replacement, while others have suggested Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Apparently, any white person is better than Kamala. 

I understand why people doubt her ability to beat Trump. After all, Harris is a Black woman and America is kinda racist (except for the parts where Tim Scott lives). Trump is an existential threat to the country and, in the remote possibility that Biden steps down, why not choose the best candidate? While I may be biased because of my professional and semi-personal relationships with Kamala Harris, as an objective journalist, my position on this issue is simple:

White people are crazy AF.

The idea that lesser-qualified individuals should replace a more educated, better-qualified, more experienced candidate just because they are white is just white nonsense. Even if one concedes America’s predilection for white supremacy, the racists were probably already going to vote for the candidate who has proven his racism — Donald Trump. While some of the people who suggest Harris can’t win are Democrats, that doesn’t necessarily mean they care about the Democratic Party or the party’s biggest constituents.

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This is how white privilege works. The people who want an unqualified white affirmative action hire like Newsom or Whitmer won’t be affected by most of Trump’s policies anyway. They’ll be fine. Perhaps the biggest threat to a Democratic presidency is Black voter apathy. Pushing someone to the front of the line past Harris could doom the party for years with Black voters. Aside from having a better resume, more political experience and — this is the important part — the constitutionally prescribed job, Harris’ resume boasts one other thing:

She never lost.

Ever. 

Sure, she had one close call (Harris suspended her presidential campaign three months before the 2020 Iowa caucus). But the Democratic “caucuses” who imply that she can’t beat a less-educated, less experienced man who has never won the popular vote are just spewing white nonsense. Replacing Kamala Harris is as absurd as voting for an orange white supremacist who thinks he can cure COVID with light bulbs and Clorox martinis. While no one can say for sure if she will win, there is no one who is better equipped to convince voters of the dangers of a Trump autocracy than Kamala Harris. And that includes Biden. (To be fair, the Joffrey Baratheon administration was less autocratic than a possible second-term Trump presidency.)

In many ways, it doesn’t matter if Biden steps down. Even if he doesn’t resign, Harris might still be the best reason to vote for Biden. Who else will perform the presidential duties when they have to unplug Biden’s brain and plug it back in before every public appearance? But, of course, this is all speculation. After all, can you name a single time in history when a powerful white man has willingly handed over their power to a Black woman? It has never happened.

Then again, you should never say “never” …

According to my sources.


Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His NY Times bestseller “Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America” is available in bookstores everywhere.

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