Kamala Harris’ awkward laughs spark outrage. Why laughter is not her best medicine

Kamala Harris wearing a suit and tie

Kamala Harris

Senator Kamala Harris, the Democratic Party’s vice-presidential candidate, faced harsh criticism and ridicule from Republicans, including President Donald Trump, for bursting into laughter at a question about her alleged Leftist leanings.

Kamala Harris was mercilessly criticised, even reviled, in the battleground state of Twitter for laughing out loud when CBS reporter Norah O’Donnell asked her if she would push a progressive agenda since she was rated as “the most liberal senator” by the non-partisan, independent Congressional vote tracker, GovTrack.us.

Kamala Harris seemed unprepared for the question and laughed nervously when O’Donnell set the stage with a statement about her being a liberal. Kamala Harris said it was Vice President Mike Pence who had called her liberal during their debate.

The reporter persisted and cited GovTrack as the source of the information, and said Harris had supported the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-all and legalization of marijuana while Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden had not, the senator defended her record.

Kamala Harris again broke into laughter when O’Donnell asked, “Is that a socialist perspective?” Socialism is a bad word in American politics in a way conservatism is not. US politicians can espouse the most extreme right-wing positions and not face questions but anyone who dares to talk about workers and unions can be labeled a socialist and face an onslaught.

Kamala Harris got a bit emotional and explained, “It is the perspective of a woman who grew up a black child in America, who was also a prosecutor, who also has a mother who arrived here at the age of 19 from India, who also likes hip hop.” She finished by chuckling again.

Kamala Harris’ laughter has become a point of ridicule even though this time it probably came from a place of disbelief because she was being labeled as left of Bernie Sanders. But she does tend to break into awkward laughter at inopportune moments, something that leads to memes and counter memes.

Republican digital hawks are always at the ready to extract a clip from what might have been a longer conversation to portray Kamala Harris negatively. Some of the reactions on Twitter to the latest Kamala Harris outrage were downright vile.

Donald Trump made fun of Kamala Harris’ laughter at a rally on Monday hours after his “rapid response team” flooded Twitter about the incident. Two days ago, he went on a rant against her saying the US would never see a “socialist” president, “especially a female socialist we’re not going to put up with it.” The attacks would be deemed sexist by any definition.

Last month, Donald Trump said, “If a woman is going to become the first president of the United States, it can’t be her,” referring to Kamala Harris since Joe Biden has indicated he would be a one-term president. It is a scare tactic Republicans use with aplomb.

The fight for the White House in 2020 has gone down to a level that would have been unimaginable a decade ago. Misogyny, dog whistles, outright lies are commonplace.

The Trump campaign is attempting to paint Kamala Harris as the 2020 Hillary Clinton unlikeable and socialist to boot. In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost because many white men and even women didn’t vote for her for various reasons, according to research done after the fact.

Apart from America not being ready for a woman president in general, Trump connected better than Clinton with working class white men on the question of job losses. He also successfully painted her as privileged and disconnected from their lives. It didn’t help that Hillary Clinton said half of Trump’s supporters belonged in a “basket of deplorables.”

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have tried hard to overcome Hillary Clinton’s obvious mistakes but the 2020 fight club is ugly and no rules apply here. Plus, there is a pandemic which restricts Joe Biden, but not Trump because the president seems not to care.

“The Republicans are desperate because they are losing. They are just throwing things around to see what will stick,” an Indian American voter said about the Harris outrage. “They are indulging in soft racism and they must be called out,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Interestingly, Trump’s attacks on women leaders such as Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and prominent journalists are alienating more women voters, a demographic he needs for a victory in battleground states. Women voters supported him by nine percentage points over Clinton but this time they are behind Biden by 6 points, according to FiveThirtyEight, a website that tracks polls.

“Republicans are trying to make a ‘moment’ out of nothing. Labeling Harris as a socialist is unreal,” the Indian American voter said. “It’s like Jared Kushner (Trump’s son-in-law) saying that Black people don’t want to be successful and implying they don’t work hard enough.”

Kushner fumbled when he seemed to echo a stereotype about Black people in an interview on Fox News. He said the Black have to “want to be successful” because Trump’s policies were designed to help them break out of the cycle of poverty.

Here is a scathing response from Congresswoman Gwen Moore: “Oh. Trust fund baby slumlord Kushner who has enriched himself on the WH takes the silver spoon out of his mouth long enough to insert his foot with a racist trope about Black people and success.”

This is the flavour at this point and it’s expected to get bitter over the few days before the finale on Nov. 3.

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