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If Debate Skills Mattered, Kamala Harris Wouldn't Be the One Dropping Out

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From The Nation

The California senator suspends her presidential campaign, as Bloomberg buys his way in.

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris
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Christine Pelosi, who knows a thing or two about politics, had a sound take on Kamala Harris's decision to suspend her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

"We can't tell the story about Kamala Harris 2020 without speaking of sexism, misogynoir, and big money in politics," tweeted Pelosi, a longtime Democratic National Committee member, former executive director of the California Democratic Party, and member of a family that has been active at the top tier of Democratic politics since FDR's day. "Kamala has the integrity to see that she could overcome one or two but not all three. Whichever candidate you choose as Democrat for president, fight to dismantle all three."

In her announcement Tuesday, Harris emphasized the "big money" issue:

"My campaign for president simply doesn't have the financial resources we need to continue.

"I'm not a billionaire. I can't fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it's become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.

"In good faith, I can't tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don't believe I do.

"So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret -- but also with deep gratitude -- that I am suspending my campaign today."

Harris also pointed out that "our campaign uniquely spoke to the experiences of Black women and people of color -- and their importance to the success and future of this party. Our campaign demanded no one should be taken for granted by any political party."

Democrats would do well to pause and reflect on that message and her conclusion that: "We will keep up that fight because no one should be made to fight alone." The party now faces the prospect that its next debate could feature only white contenders; so far just Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Tom Steyer, Bernie Sanders, Amy Klobuchar, and Pete Buttigieg have qualified. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, a candidate who has yet to qualify for the debate, says, "We're spiraling towards a debate stage that could have six people with no diversity whatsoever."

Progressive commentator Sally Kohn was blunt about the way a historically diverse field is narrowing as the caucuses and primaries approach.

"Obviously I'm no centrist but it's downright effed up that smart, compelling, very experienced, centrist Democratic candidates of color are floundering while a smart but wildly inexperienced, centrist white mayor of teeny tiny city is surging," she declared. "Bad look, Democrats."

Even those who have acknowledged differences with Harris on issues and campaign strategies were frustrated by the abrupt exit from a still-crowded field by a senator who represents the largest state in the nation; who, in 2017, became the second African American woman and first South Asian American to serve as a member of the chamber; and who has distinguished herself on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail as a strikingly effective advocate.

"Kamala Harris was never my first choice," tweeted software engineer and 2020 Massachusetts congressional candidate Brianna Wu, "but MY GOD was she a better choice than: Michael Bennett, Joe Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Deval Patrick, Tom Steyer, and Marianne Williamson."

Novelist and Nation columnist Laila Lalami said, "Kamala Harris wasn't my candidate, but I'm disappointed that she had to drop out while Bloomberg buys his way into the race and Buttigieg evades the scrutiny she's received on policing."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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