Column

Democrats Need to Prepare for the Racist Misogynist Attacks Coming for Kamala

Trump is already testing out bigoted ads against Biden’s new running mate

President Trump speaks as a picture of Sen. Kamala Harris is on a screen during a news conference. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

When Joe Biden announced his running mate on Tuesday, I felt instantly relieved — Kamala Harris isn’t just a qualified, exciting pick, she’s the perfect young, dynamic foil to Mike Pence’s old white regressiveness. (And admit it: It will be an absolute pleasure to watch Harris wipe the debate floor with Pence — especially on issues like abortion.)

But be prepared: The attacks on Harris are going to be horrible. We’ve already seen how the country reacts when a woman runs for higher office, and the nastiness that surrounded Barack Obama’s presidency and campaigns — the next few months are going to see a flood of racism and sexism. (The Trump campaign has already released an attack ad against Harris, calling her a “phony.”)

The best thing that Democrats can do right now is prepare for the bigotry, be ready to defend Harris, and, most of all, not just dismiss the attacks, but own them.

When the Trump campaign uses racist or sexist dog whistles (though they’re more likely to be explicit rather than coded), the Biden campaign needs to call them out every single time. There can be no “rising above,” no giving anyone on the Trump team the benefit of the doubt — they are racist misogynists, and everything they say about Harris needs to be contextualized through that reality.

Harris represents the change that Trump and Pence are desperately trying to prevent.

In a press briefing shortly after Biden announced Harris as his running mate, Trump already called the California senator “extraordinarily nasty,” his trademark insult for women he doesn’t like. Any woman who speaks her mind or has the audacity to be smarter than Trump is just “nasty.”

And the Trump campaign’s very first announcement in reaction to Harris’ nomination was to say, “Kamala Harris called Joe Biden a racist and asked for an apology she never received.” It’s a slick way to rile up Trump’s base — people who hate how often they’re called racists.

The campaign also said that Harris is trying to “bury her record as a prosecutor in order to appease the anti-police extremists,” and that she has “embraced the left’s radical manifesto.” The truth, of course, is that Harris has received a tremendous amount of criticism from the left concerning her time as a criminal prosecutor. But the Trump campaign believes that they can paint Harris as radical — in part because droning on about “antifa” is all they have right now, but also because to conservatives, Harris’ identity alone makes her radical.

Harris would be the first Black woman vice president in America, and the first South Asian woman — historic firsts that terrify the bigots in the White House. Harris represents the change that Trump and Pence are desperately trying to prevent.

And because they want to believe that the country is as racist and sexist as they are, their attacks won’t be any less disgusting than they were last time around. We can also expect attacks from Trump supporters that go above and beyond the kinds of things his campaign can say. In addition to racism and misogyny, we’ll see sexualized harassment and unofficial campaign gear, like the kind that was so popular at Trump campaigns while he was running against Hillary Clinton. It will be, in a word, awful.

So if we want the Biden/Harris campaign to succeed, feminists, Democrats — and anyone who realizes how disastrous another Trump term would be — need to rally around Harris and protect her from the inevitable onslaught. We won’t be able to stop the attacks, but we can call them out for what they are, and shame those who participate in them.

Whether she was your first pick or your last, whether you find her progressive or not left enough, now is the time to back her up against attacks we can all agree are noxious.

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.

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