Kamala Harris’s Bigger Problem: Liner Notes

I end the week at The Federalist with “Kamala Harris Has A Bigger Problem Than Forced Busing.” I have to be annoyed to write something on a holiday, but the senator’s waffling on busing did the trick, and I salute editorial for taking time out of their holiday to prep it for publication today.

What got left out for space? Harris making high-risk, empty political gambits is not only a pattern, but perhaps a symptom of an even larger issue than the one I described.

With the other top-tier candidates — Biden, Sanders, and Warren — it is not difficult to see the theory of their campaigns. Biden wants to extend the Obama legacy and poses as a “return to normalcy.” Sanders wants the democratic socialism he has been pushing for years. Warren’s policy wonkery represents a modern update of early progressivism.

But why is Harris running? Her behavior suggests the answer is that she thinks she can win. In particular, she thinks she fits the longing of those who think Democrats win by duplicating the Obama coalition of minorities, young voters, and woke progressives.

There are two problems with this approach. First, every president wins largely by forming their own coalition, and winning coalitions are rarely the same as a preceding coalition. Sean Trende’s book, The Lost Majority, illustrates this at length.

Second, and probably related, Harris is not Obama. Her strengths and weaknesses are different. Obama always came across as more comfortable with himself. Perhaps Harris can become more comfortable with herself, but her campaign so far has been more like Romney 2008 than Obama 2008.

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