Inside The World Of The #KHive, Kamala Harris' Biggest Fans
Kamala Harris' way of making grown men cry will be extremely useful in a matchup with Donald Trump, say her supporters.
Welcome to Hindsight 2020, Refinery29's column reflecting on the women running for president and the lessons learned (or not!) from 2016.
In case you missed it, Sen. Kamala Harris eviscerated Attorney General William Barr on his handling of the Mueller report last week, making the most of her seven minutes with an impressive prosecutorial performance. It was only the latest in her inquisitions of President Donald Trump's lackeys. She reportedly made then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions cry during another hearing on the Russia investigation, and during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, her repeated, deliberate questioning made the now-Justice fidgety and red in the face.
That's the kind of energy the former prosecutor's supporters want to see her bring to the Democratic debates, which start in June, and then to her quite-possible potential matchup with Trump. Harris' biggest online fans call themselves the #KHive, echoing the adoration of Beyoncé's #BeyHive, which is fitting: Harris is their Beyoncé in a suit and pearls, the one who can make political history while putting on one hell of a performance. Of course, the term #KHive also acknowledges all the firsts she's achieved as a Black and South Asian woman — and the breathtaking, historic potential of seeing her elected president.
"She was masterful!" Reecie Colbert, 37, a finance manager and blogger in Washington, D.C., told Refinery29 of Harris' questioning of Barr. "She doesn't let people bulldoze over her, she asks incredibly pertinent questions, and knows when to keep pressing for an answer and when to move on. She puts fear in the hearts of men who have gotten too comfortable shredding political and legal norms. One of the most important things to me is someone who will be tough on Trump and not back down. She has shown that grit!"
Maggie Beeler, 36, an adjunct classics professor at Temple University in Philadelphia, says Harris is the right person to take over in this crucial moment in which democracy needs repair. "I think it’s important to have someone who is going to prosecute the president," she told Refinery29. "I believe that working from within to effect positive change within institutions, as she has done with criminal justice, is the best way forward. She caught my attention when she questioned Jeff Sessions and nearly made him cry, and at the Kavanaugh hearings she demonstrated both her grit in questioning Kavanaugh and warmth and empathy in questioning Dr. [Christine] Blasey Ford."
The #KHive could talk your ear off about Harris' efforts to better the lives of Americans: the LIFT Act tax credit for middle-class families, the Rent Relief Act, the Maternal CARE Act to address the high rates of maternal mortality among Black women, and more. But what they praise most is that Harris focuses on what is possible in the scope of being an executive, and what is not. For example, she has vowed to take executive action on gun reform if Congress doesn't pass meaningful legislation: a logical next step for a president amid an ever-present national gun epidemic, and something she can actually do without being blocked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell if Republicans retain control of the upper chamber.
Harris' supporters have a way of turning the biggest concerns of her detractors into evidence of strength. Colbert, who frequently tweets using Harris' campaign hashtag #ForThePeople on @blackwomenviews, has compiled a "mega-thread" on Harris, which partially aims to "debunk" some of the harshest criticisms of her past as San Francisco District Attorney and then California Attorney General, like the truancy law Harris supported as AG, which she has said she regrets. "I have no reservations about Kamala's prosecutorial background, and I think it will serve her well in the field," Colbert said. "Contemporaneous reporting on her efforts — I searched thru ProQuest — were nearly all favorable, but it has been reframed as a negative years later."
They imagine the senator deploying her incisive, no-frills logic at Trump's stream-of-consciousness and sputtering insults — he's already called her "nasty" more than once, something her campaign has capitalized on — and coming out on top. It's optimistic to believe logic and reason will win in 2020 when they lost so handily in 2016. But that's what Harris Democrats have right now: organizing, optimism, and a candidate they truly believe in.
Of course, first she has to beat former Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the pack by far in early 2020 polls. An interesting question has arisen lately, though, about whether voters are saying they'll pull for Biden because of an archaic idea of "electability" (read: being white and male) that no longer applies, especially given how many women and people of color won power in the 2018 midterm elections. Early polls, as Harris herself demonstrated in 2003 when she was at 9% in the San Francisco DA race in July and then beat her opponent by 13 points in December, don't mean too much.
"We have 45 presidents who have been men. And seeing a woman in that role is still something that we’re not used to," Kimberly Peeler-Allen, a cofounder of Higher Heights, a national Black women's leadership organization, told the New York Times in a recent article that explained how the women in the race are actually more "electable" than the men. "We have to, as an electorate, change our mindset on what executive leadership looks like. Women lead differently. And that’s not a bad thing."
Harris herself recently challenged the idea of electability in an interview, saying, "Every office I've run for — no one like me had ever done the job. Based on gender, based on race. Every time, pundits said the people weren't ready for it. But I won. Voters are smarter than sometimes pundits give them credit for."
Besides, as the NYT pointed out, unlike Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Sen. Cory Booker, the women in the race, including Harris, have never lost an election in their political careers. How's that for electable? On top of that, in a matchup, Harris could statistically beat Trump, according to MSNBC.
Hand-wringing about electability aside, Harris has plenty of tools in her arsenal that could help her cinch the deal. One "secret weapon" is her Howard University sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historical national network of Black women who have not only turned out in numbers for her, but have loads of fundraising strength. Plus, Hollywood loves her (although they love Buttigieg, too).
For all that the #KHive thinks Harris' prosecutorial chops will help her take on Trump, it's the softer "Momala" side that had them sold in the first place. You have to watch her give advice on public speaking to a group of young women to truly see the caring charisma in action, but there are countless other examples. "The top reason I’m supporting Kamala Harris is that she makes me feel seen. She has a way of connecting with people and making them feel seen and heard," Marina Aguayo, 24, a member of the #KHive from Riverside, CA, student, and part-time sales associate at Macy’s, told Refinery29.
"Feeling seen" is not just heartwarming talk. Ally Maldonado, 20, from Corona, CA, says she probably would not have come out if it weren't for Harris. Maldonado and her friend Rebecca Brubaker road-tripped from L.A. to Oakland to go to Harris' massive kickoff rally in January.
"We got up bright and early and waited in line, where I bought my rainbow flag that says, 'Love Trumps Hate,'" Maldonado, a student at Cal State Fullerton, told Refinery29. "I felt proud and okay and safe. The rally was powerful. I waved my flag and clapped my hands to her spoken words of complete truth. Here we have it: a badass woman running for president who is okay with who I am, [who] supports every bit of my Mexican-American and queer existence. The rally ended, but the spark stayed." About two weeks later, Maldonado came out.
Update (May 28, 2019): After Kamala Harris' campaign learned about Ally Maldonado's story, she got to meet Harris, which was documented in the Pride Month-themed video below.