RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Senator Kamala Harris is out of the presidential race. Here she is in a video announcing her decision Tuesday to drop out of the Democratic primary.
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KAMALA HARRIS: Our campaign uniquely spoke to the experiences of black women and people of color and their importance to the success and the future of this party. Our campaign demanded no one should be taken for granted by any political party. We will keep up that fight because no one should be made to fight alone.
MARTIN: Harris told her supporters she was withdrawing because her campaign just didn't have the money it needed to push forward. The remaining field of top contenders is now mostly male and entirely white. So what does Senator Harris' departure mean for a party banking on the votes of diverse voting blocs in 2020?
Aimee Allison is the founder of She the People. It's a coalition trying to increase voter turnout and political participation among women of color, in particular. Aimee, thank you so much for being with us.
AIMEE ALLISON: Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: So there was so much excitement - right? - among Democrats about Kamala Harris in the beginning. What happened?
ALLISON: Well, I was there in Oakland. And, you know, when I was right there by a stage and looked around at 20,000 - very excited group of multiracial people cheering her on in Oakland, Calif., I was like, this is the sauce. And this is the energy that we need. And, really, it hoped - a lot of us had hoped that her campaign would keep that early momentum.
I think there were three things. One is that, you know, it's three times as hard to be a woman of color running. I mean, there's a system that is harsh and holds her to a higher standard based on race and gender. But I ultimately think it was both Steyer and Bloomberg, ultimately - entrance in the race and the pressure that ensued that pushed her out here. You know, in December, many people thought it was a little early, leaving the field less diverse.
MARTIN: Tom Steyer and Mike Bloomberg, both candidates with really big war chests, quite frankly.
I want to ask, though, about how she was positioned in this field of candidates, though, because she had a damaging back-and-forth on health care, as it relates to private insurance and whether she would or wouldn't get rid of it. And then she also got heat from progressives for her history as a prosecutor. Was she just not liberal enough for liberals or moderate enough for moderates?
ALLISON: Well, it is a - I think it's a fair criticism of her campaign that she was trying to find her footing, find her lane in a very crowded field. I mean, there's going to be a lot of people who - Monday morning quarterback - who talk about the mistakes of the campaign.
I think what's important, though, is to recognize as the third black woman to run for president in the nation's history, as a person who, you know, raised $40 million and did better than, say, Joe Biden did when he ran for president the first couple of times, I mean, her presence in the race helped blaze a trail for the next generation of women of color. She did run a competitive campaign, and she forced us all to rethink about, you know, what it means to be electable. And I think those are contributions. Whether or not her politics and her policies landed at this moment, I think that's the bigger issue.
MARTIN: Karen Finney, a noted Democratic strategist, said yesterday on NPR - and I'm going to paraphrase here - but basically, we all want to be inspired. We want to win. I think in this instance, she says a lot of calculations that voters have made in terms of why certain candidates are gaining support - there's almost this feeling that voters don't want to take too big of a chance. What do you make of that?
ALLISON: Oh, I think that's still part of the myth of electability. You know, people said the same thing about Barack Obama in 2007. I think what's more important for us to realize is that Kamala Harris and myself, I guess - black women are part of the group of voters. They're absolutely necessary for the Democrats to win - anyone, any candidate who wants to get through the primary and the White House. So the candidates and the campaigns and the party have to engage and appeal to black women, black voters and voters of color. Kamala Harris was doing her best to win over that group of voters. And I think ultimately, that's what's going to determine the end, you know, result of the election.
MARTIN: All right. Aimee Allison, founder of She the People, we appreciate your time. Thank you.
ALLISON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.