Clinton campaign veteran: 'We shouldn't undercut Kamala Harris before she begins'


Some political observers are already prepared to discount Sen. Kamala Harris as a worthy contender. But as a veteran of the Hillary Clinton campaign points out, like any other politician, Harris deserves a chance "to shine."

It has been troubling to see the limited but vocal rumblings against California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris — and particularly against her prospects as a future presidential candidate — already emerging from some corners.

As SiriusXM's Zerlina Maxwell wrote for Shareblue, Harris is quickly becoming one of the most attacked Democratic leaders — even while she is also one of the most progressive and promising ones we have seen in a long time.

In her short time in the Senate, Harris has proven to be a staunch advocate for progressive goals on crucial topics like health care, as well as immigration policy and the Trump administration's dangerous plans on that issue. And she has shown an indefatigable willingness to hold members of the Trump team accountable, even if it makes them "nervous."


And Harris is an inspiring figure for many liberal voters, particularly for women of color who see themselves represented in her and who recognize the outsize vitriol with which she has been hit time and again.

But certain voters are already telegraphing adamant rejection of her potential 2020 candidacy — which, it should be noted, she herself has largely dismissed at this point.

But as Maxwell, who served as Director of Progressive Media for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, noted to MSNBC's Joy-Ann Reid, to stand so firm in such opposition at this point is nonsensical and unfair, and is rooted in the privilege that comes from viewing the situation through a non-marginalized perspective.

The "ideological purity" that some on the left are demanding "is really a manifestation of privilege," Maxwell stated, adding that, for candidates who aren't white men, the "structural difficulties" they face from the get-go in running for office make those purity tests simply impossible to ace.

And if money in politics is a concern — like when Harris meets with big-dollar former Clinton donors — the way to potentially assuage that issue and possibly overturn Citizens United is to elect progressive leaders who will champion that fight.

Leaders like Harris.

As Maxwell says, Harris deserves a chance to prove to the public that she can earn their vote. "We shouldn't undercut her before she even begins."

And as Jason Johnson of The Root noted, while Harris may have detractors, she also has a powerful core of proud supporters — her own Bey Hive, in fact — who are energized about her potential. And the Democratic Party should foster that excitement, not dampen it.

MAXWELL: The ideological purity that some Bernie Sanders supporters want to implement in the Democratic Party is really a manifestation of privilege. Because people of color and women who are running for office can't abide by purity tests because of the structural difficulties in running for office. And the bottom line here is you need money to win an election. And if Kamala Harris needs to talk to some big money donors in order to win an election so that we can overturn Citizens United — because you can't do that unless you win an election — I'm not opposed to that. I think that we need to give her an opportunity to shine or not shine. We shouldn't undercut her before she even begins.

REID: And you're seeing a lot of people sort of going in and already sort of prelitigating her, Jason, saying, 'Well, she was a prosecutor so we can't trust her. We think that on prison issues she's bad.' Like, literally sort of setting her up and saying, 'Well, she's already unacceptable.'

JONES: Here's the thing, Joy, and I think this is the part some people on the left have already forgotten: Kamala Harris has her own Bey Hive. I mean, there are people who protect her and who love her to death. She is the one name that all my friends and family are like 'You think she's gonna run, you think she's gonna run?' And rather than criticizing that, and rather than saying — and look, when you're a state prosecutor, there's going to be some issues — the Democrats should be embracing anyone who elicits that level of excitement. If you ask Democrats now, it's Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris. So, rather than being critical — I completely agree with Zerlina — let her do her job. Let her build her resume up, because the Democrats are going to need as many stars as possible to go against Trump in 2020.

It is certainly appropriate to assess any politician or candidate honestly, and to make sure that their positions on a wide range of key issues are understood and align with progressive values and goals.

But it is equally important not to let those assessments fall harder on certain candidates than others, especially when those candidates represent demographics that deserve more representation, and when it begins to seem that they must prove themselves to be twice as good in order to be deemed half as good.

Harris is a politician, and like any politician, she will have her pros and cons. But she deserves a fair chance to put her values and abilities into action, and to define herself as a progressive leader before others do it for her.