PageA08—KAMALA

File photo of Indian American Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) talking to reporters with Sen. Patrick Leahy following the weekly Democratic Senate policy luncheon in the U.S. Capitol Nov. 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

At least one pundit has proclaimed Indian American Sen. Kamala Harris as the next president of the United States.

After blasting President Donald Trump for not being strong enough on building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, radical conservative rabble-rouser Ann Coulter wrote in her online column that because of Trump's (in her eyes) waffling on the border issue, she "absolutely" guarantees "that the next president is a Democrat. And given today's Democratic Party, that president will be Kamala Harris."

Considering the source, I'm pretty sure that's more of a threat intended to stir up conservative voters and certainly not an endorsement.

As we await Harris' expected announcement after the holidays, more and more signs point towards her candidacy. The No. 1 sign? Conservatives are stepping up their attacks on the California senator. 

Harris' critics don't like what she is saying: When she praises Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for coming forward to accuse Judge Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct; when she says that Trump's policies against immigrants is not representing America; when she tells Democrats to not shirk from talking about the far right's racism; when she says America's criminal justice system is weighed against the poor, the voiceless and especially against African American males, when she tells women to run for office.

Her recent trip to Afghanistan – with two Republican peers, no less – appears to be an attempt to bolster Harris' foreign policy credentials.

Her trips to Iowa and New Hampshire introduced her to Democratic or liberal activists in those early primary states.

A very prominent endorsement of Stacey Abrams in her campaign for Georgia's governor made a strong statement to African American women, one of the steadiest, reliable voting blocs.

In fact, criss-crossing across the country endorsing candidates here and there, win or lose, stashed away a bunch of political IOUs that she can draw on during the brutal Democratic endorsement campaign that will weed out the almost two dozen Democrats who want to challenge Donald Trump.

Harris has placed No. 1 in CNN's 2020 power rankings for the last few months even though recent polls show her behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and newcomer to the national scene Beto O'Roarke, who almost upset Texas Senator Ted Cruz last November.

However, Harris virtually swept the field of would-be candidates in the She the People. poll, claiming more than 71 percent support. Trailing in second place was O'Rourke with a little more than 38 percent, the survey found.

The straw poll released Dec.18 of politically involved women of color by the group She the People cannot be ignored.

It's hard to find a more important primary group than women of color, reports CNN. They are by far the most Democratic aligned major demographic group. Women of color powered Hillary Clinton's sweep of the Southeast in the 2016 primary. Just last year, they were the base for Democrat Doug Jones's shocking victory in the Alabama special Senate election.

Those survey results are encouraging for Harris and sets the stage expected soon. She said she would announce her decision after the holidays after discussing with her family the pros and cons of a campaign in the context of a country driven to the extremes by the current administration. 

As a woman of color – Asian and black – and the daughter of Indian immigrants, running in a campaign against mainly white men (although we shouldn't discount the handful of other women who have expressed interest in joining the fray, including Hawaii's Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Hindu American), her gender and her race will likely be targets by her opponents. Watch for code words if not outright sexist or racist statements from those rivals and from the White House. 

In the era of a growing awareness of women to take charge in order to create the necessary changes we need to make government work for the people, not just the privileged few, and with the demographics that show that women and people of color when joined together could be a formidable force if not the majority of voters, sooner than the mid-century predictions by demographers, her gender and her racial heritage could be seen more as assets rather than liabilities.

She is not naive. Harris expects a difficult race to garner the Democratic nomination given the number of aspirants, and if she gets the nomination, the contest vs. the Republican candidate will likely be even bloodier. 

Harris is no pushover and has shown she knows how to punch as well as to weather blows. She will likely be pressured by liberal interest groups to forego money from special interest PACs, so her ability to raise funds from the traditional Democratic donors, labor and a talent for generating millions of dollars from small online donations from ordinary voters will be even more important in order to run not only against a Republican candidate but also against her Democratic rivals.

The advantage of being the first out of the gate is first dibs on asking donors for their support, securing important endorsements from local and nationally known politicians, and commitments from activists who will form the infastructure and boots-on-the-ground needed for a national campaign.

The disadvantage is that the candidate becomes an easy target for Democratic rivals and the effective Republican hit machine, led by Fox News and the First Twitterer, which is far better than the Democrats at exaggerating flaws and just outright making things up. 

Let's also not discount the Russian Internet strategy and the U.S. citizens who assist them in magnifying issues, real or fictional, and misleading and firing up conservative-leaning voters and racists and confusing American voters on both sides of the political spectrum.

"I always start my campaigns early, and I run hard," said Harris. "Maybe it comes from the rough-and-tumble world of San Francisco politics, where it's not even a contact sport — it's a blood sport. This is how I am as a candidate. This is how I run campaigns."

If she chooses to join the scramble for the White House, Harris will need that determination and endurance for the upcoming gauntlet. The Iowa Caucuses are a little more than a year away and we will learn the decision from Kamala Devi Harris soon enough.

(The author is a retired Asian American journalist. This piece first appeared in his blog, dioknoed.blogspot.com, and is reproduced here with his permission.)

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