The eye catcher ….
Kamala Harris attacked fellow Democratic candidate Joe Biden during last night’s second round of debates between Democrats vying for their party’s blessing to go up against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in November 2020. Ms. Harris scored points on Mr. Biden when the U.S. senator from California challenged his position in the early 1970s on school busing. Ms. Harris asserted that Mr. Biden was against busing, the policy that transferred black students from schools in poor neighborhoods with under-performing, under-funded schools to schools in majority white, more affluent communities. Ms. Harris argued that were it not for that policy, she would not have enjoyed the personal and professional success she is enjoying now.
From the perspective of a candidate seeking votes in the political markets, does the issue of busing resonate enough with the electorate’s fear that the narrative will garner votes? The answer is no.
Ms. Harris’ busing argument doesn’t address Americans’ fears …
For millions of Americans, the issue of busing does not pull at the heart strings. With a median age of 38 years, the policy of busing was waning when half of America was alive. For the past two decades, cities across the United States have implemented remedial plans to address the problem of school segregation. Ms. Harris’ mother faced the fear of her daughter receiving a less than stellar education in their neighborhood and likely believed this was the best or only available option. And while there is still the concern about poor funding in low-income neighborhoods, options, including vouchers, charter schools, private schools, and relocation are available to alleviate these fears.
But while the issue of busing will quickly fade from the memories of the electorate who watched last night’s debate, what may linger a little longer is Ms. Harris’ performance. The push back on Mr. Biden included a picture of Ms. Harris as a school girl and when combined with the tone and delivery of Ms. Harris’ remarks provided enough of an emotional message to connect with people in the audience and with traders in the political futures markets as the price of an event contract on Ms. Harris’ nomination climbed as much as seven cents last night on PredictIt.
But her performance may not address the fear of some in the black community that her record as a prosecutor does not reflect serious attempts at law enforcement reform. There is the argument that her record is mixed, having not done enough to address the efficacy of investigating police shootings, declining to weigh in on recreational use of marijuana, and her defense of the death penalty.
Kamala Harris, while probably liked by her sorority sisters and the professional class, may not be endeared by those who have had a less than pleasant run-in with law enforcement.
Conclusion: Kamala Harris has work to do …
Ms. Harris has managed to present energized optics over the past 24 hours, but in the 21st century digital world, those optics can be blurred quickly by opposing messaging provided on tens or hundreds of other mediums. Right now as I type this post, Joe Biden is mounting an energetic rebuttal to Ms. Harris on C-SPAN and while the political futures markets have Ms. Harris’ selling at a higher price than Mr. Biden, the ability for Mr. Biden to go on a policy offensive across multiple platforms with a deeper bench of media and civic leader support could put him back in the driver’s seat.