On Tuesday of this week Kamala Harris announced that she was suspending her campaign for the 2020 presidency. She largely blamed it on lack of money, stating that she was not wealthy, unlike former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who had just entered the race. Bloomberg has a estimated wealth of some $54 billion and in his first week spent $57 million on campaign ads. Running for political office has always required money and all campaigns spend a considerable amount of time and effort on securing donations. Expenses include campaign staff, advertising materials, travel costs, facilities for rallies and finally media ads. Expenses are recurring and therefore donations must also be recurring if a campaign is to survive. Donors may expect some return on their investment and if a candidate loses critical support in polls, donations will suffer. This was likely the fate of Harris as her support in the polls had fallen to the low single digits at the time of her campaign termination. On paper she was a qualified candidate who could “check” all the boxes. She was a female, minority race candidate who was a hard-nosed prosecutor and attorney general of the state of California. She was elected to the U.S. Senate from the state of California and had already made a name for herself with the Kavanaugh confirmation and on other cases. She was a polished speaker yet never seemed to really connect with a majority of the voters. Her past record as a prosecutor may have been a hinderance in the new era of prison reform. She had been tough on crime, but then so was Joe Biden who had previously been a big supporter of the Clinton Crime Bill. To this point in the Democratic race, crime had not been a central issue. The groups she should have appealed to (women and minorities) migrated to other candidates.
The problem with Kamala was she really had no platform that she could call her own. Elizabeth Warren had “Medicare for All” but the Harris view on healthcare changed from one day to the next. She embraced the “Medicare for All” concept but then wanted to keep some private insurance and perhaps have a “phased in” application of the universal healthcare program. She had high hopes of doing well in California, but there were too many primaries before reaching California and without some good showings her donors would abandon her. Political Action Committees (PACS) are supposed to prevent politics from being relegated to the wealthy. The Michael Bloombergs of the world have a definite advantage over “Joe Blow.” We need to consider public financing of campaigns so that anyone can run for office. It would also eliminate undue influence of big donors who contribute large sums of money to a given campaign with the expectation of “favors” once in office. We need to restore honesty and integrity to politics but that won’t happen until we remove the need for large sums of money to run for office.