While California Sen. Kamala Harris has continued to downplay certain aspects of her past as a prosecutor, questions lingered about how well the presidential candidate might fare among Black male voters. MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid hosted a panel discussion Sunday morning about whether Harris has “a Black man problem” because of her controversial records as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general.
Harris was in Iowa over the weekend highlighting diversity in meetings with the Asian & Latino Coalition, the League of United Latin America Citizens and the Iowa Democratic Party’s Black Caucus, the Des Moines Register reported.
Reid saw a silver lining to Harris’ past as a prosecutor, noting that while people see her in “the criminal justice lane … it’s also one of her selling points.”
But Jason Johnson, politics editor for the Root, disagreed with the latter, insisting that Harris’ record on criminal justice was “the Achilles’ heel” of her presidential campaign. He went on to explain that Harris was on record as advocating using prison labor to fight forest fires in California and she implemented a truancy policy that some say was a school-to-prison pipeline that has disproportionately affected Black people, especially males.
“If she can’t find a way to reconcile the problems with her criminal justice record with the policies that she says she wants to implement as president, she’s not going to get through a primary,” Johnson added.
Tiffany Cross, managing editor of The Beat DC, did him one better.
“Quite honestly, Sen. Harris has a Black man problem,” Cross said while pointing to Harris’ newfound support for progressive policies (police body cams and marijuana legalization, for example) that were previously absent from her prior platforms.
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“Specifically, Black men — blue-collar Black men — they’re gonna have a problem with her record,” Cross continued. “I think that the African-American community expects more from people who look like us. She needs to find a strong Black man advocate who can be in her corner at some point on the campaign … to be a validator for her.”
Johnson doubled-down on that sentiment.
“Let’s just be candid. When you’re saying that she needs to have an advocate out there for her, it’s not going to be her husband,” who is white, he said. “She’s gotta surround herself with African-American men.”
Johnson also said that Harris will be competing against New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker for the Black vote during primaries, and they could end up canceling each other out with that coveted demographic.
“[I]n a primary, if both Booker and Harris are running and both of them have viable candidacies — which is another requirement — then black men are likely to defect from Kamala at a noticeable rate,” Theodore R. Johnson, a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the New York Times last month.
Watch the full panel discussion below.
A lot of folks on Twitter both disagreed with and supported the notion that Harris had a so-called “Black man problem.” See a brief sample of the raging Twitter debate below.
I may disagree on some of #KamalaHarris stances but the notion that she needs a "prominent black man" to come in and support her/have her back is some pure uncut BS y'all. #AMJoy pic.twitter.com/GMBxpsqDbl— 𝙷𝚞𝚜𝚔𝚢𝚅𝚎𝚐𝚎𝚝𝚊𝚛𝚒𝚊𝚗 (@HuskyBro_Inc) February 24, 2019
Jason is right on this matter. Kamala Harris has a HUGE "Black man problem" and if she doesn't acknowledge it (like Jason urges), she won't be going anywhere any time soon.— Masculine Standard (@MascStandard) February 24, 2019
Insecure black men have a problem with @KamalaHarris. Married to a white man, so? It ain’t my household. Her mantle of do better, 💁🏾♂️I’m trying. Easily offended , hypersensitive men cause her black man problem , me, I love the sista ✊🏿— BlueMarvel (@BlueMarvel7) February 24, 2019
The only reason both of you came to this unproven conclusion is because she’s married to a white man.— AAmom #iVoted (@AVD911) February 24, 2019
I'm married to a black man who was with me every step of the way when campaigning for Kamala Harris for Senate— 😷 Nana Sue says NO MASK SLACKERS ALLOWED! (@SusanDFinSD) February 24, 2019
When we where invited hear speak, did a brief meet & greet he said then she better run for POTUS because she is just what America needs
No, not that simple, but the idea that she needs a strong black man to answer for her actions as AG... I kept wondering, has no one asked Harris these questions?— dwight munroe (@tfrogdotcom) February 24, 2019
No Jason Kamala Harris doesn’t have a Black Man Problem you have a Black Woman Problem as do lots of Black Men like you and I know this because I’ve been around Men like you all my life. Pitiful.— ROBERT S.💛Hillary was RIGHT (@rescott534) February 24, 2019
So in order for black men to vote for #KamalaHarris she has to have a black man say she's "ok"? To validate her? UGH. She can speak of her record, her experience, her ideas, what she's proud of, where she's "evolved" - all by and for HERSELF. #AMJoy #sexism— arrow252525 (@Arrow252525) February 24, 2019
Tiffany Cross said Kamala Harris needs a blue collar black man to advocate for her and "she doesn't have that yet." (The campaign just started so this makes no sense to me.)— MarthaHC in Va (@wtf_imtooold) February 24, 2019
Jason Johnson inferred Kamala Harris doesn't value black men because she's not married to one. (AYFKM??!)
I’m a working class black man and I can tell you Kamala Harris can advocate for herself quite well.— Still with her (@PrezKamala2028) February 24, 2019
With Jason Johnson talking about Kamala Harris’s “black man problem” today on #AMJoy, I have a hard time taking him at his word on this.— Jeremy Fassler (@J_fassler) February 24, 2019
A takeaway from today's @amjoyshow is guest Jason Johnson claiming @SenKamalaHarris has "a Black man problem" will prompt other media to perpetuate the nonsense that there's a problem, using his comment as cover. @KamalaHarris is Dems' best hope for 2020. Why? Her record.#AMJoy— CecilHAuthor (@CecilHAuthor) February 24, 2019
One of the panelists thought Kamala Harris needed a black man to make her legit. I may have walked into the kitchen and missed the part where somebody pushed back on that remark. What would be wrong with a black woman having her back. How would they react to someone saying that https://t.co/lQzxv68nSK— Jane Sellman (@WordGirlSam) February 24, 2019
I'm a working class black man and I 💯% support @KamalaHarris . She can stand on her own. If a Black man cannot see her value and her servitude then they can stay on the sideline. Ego is the issue with some black men. We get in our own way.— ⚖️T.C BUTLER BIDEN HARRIS (@todd_butler) February 24, 2019
I was going to stay in lurk mode until my test results came back but I could not let Jason Johnson's foolish comment rest. For him to say Kamala Harris has a black man problem is ridiculous. Considering its black women who always do the heavy lifting political wise.— Tynisa the Cynical Gen X Witch Walker (@Kalarigamerchic) February 24, 2019
It's not a Kamala problem. It's a benefit for anyone that can motivate them to come out, but it is not a problem for anyone if they don't. Or equal problem for everyone. Because guess who else has a black man problem. Everyone in the field. #AMJoy— jupiterthunder (@jptrthndr) February 24, 2019
I'm a black man from Mississippi and I am all in for @KamalaHarris . For me I believe some black men need to push their ego out of the way. We already seen this with Stacey Abrams in GA on how black men voted, even with Andrew Gillum. We get in our own way b/c we don't seek truth— ⚖️T.C BUTLER BIDEN HARRIS (@todd_butler) February 24, 2019
@amjoyshow @JoyAnnReid I just watch this series & @DrJasonJohnson saying that @KamalaHarris have a “Black Man Problem" bcuz criminal justice, meaning that she supported a system the disproportionately effects black men& that she MUST have a black man on her political team huh?— Maxine Baptiste (@brownsugar7878) February 24, 2019