I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there can be no affirmative action where it comes to elections.
In electoral politics, the people pick whomever they pick, regardless of the candidates’ demographics.
Yet with toxic identity politics has come the “idea” (among others) that a certain elected office, because it has been held by a member of some group, only can be filled by another member of that same group once there is a vacancy for that office.
Thus, many toxic identity politicians believe that Kamala Harris’ U.S. Senate seat for California, which she is going to vacate soon for the vice presidency, must go to another black woman (or, if they’re being a little more charitable, to a woman of another race, or to a black man).
It’s a U.S. Senate seat. It’s not a black woman’s U.S. Senate seat. It’s the people’s U.S. Senate seat.
Of course, in this case, the people don’t get to pick who fills out the remaining two years of Harris’ one and only six-year Senate term; under law, California Gov. Gavin Newsom gets to pick who serves in the seat for the next two years. (And then the seat is open for election again, but of course, whomever Newsom appoints to the seat will have a leg up on then being elected to a full, six-year term in 2022 if he or she wishes to run in that election, and he or she, whoever it is, probably will.)
Picking Harris’ successor is an unenviable position, as special-interest groups have inundated Team Newsom with their demands for the seat for a while now. Some say that of course Harris should be replaced with another black woman. Others contend that it should be a Latino or Latina. Still others say that it should be an Asian individual. It’s looking like a junior high school up in here in California right about now.
If we’re going to go with the representational democracy argument (a pretty strong argument, in my book), then Newsom should pick a Latino or Latina.
California’s largest racial or ethnic group is Latinos. (Per the U.S. Census Bureau, 39.4 percent of Californians are Latino, 36.5 percent are white, 15.5 percent are Asian, and 6.5 percent are black — these are the four largest racial or ethnic groups in the state, in that order.) Further, rather mind-blowingly to me, no U.S. senator for California has been a Latino or Latina. I’d say that it’s their turn — past their turn.
Happily, in a primary election in California, the people get to decide which two candidates (of any party) make it to the November general election ballot. If it’s important to the people to pick a candidate of a certain demographic, then they have the power to do that in the primary.
However, affirmative action is not big in California; it was on the statewide ballot again just last month (as Proposition 16), and once again, it failed (it failed 57.2 percent to 42.8 percent).
And fact is, Harris had an easy election to the U.S. Senate in 2016, a cakewalk, really; her sole general-election opponent was former U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, who was an incredibly bad candidate (see some video evidence of this here and here); Sanchez was such a bad candidate that no, her being a Latina did not at all make up for her deficits; I’d have been thrilled to be able to vote for a Latino or Latina, but not for Loretta Sanchez. (So spooked was I by Sanchez that I voted for Harris in large part to ensure that Sanchez wouldn’t be our U.S. senator to succeed former Sen. Barbara Boxer.)
If I were Newsom and were thinking purely as a political animal — that is, thinking about getting the most votes possible in the next election — then of course I would pick a Latino or Latina to replace Harris. They’re the largest racial or ethnic group in the state, for fuck’s sake.
That aside, despite their numbers, Latinos have been underrepresented in California for a long time.
But fairness is lost on those toxic identity politicians who gladly would have the tyranny of the minority.