The Democratic Insiders Who Helped Pave the Way for Kamala Harris
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because these change-makers have been at the forefront of Democratic politics for four decades.
By Nick Fouriezos
Beginning in the ’80s, before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was even born, there were four “Colored Girls” trailblazing in Democratic politics — the Reverend Leah Daughtry, the historic campaign manager Donna Brazile, the Clinton whisperer Minyon Moore and the Democratic National Committee exec Yolanda Caraway.
Together, the fearsome foursome (co-authors of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Politics) have met for weekly dinners in Washington, D.C., since the early 2000s — and along the way reshaped American politics, emerging from the civil rights era to help elect the first Black president and shape his rhetoric on race. And in recent weeks, the critical Democratic operatives were pushing behind the scenes for the woman who ended up as Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick: Kamala Harris.
[Black women] know how to lead; we’ve been doing it for years and it’s time for us to get the credit.
“I just think she’s been tested on the national stage … and she’s whip smart,” says Caraway in the latest episode of The Carlos Watson Show, hosted by the OZY co-founder and CEO.
Harris, the former California attorney general and sitting U.S. senator, ran for president but dropped out in December while facing low polls and fundraising numbers. With her clear eye on the White House — and past cutting attacks on Biden — some Biden allies criticized Harris during the VP search process for her ambition, a line of attack Daughtry finds “really quite ugly.”
“It just reminds us how far we as women, we as Black women have to go to be seen as equal. What’s wrong with a little ambition? We’re talking about a business that is all about ambition,” Daughtry says. And Brazile, a two-time DNC chair who made history as the first Black woman to lead a presidential campaign with Al Gore in 2000, points out that Black women make up a critical part of the Democrats’ winning coalition: “Because of our civic participation … we are the future of the Democratic Party.”
The four Democratic operatives gave insight into the VP search process, with both Brazile (Gore, in 2000) and Moore (Hillary Clinton, in 2016) having personal experience. Scores of lawyers and accountants investigate the potential nominees, Brazile says, and once it was down to three candidates, the top campaign staff weighed in.
Ultimately, it is always the candidate’s choice. “At the end of the day, at 4:30 in the morning, I had no idea he was going to choose Joe Lieberman,” Brazile says. Moore says the Clinton search was similar, and that Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker were both finalists. “If it would have been [the search committee’s] choice, we probably would have said Cory Booker,” Moore says, but she believed Clinton “was just trying to calm the ticket down” with the uncontroversial Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.
The four also talked about Black feminism, particularly with the backdrop of national racial justice protests. Daughtry says the marches have revived a conversation about what “good allies” look like. “We see our white sisters willing to have the hard conversations,” she says, a comment that causes Moore to chime in that those same women should have “kicked in” in 2016. “It kicked in for Black women. We saw a qualified white woman,” Moore says. Then “the numbers started rolling in. And we discovered that  percent of white women decided that she wasn’t good enough.”
“For a long time, Black women have been leading, but we’ve been leading from the back as we push other people forward,” Daughtry says. “And now we are at an age and in an age where Black women are taking their place out front … not because other people can’t do it, but because we know how to lead, we’ve been doing it for years and it’s time for us to get the credit.”
With Harris now cemented on the ticket, the credit is coming due.