It’s apparently news that politicians say their opponents aren’t up to doing the job they want to be elected to. This is really strange as I seem to remember this being used frequently during the last four years about the current occupant of the White House.
The current occupant of the White House used it regarding Joe Biden’s running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, however, and all heck broke loose. Suddenly, questioning the competence of a candidate seeking the vice presidency of the United States has become a “racist trope.”
President Donald Trump made the remark Friday during a speech in Londonderry, New Hampshire, according to CNN.
In it, he joked that people would rather see his daughter Ivanka — a White House adviser — be the first female president.
“You know, I want to see the first woman president also, but I don’t want to see a woman president get into that position the way she’d do it — and she’s not competent,” the president said of Harris.
“She’s not competent. They’re all saying, ‘We want Ivanka.’ I don’t blame you.”
Trump suggests Ivanka Trump, not Kamala Harris, should be the first woman president pic.twitter.com/y2eMzavs7j
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) August 28, 2020
Boy, did CNN have a fit. In what was pitched as mostly a straight news story, the headline touted the president’s “baseless attack” on Harris.
“The attack on Harris came a day after the President wrapped the Republican National Convention, which focused a large portion of its program on convincing voters that he is kind to women and has worked on behalf of Black Americans, messaging aimed at countering the President’s history of racist and sexist comments,” the article by Maegan Vazquez read.
“The President has a history of making disparaging remarks about African Americans, including calling them ‘dumb’ or ‘stupid’ in public. He’s specifically referred to some Black journalists, including some from CNN, in that way. He’s told an Asian American reporter she should relax and keep her voice down when asking questions.”
Yes, and he’s told a lot of people that, mostly rich, white cisgender males (including a particular one that comes to mind at CNN). Likewise, a lot of people have said these things about the president. One of them includes Kamala Harris — and she did it only the day before Trump spoke.
First, when it comes to baseless attacks, this one has to be up there:
According to CNBC, during remarks delivered just prior to President Trump’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on Thursday, Harris insinuated that the president “caved” to China when he needed “to be tough” about Beijing sharing data regarding the coronavirus months ago.
“Donald Trump stood idly by and, folks, it was a deadly decision,” she said.
“All we needed was a competent president. One who was willing to listen, willing to lead, take responsibility, have a plan, do their job.”
So either Trump is too tough on China or he’s not tough enough. The Democrats’ messaging on this depends on the day, and I don’t particularly remember many in their caucus questioning his toughness on China.
However, she clearly said he wasn’t competent. You may agree or disagree with this.
The thing is, that question also exists regarding Kamala Harris. That’s somewhat important because the tacit understanding was that she wasn’t picked to be Joe Biden’s number two, she was picked to be his number 1b.
The top of the ticket, it’s generally agreed, is a high-mileage vehicle. Whether this is just a sign of age or some form of clinically significant mental decline is irrelevant. This is a man who looks like he needs to take a nap, not take over the White House. Therefore, Harris’ competency deserves a bit more scrutiny.
Perhaps the most damning piece of evidence against Harris is her own presidential campaign, which was an unqualified omnishambles; she rose to the top tier of candidates after attacking Biden for his history on racial issues.
In a subsequent debate, she got destroyed by Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for her record on criminal justice. The standard line of thinking was that her star began falling after that embarrassing clip went viral and Harris just kept on descending. It was a bit worse than that, though.
A New York Times report on her campaign, released on November 29, 2019, described a hive of infighting exacerbated by unaccountable family members in high places, constantly shifting policy positions from the candidate and poor decisions on where to focus resources or rhetorical attention.
“In one instance after another, Ms. Harris and her closest advisers made flawed decisions about which states to focus on, issues to emphasize and opponents to target, all the while refusing to make difficult personnel choices to impose order on an unwieldy campaign,” the New York Times reported.
The Times also obtained the resignation letter of Kelly Mehlenbacher, Harris’ Iowa state operations director.
“This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly,” she wrote, according to The Times, referencing Harris’ sister Maya laying off campaign workers with no notice. “With less than 90 days until Iowa we still do not have a real plan to win.”
Iowa, by the way, was the state Harris was betting all of her chips on.
And here was a quote from Gil Duran, California opinion editor for the Sacramento Bee: “You can’t run the country if you can’t run your campaign.”
That was just before Harris withdrew from the primary race. Now, of course, this was a “baseless attack” on the part of President Trump. Here’s Domenico Montanaro of NPR, explaining that it’s also “a typical racist and sexist trope against Black women.”
Trump said he wants a woman to be president but criticized Harris as “not competent,” a typical racist and sexist trope against Black women.
“They’re saying, ‘We want Ivanka.’”
— Domenico Montanaro (@DomenicoNPR) August 28, 2020
It’s also a typical trope in political races, one which becomes “racist” and “sexist” when used against Kamala Harris. If this is disproportionately used against women of color, Montanaro hasn’t provided proof. It sounds about right to typical NPR listeners, though, so I suppose he just went with it.
Here’s Hanna Trudo of The Daily Beast, calling it “an oft-used sexist and racist trope about women seeking positions of power”:
“She’s not competent,” President Trump says about @KamalaHarris, repeating an oft-used sexist and racist trope about women seeking positions of power.
Boy, do I have a big story coming out tomorrow…
— Hanna Trudo (@HCTrudo) August 28, 2020
That big story also doesn’t come closer to providing much proof that these are words specifically used against black women seeking power.
The closest Trudo comes to anything close to any proof of endemic racism and sexism regarding Harris on Trump’s side is citing (no, seriously) how left-wing attack-dog organization Media Matters for America “recently cut and compiled a nearly 3-minute video montage and put together a longer list on their website of false and derogatory remarks about Harris promoted by various right-wing corners.”
Against my better judgment, I actually checked that list and noted the “corners” that made overtly sexist remarks included InfoWars’ Owen Shroyer and a post by the weird, far-right postmodern street-fighting fraternity that is the Proud Boys. Because they’re influencing votes.
Almost none of these figures are actually politicians and Trumbo focuses on personalities who made remarks regarding Harris’ romantic relationship with former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown. This is interspersed with academics who swear that this is racism and sexism in action — or, as one of them put it, “misogynoir, where you mix racism and sexism.” (As neologisms go, that’s actually not bad — if not wholly applicable).
Oh, and by the way, Trumbo didn’t even discuss how President Trump’s “not competent” remark is “an oft-used sexist and racist trope about women seeking positions of power” — but thanks for reading!
And finally, here’s activist Amy Siskind:
Trump says of Harris “she’s not competent. She’s not competent,” claiming “They’re all saying, ‘We want Ivanka.’ I don’t blame you.”
He is a sexist, racist, and thinks our democracy is already a royal family.https://t.co/CV9aah4XJB
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) August 29, 2020
Alas, this is going to be the line whenever anyone questions Kamala Harris’ readiness. If you don’t admit of Kamala Harris’ awesomeness, you’re just being a racist and a sexist. But it’s totally all right if she uses the exact same insult against President Trump.
All I have to say is that I’d hate to be Gil Duran right now. Wait and see what happens when they rediscover that “[y]ou can’t run the country if you can’t run your campaign” quote.
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