Here Comes Harris

Where Things Stand

Looks like we’re up to eight candidates officially seeking the Democratic nomination:

-      John Delaney

-      Richard Ojeda

-      Elizabeth Warren

-      Tulsi Gabbard

-      Julián Castro

-      Kirsten Gillibrand

-      Kamala Harris joined the race on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and hasn’t looked back

-      Pete Buttigeig made waves with his sudden but welcome announcement mid-last week

Just this week, a gay man from middle America and an African-American woman from the West Coast joined the field – breaking even more barriers and enriching an already very diverse and talented field.


Who’s up next?

-      News broke this week that Bernie Sanders is set to announce his second bid for the Democratic nomination – so expect a more formal announcement shortly.

-      Sherrod Brown kicked off his listening tour this week and can’t stop talking about the need for Democrats to compete in the Midwest. Should we expect an announcement soon? 

-      Beto O’Rourke wrapped up his road trip – so we’re in full wait-and-see mode.


Keep an eye on …

-      Joe Biden made an offhand comment that he feels no urgency to jump into the race immediately – but this week, he came under fire for his support of Michigan Republican Fred Upton ahead of the 2018 midterms. Will he wait it out, or start full steam ahead?

-      Still waiting on some big news from Cory Booker– who’s been taking all the public steps of campaigning without garnering media attention or hinting at a launch. Could the silence be a sign for a splashy entrance?


The exit ramp:

-      Eric Garcetti is happy in Los Angeles – announcing he will not seek the nomination

-      Tulsi Gabbard’s nascent campaign is already in disarray, per Politico


On Kamala Harris

You’d be dead-on if you said there’s something that already feels different about Kamala Harris’s candidacy relative to all the others in the field.

She raised $1.5M in the first twenty-four hours. She drew over 20,000 to a standing-room-only kickoff rally in Oakland. There’s a palpable energy underpinned by an impressive operation that – believe it or not – feels like we may have an early front-runner.

And she deserves it – because she’s really impressive.

Her role-out was flawlessly executed. Announcing on both MLK Jr. Day and the day on which Shirley Chisholm announced her ground-breaking candidacy, she took a lap around her alma mater, Howard University, hosted a CNN town hall, and then enjoyed a week’s worth of high-profile media attention – bookended with the impressive rally back home in Oakland. As a result, recent polls (yes, I’m aware they mean nothing at this point, but they’re helpful for media narratives) have her surging and everyone is taking her seriously.

And the strategy her campaign *likely* has in place is a smart one. According to this BuzzFeed piece from December, a strategy that banks on winning African-American women in a southern swing and then cleaning up in the newly-Super Tuesday state California could favor Harris. That’s not to say that Harris is a lock to win African-American women or even her home state –but one else in the field has this advantage off the block.

But what does she believe in? Again, the fundamental element in this nominating contest will be competing visions of America’s future – and Harris may have some more questions to answer. 

I’m very much drawn to her focus on truth and justice as twin themes of her campaign. Not only does it lean on her experience as a prosecutor and then California Attorney-General, but it a) differentiates herself from all the economy-heavy candidates in the field already and b) positions her to take on Trump in a general election. It also opens the door for a strong narrative: an America founded on liberty and justice for all that has slowly corroded away and too left many behind. 

That said, I’m curious to see how she can fit policy ideas into this paradigm. Two of her biggest policy points – middle-class tax relief and Medicare-for-All need a bit of stretching to get into this framework, as they lend themselves more easily to a Warren-style “oligarchs are screwing you over” story. And she has some fair questions to answer over how her approach to prosecuting can also fit into her campaign message.

It’s still very early, and Harris has plenty of time to wrap everything up in a neat bow – and I’m confident she will. She has me beyond excited for her candidacy.  Her raw political talent, compelling rhetoric, and bold ideas make her a formidable candidate who is likely in it for the long haul.


On My Mind

Howard Schultz is considering running for president as an independent – positioning himself as a fiscally conservative, socially liberal savior to a centrist America he believes is the quiet majority.

Lots of people smarter than me have criticized this idea thoroughly, so I’d encourage you to check out their takes: David LeonhardtMichelle GoldbergJon Lovett, EJ DionneEuguene Robinson, and William Galston.

But what grinds my gears about this most is how it’s being perceived in conservative circles. In this Wall Street Journal editorial, the board decries Democrats who are “shrieking like teenagers at a horror movie” in fear of a policy debate, and criticizes Democratic elites who “don’t seem to want to hear anything that would interfere with socialism by acclamation.”

From where I (and I think most Democrats) stand, this is a bad-faith mischaracterization of our position. We would openly embrace a Schultz candidacy – if he ran in the Democratic primary.

 As many of the above authors have noted, Democrats aren’t scared of either Schultz’s views or the prospects of a Schultz presidency. We want a big, rigorous, bold policy debate within our party to chart the path forward. For those like me who are hesitant with a full lurch toward socialist policies like Medicare-for-All, I would welcome Schultz and others to make good arguments for more moderate solutions like a public option. 

And as a life-long Democrat, Schultz is fully entitled to throw his hat into our ring, if he is so confident that a majority would support him. And if he wins, Democrats would line right up.

But our issue is his attempt to bypass Democrats entirely to make a point with a futile third-party bid. The constituency he’s trying to appeal to doesn’t exist; only 5% on the country is truly politically independent, while the rest of the self-labelled “independents” vote almost exclusively along a partisan line. This means that the best-case scenario for a Schultz candidacy is siphoning off votes from both parties – but history teaches us that he’s more likely to split support from his party than draw votes from the other side.

We’re not opposed to him competing in our contest of ideas, where he aligns with most of our platform planks. We’re opposed to a self-funded kamikaze mission to sink our chance to beat Trump and address the clear and present threat to our country. 

Max Magid