Kamala Harris Can Be Ruthless When She Wants to Be

Wilfredo Lee/AP

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

When Kamala Harris took on Joe Biden over his past opposition to forced busing, my initial reaction was that it sounded scripted and kind of fake. Apparently I was right:

Her campaign had spent months fixated on Biden, whose support from black voters has kept him atop all of the early polls. They gamed out several scenarios in which she could use her personal story as a point of contrast with his decades-long record, including over his opposition to busing.

….[Harris] prepped with a small team of aides….Biden was played by Harris’ national press secretary, Ian Sams….Harris herself ended up settling on a line that within minutes would appear in social media memes and just a few hours later would be screen printed on t-shirts selling for $29 on her website: “That little girl was me,” she said, of her desegregated class.

Harris knew she had to break Biden’s grip on the black vote, and she cold-bloodedly went about planning how to do it. But did it work?

Data compiled by the Democratic polling firm Democracy Corps showed Biden’s favorability with African-American voters actually going up a net 18 percent after the debate….But the same survey also showed that the percentage of people who would vote for Biden and consider voting for him went down 11 points from 81 percent to 72 percent.

So Harris’s attack actually hurt her with black voters but helped her overall. How about that?

In any case, the fact that this was a planned attack isn’t necessarily a mark against Harris. It’s annoying to people like me, who get tired of the endless outrage playacting, but it probably seems a lot more real to people who don’t inhale politics daily. It also demonstrates that Harris can be ruthless when she wants to be, and as they say, politics ain’t beanbag. As long as it stays under control, a little bit of ruthlessness is something that every winning candidate needs now and again.

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

A BETTER WAY TO DO THIS?

We have an ambitious $350,000 online fundraising goal this month and we can't afford to come up short. But when a reader recently asked how being a nonprofit makes Mother Jones different from other news organizations, we realized we needed to lay this out better: Because "in absolutely every way" is essentially the answer.

So we tried to explain why your year-end donations are so essential, and we'd like your help refining our pitch about what make Mother Jones valuable and worth reading to you.

We'd also like your support of our journalism with a year-end donation if you can right now—all online gifts will be doubled until we hit our $350,000 goal thanks to an incredibly generous donor's matching gift pledge.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate