In recent weeks, Senator Kamala Harris has become the latest candidate to drop out of the 2020 Democratic nomination race. Once considered a rising star within the Democratic party, Harris’ bid for the presidency failed to take off, sputtering at around four to five percent before ultimately ending.
Harris rose to prominence during the Kavanaugh hearings when the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned Brett Kavanaugh before his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Then a freshman senator, Harris, received praise from the left for her intense questioning of Kavanaugh and catapulted to stardom after several video clips of her in the hearing went viral on the internet. While Kavanaugh went on to become a Supreme Court justice, Harris’ combative and direct questioning techniques–no doubt due to her background as a criminal prosecutor–established her as a household name in the world of politics.
From there, Harris used the energy from her supporters and channeled it into her presidential campaign, which officially kicked off on January 21, 2019–deliberately coinciding with Martin Luther King Jr. day. Her campaign seemed right off the bat to be a highly competitive one, raising over $1.5 million in donations in the first 24 hours of her announcement–tying with Bernie Sanders’ record from 2016. Her first formal campaign event also had over 20,000 people attend, a number greater than the attendance of Obama’s 2008 campaign kickoff event. Furthermore, with diversity being a considerable bonus within the political world, especially the Democratic political arena, Harris being a woman of color, benefitted her even more in the Democratic primary. Harris also touted her fierce prosecutor skills as useful assets in confronting President Trump. All these factors combined contributed to what should have been a successful campaign, and at first, it seemed like Harris would succeed. Then, where did it all go wrong?
At first, Harris’ bid for the presidency started well. She performed well at the first debate, directly going on the offensive against frontrunner Joe Biden for his prior stance against school busing. These clashes between Harris and Biden, where Biden largely floundered, caused Harris to surge in the polls into the double-digits. Despite this initial surge, slowly but surely, her campaign would begin to unravel both from the outside and within. One of the most noteworthy attacks on her campaign happened during the second Democratic debates, where Hawaii’s representative Tulsi Gabbard directly confronted Harris due to Harris’ prosecutorial records on criminal justice and marijuana convictions. Soon, many on the internet started criticizing Harris, with the notable “Kamala is a cop” idea becoming particularly popular. Many also criticized Harris for opposing marijuana legalization as Harris herself was publicly rebuked by her own father for suggesting that cannabis use was tied in with Jamaican culture. Several weeks later in the fifth Democratic debate, Harris clashed multiple times with Gabbard and slammed Gabbard for appearing on Fox News and meeting with Trump. Despite this, the damage seemingly had been done, with Harris’ popularity among progressives falling and her support among African Americans plummeting to around 1 percent.
Harris’ campaign was also plagued internally by clashes between the staff team. Two factions within the campaign seemed to be struggling for power. One led by campaign manager Juan Rodriguez and the other led by Kamala’s sister, campaign chair Maya Harris. A staffer who resigned from the campaign also issued a statement stating that “never [had she] seen an organization treat its staff so poorly.” Finally, a decline in funding led to the closing of several offices in the Harris campaign, causing Harris to finally end her campaign on December 3, 2019.
Once a rising star within the Democratic party for her prosecutorial-style questioning of Kavanaugh, Harris’ popularity among progressives significantly waned precisely due to her prosecutor past. Her unpopularity, coupled with internal staff drama and lack of funding, ultimately spelled doom for her campaign, contributing to her fall in the political sphere. Nevertheless, some praised her decision to drop out of the race early as a clever move to withdraw before she became too unpopular. Other left-wing political commentators bemoaned her campaign’s demise, as it caused the main Democratic primary field to move from its initial diverse lineup to a mostly white lineup by the time the December debate rolled around. Despite her apparent fall from popularity, Harris is nowhere near gone from politics, and when Trump tweeted a sarcastic farewell at her, Harris replied, “Don’t worry, Mr. President. I’ll see you at your trial.” Only time will tell about Senator Kamala Harris’ future popularity in the ever-changing world of politics.