I think she’s got a little bit of a nasty wit. –President Donald Trump referring to Senator Kamala Harris on Hannity
Thank you, Mr. President, for this endorsement of Senator Kamala Harris in her campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
That’s right. I said endorsement.
Nasty wit means smart, sharp, quick. It has sizzle. Sometimes it’s vulgar. It plays no games. At its best it’s a mic drop.
Please, bring me nasty wit in my next President.
I am all about nasty wit. It took me a bazillion years to embrace my own, but now that I have I’ll be damned if I’m going to let some sexist, humorless blowhard try to make it into an insult. I see a lot of the well-intended pushback to the President’s comment is defensive, though. As if we need to protect Harris from this kind of remark. Why?
Perhaps a little refresher about how Kamala Harris finds herself on the national stage is in order. You could spend an afternoon watching her clips on C-SPAN in exchanges with Rod Rosenstein, Brett Kavanaugh, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Barr, Jeff Sessions, John Kelly, Gina Haspel, Christopher Wray and Kirstjen Nielsen, but I’ll save you the trouble and highlight a few from the array of hearings we’ve had the past few years.
“Can you think of any laws that give government the power to make decisions about the male body?” Harris asks Kavanaugh.
Is it me or is there a twinkle in her eye as she watches him flounder? His response is along the lines of “uh, uh” and *furrowed brow* and she repeats the question. Harris always, it seems, repeats the question in these hearings with some variation on, “Yes or no, sir?” or “It’s a really specific question” or “Be sure about your answer, sir.”
In an exchange with then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the Russia and 2016 Election investigations, she smiles pleasantly at seeing him flummoxed by her question. “I do want you to be honest,” she says in a tone those of us with nasty wit recognize as the sweet side of our salty.
Back in 2016 when Trump called Hillary Clinton a nasty woman during a debate, the phrase was turned on its head and claimed by women across the country as a badge of honor. Janet Jackson references were rampant. T-shirts were printed.
But here we are in 2019 and we’re at a vital point in our politics. Female candidates for President are being covered differently and less than their male counterparts. I can confess with a bit of reluctance that some of us, probably mostly women in my generation, can trace our nervousness around voting for a woman now to a feeling of powerlessness that we desperately want to – and need to – shake if we’re going to move forward and stake our claim to leadership.
Have we been cowed by what has played out over the course of our lives, particularly recent pain inflicted by this President and his supporters? Probably. But intellectually, can’t we look at our last two presidential elections and see that a man of color and a woman won the popular vote? Doesn’t that upend the norms we’ve known for decades? Not to mention the last mid-term election where we saw an influx of females elected to Congress.
We have to turn this corner. We have the power to prevail.
I haven’t decided who I’m backing in the next presidential election. I’m taking it all in and trying like crazy to steer clear of buying into the party line on who’s “likable” or who I think can win based on fear of backlash. It is a daily challenge.
I keep thinking of strong women. My father was talking about my grandmother last weekend, about how she decided to go get a job at the Maxwell House factory in Hoboken, N.J., where I live now. One afternoon as my grandfather was coming in from work, she was on her way out. “Where are you going?” he asked. “To work,” she said as she left for her 4-12 shift.
No permission. No family meeting. She decided this was best for her family.
My other grandmother raised six daughters on her own. These women were not shrinking violets. What a disconnect between the espoused ideal of what a woman should be and what most actually were and are.
Keep on bringing us that nasty wit, Senator Harris. We see it as an asset that will help illuminate your policies. It’s what got our attention.
And, by the way, so did your compassion, on display with the simple words “I believe you” to an anxious Christine Blasey Ford.
We see ourselves in you and we like it.