Kamala Harris: The outreach Latinos need
Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s choice for running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), is a big deal, especially for Black and Brown women who are the backbone of our society and the heart and soul of the Democratic party. This choice was particularly important because Biden is a 77-year-old white man who does not reflect the rising American majority that is multiethnic and multiracial. Harris, however, fits into many of these categories, where reflections of oneself are so powerful.
Sen. Harris will undeniably have a political impact on the election and, without a shadow of a doubt, she is qualified to be vice president, regardless of her gender or the color of her skin. Criticisms about her “ambition,” and even sexist attacks that were waged on all of the women who were considered for the position, are nonsense. No one ever questions the “ambition” of white men, who control the majority of power across major industries in America.
Vice President Biden needs to improve in a few areas to ensure his victory in November. He has been underperforming with Latinos, while Donald Trump is making some inroads with them. He’s even lagging when compared with former opponent Bernie Sanders, whose campaign my team worked for and who dominated among the Latino electorate this past Democratic primary election.
He also needs to increase the African American turnout from the lows of 2016, and bring it back up to the robust showing we saw in 2008 for President Obama. If the investments are done correctly, paired with the proper strategy, Harris could play a big role in both.
Though Vice President Biden and Sen. Harris underperformed among Latinos in the primary, the general election is a much different ballgame. Running against President Donald Trump is very different from running against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Donald Trump has staked his entire political career on demagoguing our community and attacking Latinos, not to mention his lack of effort in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic during which Latinos are dying at twice the rate of other Americans and our children at eight times as likely to end up in the hospital compared to white families.
I have been involved in Latino focus groups and polling all summer for Nuestro PAC, which I founded. This cycle, Nuestro PAC is spending more money than any other group to connect with Latinos. The results prove what we already know — Donald Trump is highly unfavorable in our community. What the focus groups and polling also show, though, is that Latinos don’t know what a Biden-Harris administration will do for them. This is where Harris has the opportunity to be a great messenger for the campaign.
Sen. Harris’s background is one the Latino community is familiar with — she is the daughter of immigrant parents and was raised by a single mother. Latinos want to vote for someone who cares about them and their families and who has a plan to make their lives better. This message has to be delivered by someone who can relate with our community. Sen. Harris fits that bill.
To be clear: Harris should not be put on nonstop Zoom meetings or simply be featured on a deluge of new bumper stickers. A direct investment must be made in our community to talk to us through paid media, TV, radio, mail, digital ads, phone calls and texts — in both English and Spanish — to explain exactly how the Biden-Harris administration will make our lives better. This message can be powerfully delivered by the daughter of immigrants who has fought for our community her entire life. Note to the campaign: These ads would be much more effective if written, produced and created by Latinos, or other people of color — not by more white consultants.
If the Biden-Harris campaign puts real money behind this outreach, and sets up a smart campaign with Harris as the messenger, then they will be on track to dominate the Latino vote come November.
Chuck Rocha is a political consultant, Democratic Party strategist and president of Solidarity Strategies. He was a senior advisor for both of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns and makes frequent appearances on MSNBC and HillTV. His upcoming book “Tio Bernie” details his historic outreach to Latino voters as part of the Bernie 2020 campaign. You can follow him on Twitter @ChuckRocha.