A couple of weeks ago, Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, said in an interview that the U.S. Senate needs more Black senators and that if an opening came up in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom should appoint a Black woman to the position.
“I think there’s a reality that we need more diversity of voices in our Congress, we need more people with different kinds of experiences and that means we do need more Black people in the Senate, we need more Black women in particular,” she said.
Obviously, this was an odd thing for her to say, considering she’s running for a seat in the U.S. Senate and it was well known at the time she made those comments that at least one Black woman would be running for the seat now held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
In her own defense, Porter pulled what could be called a “rhetorical Rachel Dolezal,” saying, “I have a track record for fighting for the very kinds of issues that make a difference in the lives of Black Americans and Black communities. Black Americans do not get people helping them with issues like healthcare, with housing, with being cheated by scam artists, and those are some of the fights I’ve taken on.”
That might all be true, but Porter herself said the Senate needed “more Black women in particular,” not just people who could fight for the interests of Black Americans.
Well, on Tuesday, Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, made it official and announced her long anticipated candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
When it comes to experience, Barbara Lee certainly trumps Katie Porter.
Lee has served in the House of Representatives since 1998 and before that served in the California Legislature. By contrast, Porter came to California just over a decade ago to get a cush gig at the University of California, Irvine law school and was elected just four years ago to the House.
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When it comes to the issues, Barbara Lee has taken bold progressive stands when it mattered most. She was the sole member of Congress to vote against the authorization for use of military force in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. She recognized that the AUMF was a blank check which granted far too much authority to the executive branch. She was clearly right. The AUMF has since been abused to justify any number of interventions around the world.
Katie Porter….fundraises a lot. That’s why she’s the favorite of political operatives who spend too much time on Twitter. But since when was fundraising prowess a substitute for experience or accomplishments?
Barbara Lee and Katie Porter are both progressive Democrats. They’re in line on a number of issues. Their biggest opponent is Adam Schiff, who voted for the Iraq war and the Patriot Act. Rather than split California’s progressives, Katie Porter should step aside and throw her support behind Barbara Lee. When she develops an actual record of accomplishment as a member of Congress, she can revisit a run for Senate.
But for now, Katie Porter should not just pay lip service to the Black community. She should walk the walk and support Barbara Lee for Senate.
Sal Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org