By Lauren Freedman ’20
California Senator Kamala Harris announced the end of her campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination on Dec. 3rd after months of low polling and depleting campaign funds.
Harris announced her campaign on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday almost one year ago in her hometown of Oakland, California, in front of a crowd of 20,000. After a notably impressive performance in the first Democratic debate, Harris rose in popularity. By July 1st, Harris was polling at 17 percent. Second only to frontrunner Joe Biden (who polled at 22 percent), Bernie Sanders (14 percent), and Elizabeth Warren (15 percent), Harris’s campaign showed great promise, according to media outlets like CNN. By the end of her campaign, Harris had accumulated 35 endorsements from U.S. and state representatives, more than Sanders, Warren, and Pete Buttigieg, as noted by the website FiveThirtyEight. However, Harris was not able to maintain her campaign’s traction, and soon began to slump in the polls as the months after the initial debate dragged on.
Harris’s campaign, largely backed by the authenticity of a personal story as the daughter of immigrants, strove to find a middle ground between the more moderate members of the Democratic party and its far-left progressives. However, without the dramatic, far reaching platforms of candidates like Warren and Sanders or the name recognition of Biden, Harris struggled to define what she stood for ideologically. Her inconsistent stance on issues such as Medicare for All left voters unsure of her convictions. Her record as a California prosecutor led to sharp criticism from progressives. She sent over 1,500 people to prison for marijuana offenses during her tenure and yet her campaign website highlights Harris’s promise to end mass incarceration and legalize marijuana if elected. These issues came to a head in following Democratic debates, where repeated attacks against Biden and a series of evolving slogans left voters uneasy about the once promising candidate.
In the last few months before her resignation, stories of campaign team turmoil flooded the news. Harris’s campaign manager, Juan Rodriguez, became an unpopular figure on her team for laying off campaign aides with no notice and lacking a clear strategy going into the Iowa caucus. According to 50 current and former campaign staff members, Harris’s team continually made flawed moves throughout the campaign by focusing on the wrong states, issues, and opponents, as reported by the New York Times. With her campaign team broken by animosity, it’s easy to see how Harris’s campaign could have been derailed. Additionally, Harris’s funds began to dry up after months of low polling.
While Harris was able to raise an impressive $12 million in the first three months of her campaign, the Associated Press reported that her funding fell flat as traditional Democratic donors began jumping ship to Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s presidential bid, and grassroot movements flocked to Warren and Sanders. Harris cited a lack of funding as the largest reason she decided to end her campaign.
The departure of Harris, a prominent woman of color seeking the Democratic nomination, almost ensures that the Democratic debate taking place in Los Angeles later this month will feature all white candidates.
Photo credit: The Atlantic