Senator Kamala Harris’ knowledge, experience, and political talent promise an impeccable performance in next Tuesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate. Today I write with a special purpose: To explore some of the unique, impressive, and underrated strengths Sen. Harris consistently demonstrates.
First, I believe Sen. Harris’ sense of humor is one of her greatest and most distinctive assets. Perhaps the most attractive facet is the authenticity it reflects. Every time I hear her tell a joke, I laugh, but more importantly, I feel resonantly the impression that she actually thinks the joke she’s telling is funny. I value that quality in a president. I don’t want to be led by a leader who tells a joke merely because they think an audience will reward them with sentimental affirmation and applause.
Of course, being warmly received by the public is always desirable and as a presidential candidate, knowing your audience is crucial. But I thoroughly appreciate how Sen. Harris proudly embodies the openness, self-confidence, amiability, and uncommon desire to let her sense of humor show America important dimensions of her personality.
For example, when Sen. Harris turned to Joe Biden in the last debate and said, “Hey Joe, instead of saying no we can’t, let’s say yes, we can,” I could not have disagreed more stringently with seasoned commentators who described her rejoinder as “deeply awkward,” on Twitter. I thought her retort deft and witty. And genuine! It communicated Sen. Harris’ admiration for the inspiring leadership and legacy of former President Barack Obama. It touched on the memorable, uplifting slogan Obama elevated eloquently to the highest office in our land. Her witticism evinced the integrity and sure-footedness to joke in ways that say something meaningful about her character beyond skill in eliciting laughter from the crowd.
Topping off, her delivery was silky.
Second, Sen. Harris exhibits exceptional nimbleness. While many examples come to mind, one, in particular, stands out. Last Wednesday evening during her segment on MSNBC’s gun town hall with Craig Melvin, Sen. Harris perceptively noted that everybody has a plan and that she wants voters to know that her policy agenda is about substantive actions she “fully intends” to carry through, once elected. In the gaggle after the event, a ruffled reporter testily posed the question: “You said that you have intentions and that everyone else has plans. What’s the difference?”
Let’s be real. A smart-aleck could have responded, “I’ll let you use your imagination.” Or, “I hear Merriam-Webster is a reliable source since you’re curious.” A hothead might have slammed back. “The difference is, unlike you, I’m interested in issues facing the American people, not a sensational gotcha game to boost online traffic.” An earnest aspirant caught between a rock and a hard place would have floundered.
Sen. Harris did none of these things.
Masterfully, she made a self-deprecating joke and said well, the two words have a lot of different letters (to which the audience laughed), and then she called her own joke “corny,” adding, “I can be corny sometimes.” Transitioning swimmingly, she answered the reporter’s question succinctly: “I fully intend to carry these initiatives out. I’m not just offering a concept…I have a strong commitment to seeing these things done.”
Realistically, prominent politicians encounter innumerable interactions like this. One question is, how do they respond? Senator Harris patently distinguishes herself in her ability to quickly comprehend such situations and formulate a proper response that puts her on top.
Lastly, Sen. Harris has been the most strategically aggressive and persuasive candidate in prosecuting the case against four more years of Donald Trump. In the last debate, she dismantled him in broad daylight. In interviews, she punishes him. Some Republican officials have even admitted that Trump fears Sen. Harris. On Twitter, she must torment him psychologically as he watches FOX News to console himself. What is more, after lambasting Trump for being a dastard who abuses his power to beat people down, Sen. Harris reminds us of what a president should do: Use their power to lift people up.
With three debates now under her belt, I’m confident that come next Tuesday, Kamala Harris will be poised to cash in on a spellbinding display of presidential power.
Zachary R. Wood is a Board Director at Heterodox Academy and the author of Uncensored: My Life and Uncomfortable Conversations at the Intersection of Black and White America.