So, Kamala Harris is out. And honestly, I'm OK with that. Her prosecutorial background — one that, despite her attempt to brand herself as a "progressive prosecutor," included an office that argued that reducing the prison population by giving parole to some non-violent offenders would deprive the state of cheap labor to fight forest fires — gave me pause while assessing my choice of candidates and in the end, I was not going to vote for Kamala Harris come the primaries.
However, my initial reaction to the swarm of news alerts I received when the news broke on Tuesday was originally confusion. Yes, I knew Harris had been hemorrhaging money for some time. Yes, I knew she had shuttered the majority of her campaign offices in New Hampshire a few weeks ago. And, yes, I knew the chances of her winning the nomination were slim.
But still! Tom Steyer is still in this race. John Delaney's still running! Michael Bloomberg, who the electorate overwhelmingly views unfavorably, just got here! And yet Kamala Harris — a flawed candidate, yes, but one who has consistently polled towards the front of the pack (albeit never at the front) — is out before them?
The end of Kamala Harris' time as a 2020 candidate also comes with another troubling caveat: with her out of the race, there isn't a single person of color who has thus far qualified for the December Democratic debate. Of course, there is still a chance that candidates like Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, or Tulsi Gabbard will reach the 4 percent in four DNC approved polls and will reach the requirement for 200,000 unique donors. But for the moment, we are looking at a debate stage with six white people.
Regardless if you were a fan of her, Kamala Harris dropping out of the race highlights the stark contrast present in the primary field. Numerous candidates have been able to stay in the race despite low poll numbers, simply because they can bankroll their own campaign. Tom Steyer, a billionaire, has been able to keep his long-shot candidacy afloat by pouring $47 million of his own money into his campaign and allegedly offering to pay local politicians in Iowa for endorsements. Meanwhile, John Delaney, the third-richest member of the House of Representatives, was polling at 0 percent in the most recent YouGov poll and yet is still in the running, because he's poured millions of dollars of his personal fortune into his campaign.
The fact that candidates like Harris are dropping out is inevitable as we get closer and closer to Iowa. However, it is ridiculous that other candidates, ones that barely have a fraction of support Harris did are hanging in because they can afford to. This is a presidential election, not a fun hobby for multi-millionaires and billionaires with nothing better to do. It is bordering on un-Democratic that the defining factor in who stays in the presidential race appears to be whether they can afford to rather than if their poll numbers and donations show genuine enthusiasm for their candidacy.