An electoral crisis, unprecedented in modern politics, is currently underway. A significant portion of voters, pundits, and politicians have lost confidence in the incumbent president’s ability to win in November, paving a path for Vice President Kamala Harris to assume the nomination ahead of next month’s Democratic National Convention. Legitimate concerns abound regarding whether this unlikely pivot could actually happen, let alone whether it could turn into a winning ticket. And then there are the concerns of the New York Post.

On July 6, the Post ran an op-ed from Fox Business personality Charles Gasparino bearing the headline, “America may soon be subjected to the country’s first DEI president: Kamala Harris.” The inclusion of the veep’s full name at the end feels rather unnecessary. Anyone familiar with the trajectory of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion since some conservatives began wielding its acronym as a weapon likely had no ambiguity about whom it was aimed at. What is most remarkable about the instantly controversial headline, though, is that it completes DEI’s journey from straightforward description of an initiative to having become an outright slur.

To be fair, DEI had been losing ground from its 2020 boom even before the current backlash came into full bloom. According to the New York Times, hiring for DEI roles had plunged across 2022 and 2023, partly due to nationwide economic instability. During that same period, however, the Supreme Court reversed affirmative action, emboldening critics of identity-conscious hires and college admissions. And meanwhile, the political utility of the term “woke” began to wane, so conservatives on the attack swapped in a new cudgel: DEI.

Suddenly, the term no longer simply referred to a program for ensuring a robust array of perspectives and opportunities; it had instead become a white-hot vector of white grievance, a racial dog whistle implying reverse discrimination that supposedly elevated unqualified candidates over those more deserving.

The anti-DEI movement gained momentum early this year when former Harvard president Claudine Gay resigned over plagiarism accusations, having become a figurehead for DEI in the eyes of some conservatives. Her downfall energized critics of DEI and set the tone for a year in which the term would be bandied about in uncharted new contexts. Right-wing pundits and high-profile figures such as Elon Musk began blaming DEI for just about any problem in any American industry, including Boeing’s recent woes. The invective quickly trickled down to the internet commentariat, and it wasn’t long before they were blaming the decline of Star Wars on DEI and pinning the Baltimore bridge disaster on “DEI Mayor” Brandon Scott.

With the evolution from a DEI college president to DEI mayor and now potential DEI POTUS, the term has graduated from dog whistle to outright slur.

Aside from the fact that the author of the New York Post op-ed used to falsely claim he was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, there are a lot of things wrong with his depiction of someone else being unworthy of their achievements. According to Gasparino’s telling, Harris is now in a position to potentially become president, not because of the current crisis but because “the Democratic Party is unable to break its DEI stranglehold.”

The reason she landed her current gig in the first place, he notes, is because candidate Biden was under pressure to select a Black running mate in the wake of George Floyd’s murder—something Biden denies—and he had already committed to picking a woman. “Harris checked all the boxes,” Gasparino writes. “Her father, an academic with a PhD, is from Jamaica; her late mother, a biologist, was Indian.”

This line of attack conveniently sets aside the fact that VP picks are regularly calculated to appeal to certain demographics. The choice of Mike Pence in 2016, after all, was widely viewed as a way to show Christian conservatives, who may have at that point held their noses voting for Trump, that one of their own found him unobjectionable. Even the choice of Biden as VP in 2008 was perhaps calibrated to show potential Obama voters that a steady, experienced—and, yes, white—hand would also be on the ticket. And considering that women voters make up half the electorate, the idea of appealing to them with a VP pick should not be considered all that radical.

Even worse than Gasparino’s claim that Harris merely fulfilled a set of diversity requirements is that he next adds to her list of qualifications, almost as an afterthought: “VP Harris was a California state attorney general and a U.S. senator.”

Leaving out the fact that Harris also earned an elevated profile during the Trump administration, culminating in a credible bid for the presidency, that last sentence succinctly explains why Harris should in no way be confused with a DEI hire, regardless of Biden’s pledge for a woman as VP. In her 2016 Senate race, Harris soundly defeated her opponent Loretta Sanchez. Conservatives never disputed her political qualifications in 2020; they merely attempted to paint her as disqualified based on a racist conspiracy theory, familiar from Obama’s presidency. In fact, part of the reason the left rejected her as a presidential candidate was because her vigorous tenure as a prosecutor made her indistinguishable from a conservative lawmaker in their eyes.

Gasparino’s op-ed doesn’t stop with the charge that Harris does not deserve her current job, however. He goes on to detail her other disqualifying factors, which include her “manifest unlikability,” “vaulting ambition,” and “intense desire for power.”

How dare a rising-star politician be ambitious and desiring of power!  Thank goodness the New York Post’s preferred candidate has never betrayed any similarly disqualifying traits.

Finally, toward the end of the piece, he notes, “Some Dems I speak to caution me it’s not all DEI giving Harris the edge to replace Biden. She is, after all, the VP. If she’s on a new ticket, it gets to keep money raised already, not start from scratch.”

With this concession, Gasparino admits that not only does Harris have the qualifications of a traditional candidate—even if her résumé lacks the all-important “game show host” bullet point—she also makes fiscal sense as the Democrats’ alternative to their current candidate. By burying the crystal-clear logic behind Harris’s potential presidency within a broader slam on her as the ultimate DEI hire, he reveals that what appears to be mainly fueling this slam is personal animosity—and a particularly ugly kind, at that.

Such an obviously abhorrent line of attack seems bound to turn off more sensible mainstream members of the GOP—the kind who are at least worried about not appearing openly racist. In fact, a former Trump aide was scolded on-air over the weekend for making the exact same argument as the op-ed—on Newsmax, of all places.

If conservatives run with this line of attack on Harris and DEI, they further reveal the vile nature behind it.


6 thoughts on “Anti-DEI movement hits a new low with attacks on Kamala Harris”
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