When I was much younger and didn’t follow politics closely enough to understand what really was going on, I believed that, regardless of who held the office, the president of the United States was mostly a figurehead — more of a symbol than an actual policymaker with the power to steer the country in one direction or another. Having lived through and followed rather closely the Clinton, Bush, Obama, and, unfortunately, Trump presidencies, and having compared the policy positions of those men with those of the opponents against whom they ran, I know now that I, of course, was wrong — mostly.
The person who holds the office of the presidency wields tremendous power, and that person’s beliefs and policy positions can mean the difference between living in an America where everyone is entitled to healthcare versus living in an America where the government kidnaps babies from their parents with neither a plan for, nor any intention of, ever reuniting them.
Those beliefs and policy positions also determine the people with whom a president will surround themselves. A presidency featuring senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, for example — an African-American woman with a long history of public service who, during her time in Obama’s White House, chaired the White House Council on Women and Girls, and co-chaired the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault — will have a vastly different impact on America than a presidency featuring senior adviser Stephen Miller, a racist xenophobe whose extremist views on immigration are at the heart of the Trump Administration’s purposely manufactured humanitarian crisis at the southern border.
So, yes, the president of the United States is far more than just a symbol … which is why we need to make sure that whomever we elect to clean up the havoc wrought by Trump’s horrible policies and general incompetence is both good on the issues and supremely qualified.
To acknowledge that the president is far more than just a symbol, however, is to also acknowledge that the president is a symbol.
I would find it as distasteful to cast a vote for Senator Kamala Harris based solely on her race and gender as do I find it disgusting that no small number of people cast their vote for Donald Trump based solely on his. That said, given that racists and misogynists reacted to the first black president and first female Democratic nominee by electing a racist misogynist in whom they saw themselves, I would love for America to respond by next electing a president whose victory would be nothing short of a complete and utter repudiation of those racist and misogynistic values.
For most of the past two years, I have very much hoped that Kamala Harris would run for president.
Now that she has officially launched her campaign, I am throwing in behind her with the same enthusiasm and hopeful optimism with which I threw in behind Barack Obama during the 2008 Democratic primary.
I bought that shirt around the time of the 2008 Iowa caucus. I had no idea if he could win the nomination. In fact, I thought the odds were stacked heavily against him. Regardless of the long odds, however, I had hoped since hearing his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that he would one day run for president, and when he officially entered the fray, I was an early adopter. After living through almost eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, hearing Obama speak and envisioning him as my president filled me with a hopefulness and an optimism the likes of which I thought I was no longer capable.
I didn’t know what to expect when I tuned in to watch Kamala Harris announce her candidacy in Oakland yesterday, but I was cautiously optimistic. What I got was at least as much as I had hoped for … and it was something I’d not felt in a long while.
We are here knowing we are at an inflection point in the history of our world. We are at an inflection point in the history of our nation. We are here because the American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before. And we are here at this moment in time because we must answer a fundamental question: Who are we? Who are we as Americans? So, let’s answer that question to the world and each other right here and right now: America, we are better than this. We are better than this.”
I could not agree more. (To wit: this piece I wrote in 2017, titled “We’re better than this.”)
I am supporting Kamala Harris for president because I believe she is the person best suited for the job at this critical moment in our nation’s history. Hearing her speak yesterday about her vision for what America can and should be filled me with the same hopeful optimism I’ve not felt since President Obama was in office. Reading her book has convinced me that she is supremely qualified, and that her governance will be guided in part by her experience of growing up the child of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, and of living her life as a black woman in America — which, in the wake of 45 male presidents, all but one of whom were white, is a perspective long overdue in the Oval Office.
I am well aware that there are parts of Senator Harris’ record, particularly some of the decisions she made while serving as California’s chief law-enforcement officer, that give people pause. I think we should expect her to answer those criticisms as part of the vetting process … but, from what I’ve seen of her answers thus far, I do not consider those things disqualifying.
I know there are some Democrats who believe that the best way to beat Trump is to nominate yet another a white male. I would remind those Democrats that the two people who hold the record for the most votes ever cast for a presidential candidate are a black man (twice) and a woman. I would further suggest to those Democrats that they avail themselves of video footage of Senator Harris questioning Brett “I like beer” Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee, and then picture her squaring off in a debate with Donald Trump. The word “slaughter” comes to mind.
I believe Kamala Harris has the best chance of beating Donald Trump — but, more than that, I believe that electing her as the next president of the United States will send a clear message about who the majority of Americans are and what the majority of Americans believe. It is a message that the world needs to hear, and it is a message that the historically marginalized groups in America whose plights have become even more burdensome under Trump’s malicious and incompetent presidency deserve to hear.
There is a very long way to go between now and November of 2020. There are, and will be, many worthy candidates seeking the Democratic nomination … and whichever of them gets it will have my unwavering support in the general election. Right now, however, I very much believe that Kamala Harris will be that person … and I am all-in for her until or unless I have a convincing reason not to be.