Joe Scarborough, the host of Morning Joe on MSNBC, recently offered a common and tired rationalization for Vice President Kamala Harris’s low approval ratings.
“There’s sort of this undercurrent, like she’s Black and she’s a woman!” Scarborough said on-air last week. “And that’s why people don’t like her, because she’s the vice president.”
Scarborough’s guest, Eddie Glaude, Jr., who is the former African American Studies chair at Princeton, agreed. “The possibility of a Black woman being the president. Right? Enters into that kind of swirl of grievance and concern,” Glaude said. “But we know that the real worry here is, you know, a Black woman. That’s the real concern.”
Scarborough speculated that Harris’ race and gender were why voters wanted President Joe Biden to replace Harris on the ticket.
A Tired Argument on Kamala Harris
In the three years since Harris was nominated as Biden’s running mate, we’ve come to expect the argument that Scarborough and Glaude are advancing.
It’s pretty much the de facto, stock defense of Harris’ performance at this point: that people don’t like her because she’s a Black woman.
It’s a lame argument, advancing the sort of flippant logic that has taken hold on the identity-obsessed left.
But the argument has legs because people are afraid to refute the thing.
Because people suspect (accurately) that if you refute the argument, you will be construed as refuting the existence of racism and misogyny – two pillars of contemporary left-wing social grievance.
No one wants that heat.
So they let it slide when Joe Scarborough goes on TV and sums up the entire slate of possible criticisms one might have of a vice president as being the result of racism and misogyny.
What Scarborough dismisses, out of hand, is that people might not like Harris because of her on-the-job performance. Or her personality. Or her electability. Or some complex analysis that weighs a variety of factors. Something beyond Harris’ race and gender.
And what Scarborough fails to consider is that perhaps people don’t dislike Harris because of her identity; perhaps people like Harris because of her identity. Recall that before Biden picked Harris as his running mate, he announced explicitly that he was going to select a Black woman as his VP.
Now, Biden wasn’t tailoring his VP pick out of charity. Biden is a fifty-year veteran of Washington politics, a political animal that was finally getting his shot at a life-long dream: the presidency. Biden knew how important his vice presidential pick was going to be. He knew the pick would be vital to dislodging Trump from the White House. Biden needed to pick someone who he felt gave him the best shot at winning.
And in doing so, Biden explicitly narrowed down the field – not by occupation, or ideology, or relationship, but by race and gender. Biden wanted to select a Black woman because he believed it would bolster his chances at winning the presidency. This suggests a belief that the electorate would like someone because they were a Black woman.
Biden’s calculus paid off: He and Harris won the 2020 election with a margin of seven million votes.
Is it possible that Biden doesn’t understand the electorate, and that people don’t actually want a Black woman in office? Technically, it’s possible. And it’s a certainty that there are people out there who dislike Harris because she is Black and/or she is a woman – that is sad and horrible for sure. But the wholesale dismissal of the criticisms of Harris, suggesting they are the results of her being a Black woman, is a tired and lazy attempt to shield the VP from legitimate questions about her performance.
The Democrats (and the mainstream media) will need to do better if they are going to protect their ticket from the onslaught of substantive criticism that is coming.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.
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