I’m Out for Presidents to Represent Me

Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) arrive to deliver remarks at the Alexis Dupont High School on August 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware.  (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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his week’s Democratic National Convention comes on the heels of last week’s announcement that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris as his running mate.

Much has been said about the intentions behind the decision, but to me it’s pretty clear: it was a money move.

Yes, there’s more to it. But at the heart of the matter is money. Come on, this is America—we all know what fuels this machine.

The Federal Election Commission (FEC), established in 1975, has digital campaign finance records that only go back to the 1980 presidential election. That year, Ronald Reagan reported receipts for nearly $63 million dollars during his campaign. He was elected president over Jimmy Carter, who only raised a shade under $20 million. In every election since, save for two, the trend has been the same. Big bank take all.

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The two where that wasn’t the case? In 1996, Bob Dole raised $144 million and still lost to Bill Clinton, who raised $123 million during his successful campaign for a second term as president.

The other instance was the last election, in 2016, when Hillary Clinton raised $585 million. She still lost to the current president, Donald Trump, who reported $350 million during that campaign.

Since 1980, eight out of ten elections have gone the way of the candidate who raised the most money. One of the times this didn’t hold true, the two candidates’ financial situations were fairly close. And the other time, where a woman candidate raised a lot more than a man candidate but still lost the vote, speaks to another set of elements that keep this American machine running.

As of June 30, the most recent info listed on the FEC’s site, Donald Trump raised $342.7 million this go-round. Biden wasn’t too far behind, reporting $278.9.

After the announcement that Kamala Harris would be Biden’s potential VP, Biden’s senior advisor Symone Sanders excitedly tweeted that the campaign had gained $26 million in 24 hours. Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that that number became $48 million shortly after.

Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden invites his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to the stage to deliver remarks at the Alexis Dupont High School on August 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Where’d it come from? Tech money? People who support law enforcement? Never Trumpers? Individual donors who identify with Harris?

What do the Biden-Harris supporters look like? And what are they talking about?

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y screen time shot by 25% last week as I read stories, listened to interviews and eavesdropped on social media conversations.

I read the piece penned by lawyer and writer Derecka Purnell, about the nuances of defending Harris’ identity as a woman of color and still critiquing her politics. I listened to the conversation between Marc Steiner and UC Berkeley Professor Brandi T. Summers, discussing how Harris’ seemingly progressive steps are contradicted by her past actions—like criminalizing parents of chronically absent students during her time as California attorney general.

I took in Shawna Mizelle’s CNN piece, noting Harris continues a legacy of notable legislators who’ve attended our shared alma mater, Howard University.

Have you read Ashley Reese's Jezebel article? I have. It does a quality job of dispelling conservative lies (that Kamala wasn't born in the U.S.) and simultaneously calling out liberals who go overboard in Kamala support—I cough-laughed when I saw the post putting Harris’ name next to Harriet Tubman’s and Sojourner Truth’s.

I found Malaika Jabali’s short Twitter thread about Biden and Harris’ noteworthy support from billionaires, citing articles from Forbes and Business Insider, and leaving me with the question: whose agendas do you think they’ll be pushing?

I watched the exchange between San Francisco cannabis advocate Nina Parks and police abolitionist Equipto as the two debated whether it’s possible for Harris to redeem herself after her pro-incarceration term as a San Francisco’s district attorney, in addition to her views on Israel.

In similar fashion, I snooped on the Twitter conversation between journalist and author Shane Bauer and Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith, in which Bauer questioned Harris’ lack of action during years of complaints against the Vallejo Police Department while she was the California attorney general.

While walking my beat, virtually, I found an interesting thread from four people who’ve had their lives impacted by the justice system.

Late last week, San Francisco actor and rapper Jamal Trulove—who was wrongly convicted of murder, and served more than six years of a 50-to-life sentence before being released and awarded $13 million—published a video saying he’d set aside his grievances with Harris in order to get Trump out of office. Harris was the head of the district attorney's office that prosecuted Trulove.

In addition to Trulove, other people who were formerly incarcerated have made similar statements. Adnan Khan, a vocal prison abolitionist who served 16 years before being released thanks to legislation he helped craft, took to social media to say his aim is to remove Trump from office.

That idea of focusing on Trump's removal—but not necessarily Biden and Harris support—was shared by famed political activist, educator and prison abolitionist Angela Davis. According to  the San Francisco Chronicle, Davis told attendees of an online fundraiser that the main goal of voting is, “to guarantee that the person who is currently in office is no longer the occupant of the White House come November.”

Adding to that chorus are the words of Richie Reseda, who founded of a project called Success Stories—“a self-transformation group for young incarcerated men based in intersectional feminism”—while serving the better part of a 10-year prison sentence. In a series of tweets, he made his point clear that with his first vote ever, he aims to remove Trump from office. But that doesn’t mean he supports Biden and Harris.

Reseda went on to say that he hopes this is the last time this is the last time he has to “choose between two evils” during the presidential election.

Naturally that got me to thinking about the larger discussion—how ascension in the political world has been-long intertwined with the criminalization of certain groups of people. That's gotta change.

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ut focusing on the now, I just wanted to gauge the levels of support for Harris and Biden, and while it’s important to literally read the room, nothing beats following the money.

Without getting into the weeds, the broad scope on the funding situation is this: Biden’s campaign is reporting that the majority of its funds come from large contributions, lots of money from a few people. Trump’s campaign is showing a large amount of contributions from individual donors—smaller amounts from more people.

I’d imagine that current outlook doesn’t bode well for Biden and Harris, but everything is subject to change.

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took a study break from campaign finance query and political conversations to do a simple search on where the candidates for the upcoming election were in 1994. That year,  Donald Trump made a cameo in the movie The Little Rascals and made some trademark insensitive comments about the domestication of his then-wife during a CNN interview. Current VP Mike Pence was a conservative talkshow host. Harris was serving as the Alameda County deputy district attorney, and was in a highly publicized relationship with then-California State Assembly speaker Willie Brown. Joe Biden was two decades into service as a U.S. Senator from Delaware. He was working on the 1994 Crime Bill,  which added to the amount of humans detained behind bars in  the swelling American prison system.

That same year, there was this 20 year-old hip-hop artist from New York named Nasir Jones, who kicked a bar that would continue to resonate to this day—especially in the world of “identity politics.”

“I’m out for presidents to represent me,” rapped Nas on “The World is Yours,” a song about how power and respect are intertwined with having money. It’s a song I think about often when discussing electoral politics.

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Some people see election season as a blue-versus-red thing, others see Black-versus-white. And still, there are some, like myself, who simply see green.