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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaking during a recent Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by at Otterbein University announced last week she was abandoning her bid for the office.
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., speaking during a recent Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by at Otterbein University announced last week she was abandoning her bid for the office. (John Minchillo/AP)

It’s ironic that black women are considered the backbone of the Democratic party and Kamala Harris, as the only black woman running for president, suspends her presidential bid.

The media panders to other contenders including Pete Buttigieg, who has just around 1% of support from African Americans, and Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden. But it denied the same coverage for Kamala Harris. As an African American woman and former prosecutor, I see the media making the choice for the people and not the other way around like the way it should be. It’s like the tail wagging the dog.

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Black women know that we must work twice as hard and be twice as good as a white man to get half as much. And Ms. Harris’ credentials were at least twice as good as that of Mr. Buttigieg. In California, Ms. Harris served two terms as San Francisco’s district attorney and became the first woman and person of color to serve as California’s attorney general. Upon being elected to serve in the U.S. Senate, she became only the second black woman elected to that laudable office. Ms. Harris’ skillful performance questioning Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing foreshadowed what a debate between her and President Donald Trump might look like. She made Mr. Kavanaugh uncomfortable and even cringe with her strong, direct and intense questioning. I would put her up against Mr. Trump any day.

Meanwhile, Mr. Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., since 2012, is a war veteran and Rhodes Scholar. That is all admirable, but he has no state or national experience under his belt. And South Bend, with a population of about 102,000 hardly qualifies as big city experience. Yet, Mayor Pete became a media darling. Imagine what the media would say about a black woman running for president with Mr. Buttigieg’s scant credentials. A Bloomberg news article compared Ms. Harris’ run for president to Marco Rubio. I am not sure what parallel the reporter was trying to make. Whatever anyone may say about Ms. Harris, she is no Mr. Rubio.

Ms. Harris was one of the Democratic candidates to make the December debate qualifications. During the November debate, Ms. Harris was one of a few candidates on stage to address concerns related to African Americans and particularly black women. Ms. Harris addressed black voters’ issues on gentrification, affordable housing, race-wealth inequality, black gun violence deaths and equal pay for black women. At the most recent debate, Sen. Harris assailed the Democratic party for primarily only courting black voters at election time. Ms. Harris stated boldly and frankly that African American voters want to know “where you been and what are you gonna do?”

Some may say that Ms. Harris ran a poor campaign as a reason for the demise of her bid for president. Why isn’t the same said about Mr. Buttigieg who may have the support of the media, but can’t seem to gain any traction with African Americans? No Democrat will win the presidential election without a majority of the support from the crucial African American vote.

The Center for American Progress in its November report, “Women of Color: A Collective Powerhouse in the U.S. Electorate” outlined just how important African Americans are to the presidential election. The report noted that at least 15 million black women are of voting age; 3.5 million more than in 2000. Black women voted at a rate of 74% in the 2012 presidental election and 75% in 2008. Compare that to 2016 when black women only voted at a rate of 66%. If turnout levels in 2020 repeat those of 2008 or 2012, black women would cast at least 1 million more votes to reach a total of 11 million, according to the report.

Sadly, Sen. Harris couldn’t survive the media favoritism of Mr. Buttigieg, among other things. Perhaps, if Ms. Harris could have cut in on the media’s cheek-to-cheek dance with the small town mayor, she might still be in the race for president. We hope the remaining candidates don’t forget the African American vote. Whoever receives the Democratic nomination for president must engage African American voters, particularly black women, to receive wide support to win.

Debbie Hines ( Debbie@legalspeaks.com) is a former Maryland assistant attorney general and Baltimore prosecutor.

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