According to several recent media reports, working for Vice President Kamala Harris is not much fun. There has been a lot of turmoil, chaos, and unhappiness among her staff. A blistering expose on CNN, several articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and, of course, some inside sources in and around Washington DC., yield an unglamorous portrait of the VEEP.
Just ask Symone Sanders. Sanders will be resigning from her high-profile position as chief spokesperson and senior advisor to Harris at the end of the month. The exit marks one of the most significant departures since the Biden/Harris administration took over in January. Before joining the team, Sanders was a frequent CNN political analyst and contributor. She was also the national press secretary for Sen Bernie Sander’s 2016 presidential bid.
At the risk of sounding sexist and being flooded with e-mails from angry women, I’m going to go way out on a limb and ask the question, what is it about aggressive and hard to work for women of color in politics? As someone who has spent more than 35 years covering and writing about various topics and issues—with a frequent focus on politics for multiple newspapers, magazines, and websites, I can ask that question with sincerity and some authority.
Some examples. When I was a reporter in Kansas City back in the late 1980s and 1990’s, I used to cover city council meetings. One of the most vocal members was an African American woman named Carol Coe. She was loud and brash and was frequently featured on the front page of the daily, weekly, and monthly publications and the local nightly news. The stories often highlighted not the issues at hand but her nasty, biting, and often expletive-laced tirades against other council members and, in some cases, the public.
Similarly, fast forward to 2021 and Trenton, New Jersey, and we have yet another loud mouth councilwoman whose disgraceful behavior overshadows the issues. A year or so ago, Robin Michele Vaughn was caught on a hot mic cursing and defaming Trenton mayor Reed Gusciora. The X-rated diatribe was widely distributed and posted on YouTube. It was just one of several embarrassing spectacles she has been involved in over the years. Several state lawmakers, including Senator Cory Booker, called for her resignation. Unfortunately, she still sits on the city council. Contrarily, New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, another long-time and high-profile politician known for her stern yet approachable demeanor, has seldom, if ever, been the subject of scandalous and outlandish behavior.
At least from what I can tell, Harris is far more intelligent, sophisticated and savvier than hood rat homegirl Vaughn. However, given recent events, I can’t help but wonder if some of the edginess and rawness that she displayed during her vice presidential debate with Mike Pence in October 2020 became more prevalent when she became the second most powerful person in the country. To that end, Harris’ senior adviser Sanders is also an outspoken and aggressive woman of color. For example, she tackled and pulled a protestor offstage during a speech while only a few feet away from then-candidate Joe Biden. I guess that when you have two outspoken, intelligent, strong, and bold women in charge, sparks will fly, and flames will rage. It’s just a matter of time before someone leaves before they get burned. We have not seen the last of Symone Sanders.