Presidential Debates, Presidential Elections

The Third 2020 Democratic Presidential Debate — Kamala Harris Won—and Black Women Did Too.

M.Scott Mahaskey/POLITICO

June 27, 2019

Kamala Harris won—and black women did too.
Michelle Bernard is a political analyst, lawyer, author and president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy.

Fifty years after the election of Shirley Chisholm as the first African-American woman to serve in Congress and to run for president, Kamala Harris made history on Thursday, clearly winning the Democratic debate. With her win, black women won too—and won in ways that no one could have predicted just 24 hours ago.

From the beginning to the end of the debate, Harris was poised, controlled, passionate and combative enough to make clear that she can go to battle against Trump and win. From the economy to immigration to racial and gender justice to how a Democrat will govern with a Republican-led Senate, Harris owned the stage. So much so, that at times it was easy to forget that Biden or Sanders, the front runners going into the evening, let alone any of the other candidates, were even there.

Early in the debate, Harris took control by bringing order to the stage when the other candidates were speaking over one another like children fighting over candy, saying, “Hey guys, you know what, America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we’re going to put food on the table.” Harris showed no fear in attacking Donald Trump, reiterating that he is the greatest threat to the nation. On gun control, DACA and “releasing children from cages,” she told the country she would not hesitate to use executive action, answering the public’s question as to how a Democrat in the White House will get anything done with a Republican-led Senate.

Moreover, Harris embraced her blackness, describing the neighbor whose children were not allowed to play with her and her sister because they are black. She showed no fear or discomfort in volunteering the differences she had with the Obama-Biden administration on the deportation of undocumented immigrants, and she talked about the leadership she demonstrated when, as attorney general of California, she directed sheriffs to ignore the Obama administration’s policy of deporting the undocumented. She called Biden’s comments about his past working with two segregationist lawmakers “hurtful” and then accused him of opposing busing in order to integrate public schools, stating, “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day, and that little girl was me.” One couldn’t help but look at Biden and ask, “How could you?”

Published in Politico Magazine, October 16, 2019.


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