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The 5th 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary Debate: Kamala Harris Showed Up for Black Women

Michelle Bernard is a political analyst, lawyer, author and president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy.

Harris won the debate when she fired off these seventeen words:

“A criminal is living in the White House,”

“Justice is on the ballot,” and

“Show up for me.”

I make this bold statement despite whatever conventional wisdom may say tomorrow. I make this statement not as a fellow graduate of Howard University, as a fellow lawyer, a friend of Harris, or even as the daughter of immigrants to the United States (both of my parents were born and raised in Jamaica).

I watched the fifth Democratic presidential debate through the lens of a black woman, a feminist, an independent voter and as an individual who believes deeply in social, racial and gender justice, religious freedom, and the free market.

Like women across the country, I watched as someone who believes firmly that all issues are women’s issues and was thrilled to watch a debate hosted solely by an all-female panel of moderators addressing issues that ran the gamut from national security to the environment to health care reform. But I also watched as a mother who has watched every hour of the impeachment hearings with thoughts about what our great nation has become since the 2016 presidential election.

So, I watched with no passion about most of what was said by most of the candidates for the first 90 minutes of the debate. I watched the 2020 Democratic contenders who made it to the debate stage located in a movie studio built by Tyler Perry, a black man, on land in the heart of Dixie, wondering who was going to show up for the black women who will vote to elect the next president of the United States—to keep our children alive; keep us safe from death at the hands of police; appropriately punish the likes of women (and men) who have come to be known in our community as “Barbeque Becky,” “Permit Patty,” and “Cornerstore Caroline”; protect the rights of black and brown people to vote; push for criminal justice reform, judges and a justice system dedicated to the rule of law and justice for all; advocate for reproductive rights, protection from sexual violence, the rights of the LGBTQ community and freedom from religious bigotry; and protect the United States Constitution and our democracy from the White House’s current inhabitant. After all, our democracy was built with the blood, sweat and tears of black men and black women.

Iowa and New Hampshire polls aside, middle America aside, and Trump supporters aside, the next president of the United States could be elected largely by black women and Wednesday night, Senator Harris was the only candidate who showed up for us.

Originally Published in Politico Magazine, November 21, 2019

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