By Colleen O'Connor—
Lots of political obituaries are being written about Senator Kamala Harris’ exit from the 2020 presidential contest.
The causes range from “poor treatment of staff” to “no real direction” to “a woman of color who faced a daunting double standard” and even just “too attractive.”
The “what happened to Harris” question, after her flawless campaign kickoff in front of 20,000 cheering supporters in Oakland and her opening debate performance, now mystifies the pundits.
As Harris herself admits, “it was the hardest decision of my life” to exit the race but “I couldn’t fund my own campaign”— a blunt reference to new billionaire contenders and her inability to raise enough money.
She needed to parachute out before California printed its ballots and she faded in her home state. She also needed to console her followers.
Harris may not have found a path for a successful presidential candidacy, but she smartly glimpsed another route to reclaim some heroine status. It arrived via a snarky tweet—courtesy of the President himself—after he learned of her exit.
Trump: “Too bad. We will miss you Kamala!”
Harris: “Don’t worry, Mr. President. I’ll see you at your trial.”
Which brings to mind the superstar leader of Argentina, Eva Peron, who inspired books, movies, plays and that great song of her demise: “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina.”
Like Harris, she spoke to those too often overlooked: women, laborers, the less educated and poorer classes—the descamisados, or “shirtless ones.” She, too, was repeatedly underestimated, dismissed and suffered setbacks.
Yet, as First Lady of Argentina, she started a women’s political party, championed female suffrage, ran a charitable foundation, and shortly before her death—at age 33—was given the title “Spiritual Leader of the Nation” by the Argentine Congress.
Evita (a term of endearment) led with an emotional passion born of her own poverty, abuse, and a genuine familiarity with the pain of those she championed.
They returned her affection.
The raw adoration of her followers—on massive display at her 1952 state funeral in Buenos Aires attended by nearly three million—cowed the military junta.
Frightened, the generals removed Evita’s body from Argentina to a burial crypt in Milan, Italy, and decreed it illegal to even possess her picture or speak her name.
The whereabouts of her corpse remained a mystery for 16 years.
In 1971, Evita’s body was exhumed and flown to Spain, where her husband, Juan Perón, and his third wife, Isable, maintained the corpse in their dining room.
Eventually, Evita’s final resting place in Argentina consisted of a tomb with multiple layers, two trapdoors, and added compartments that is supposedly built secure enough to withstand a nuclear attack.
As her biographers wrote, “It reflects a fear that the body will disappear from the tomb and that the woman, or rather the myth of the woman, will reappear.”
Decades later, Evita remains in Argentina’s memory and soul as more savior than politician. More saint than sinner.
So, too, might Kamala Harris forge her considerable future. Not as a saint, but as a passionate leader. A deft prosecutor.
Harris fell on her sword to help defeat Trump. She vows to continue that crusade.
Her exodus may, in fact, lead others to exit the crowded Democratic field. Too much time, money and attention has been focused those below the 5% support threshold.
The Democratic national committee should up the ante and thin the ranks. Harris has given the DNC cover to do so.
As her Trump rebuttal portends—and as her ardent followers hope—Harris can exert her power during the Senate impeachment trial.
A reprise of the Brett Kavanaugh/Harris exchange in his confirmation hearings offers a sample of what awaits Trump.
Furthermore, a woman needs to be on the Democratic ticket. If Elizabeth Warren or Stacey Abrams is not that woman, then Kamala Harris fits the bill.
Even Joe Biden says he will consider her as a Vice President pick.
If not that slot, there is always the Attorney General position in the event the Democrats take back the White House. A formidable perch indeed.
So, don’t cry for Kamala, America. She still has a great future.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.
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