Some Democrats angling to work for Sen. Kamala Harris’s (D-CA) potential 2020 primary opponents may try to argue that Harris is like Hillary Clinton and will be unable to emotionally connect with voters to win the White House.
A Thursday afternoon Vanity Fair piece details how Harris has not been fully defined by “identity politics” and will have to navigate the “complicated currents of identity politics, while not being defined by them” in a potential presidential campaign.
The outlet notes that at the most recent Netroots Nation conference, Harris did say she had a problem with “identity politics” being used as a “pejorative.”
Vanity Fair notes that the “fact that she is African-American, female, and relatively youthful can only benefit” Harris this election cycle but points out that “successfully running for president means moving hearts as well as minds, which some Democrats cite as their chief concern about Harris.”
“Have you seen her speak?” a male Democratic strategist told the outlet of Harris, whose sister was one of Clinton’s senior policy advisers in 2016. “It feels very Hillary-like.”
Harris’s team is reportedly wary of Rep. Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s (D-TX) “possible entry into the field—because O’Rourke could cut into Harris’s appeal to white progressives, and because he has a flair for the emotional that could contrast with Harris’s coolness.”
Black voters do not dominate the Golden State’s politics like they do in key Southern states like South Carolina, and Vanity Fair notes that Harris’s brand, to date, “has been grounded largely in competence and prosecutorial rigor—her central identity has been her manifest talent.”
When Obama ran for president in 2008, he had to convince black primary voters, with immense help from his spouse Michelle Obama, that he understood their struggles and concerns even though, in the words of Stanley Crouch, he had not lived the “life of a black American.”
If Harris, who has said she will make a decision about a presidential run over the holidays, enters the 2020 race, she will face a similar challenge.