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Why Don’t Republicans Attack Kamala Harris?

Why Don’t Republicans Attack Kamala Harris?

Thursday, 8 April, 2021 - 05:00

One of my favorite type of stories is dogs-not-biting: things that are not happening, and tell us a lot because they aren’t happening. With the new vice president finally moving into her official digs — delayed by previously scheduled construction — it’s a good time to reflect on the biggest non-story of the past year: the non-demonization of Kamala Harris.

Of course, Republicans don’t like her, just as they wouldn’t like any Democratic politician, and just as Democrats generally don’t like Republican politicians. And yes, if you dig deep enough you certainly can find some smears.

But the first woman to be vice president, the first Asian American vice president, the first Black vice president … if someone had told you two years ago that any of those would be the case, wouldn’t you have expected a lot of ugly reactions? Or at the very least, a solid focus by Fox News and other Republican-aligned media outlets on how terrible she was, even if they avoided saying anything explicitly bigoted?

Yet Republicans seem far more interested in demonizing Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball these days than they are in bashing the vice president. They didn’t even bother to make the case that she was under-qualified during the campaign, even though she was only in her fourth year in the Senate. Surely that would’ve been an easy line of attack. Surely, you’d think, the audience for Republican-aligned media would be interested?

It just doesn’t seem to be happening. I looked around a bit to make sure I wasn’t missing anything major, but I don’t think I am. Ask a search engine to complete the request “Kamala Harris” and it’ll return a lot of boring stuff: net worth, age, quotes, parents, home. There doesn’t appear to be any book out attacking her. Even her Fox News page is incredibly tame — about the worst attack against her is that she hasn’t given a press conference after President Joe Biden asked her to deal with asylum issues.

It’s certainly possible to interpret this as good news. Perhaps the electorate has moved past bigotry and sexism, and when Republican operatives tested various attacks they didn’t resonate or backfired. Or perhaps Republican elites think such an attack would be effective but are restraining themselves because they think it’d be wrong (though that seems unlikely).

It’s also possible that the current Republican Party is so inept, or so in thrall to former President Donald Trump, that they need his direction to determine who to insult and how. I’m not even going to guess as to why Trump isn’t particularly interested in Harris, but from what I remember during the campaign, his biggest complaint about her was that her bid for the presidency was unsuccessful, which is about the most boring, generic insult I can think of for a vice-presidential candidate.

Whatever the answer, I find the whole thing fascinating — and certainly more of a good thing than not.


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