Kamala’s ‘KHive’ Superfans Want Biden to Stay in the Race

Following President Biden‘s widely panned debate performance against Donald Trump last month, pundits and political junkies have indulged in feverish speculation about whether he might step aside and let the Democratic party run a younger nominee. Vice President Kamala Harris would seem the most convenient and practical choice in this fantasy — an alternate candidate who could theoretically prevent chaos at the Democratic National Convention in August.

Few have been as giddy about this prospect as Biden’s leftist critics, many of them long convinced that he’s headed for catastrophe in a rematch with Trump. Between Kamala memes and jokes about getting “coconut-pilled” (a reference to a viral Harris anecdote about her mother asking her, “You think you just fell out of a coconut tree?”), they are manifesting a world in which Biden quits and his VP marshals a coalition of progressives and centrist liberals that vanquishes the MAGA machine.

What’s odd about this is that the left didn’t really care for the former prosecutor in the run-up to the 2020 Democratic primaries, when one of the then-senator’s presidential campaign rivals was congressional colleague Bernie Sanders. In fact, the social media faction of Sanders supporters, often described as “Bernie Bros,” battled hardcore Harris fans who came to be known as “the KHive” (a riff on Beyoncé‘s “Beyhive”) throughout 2019. Each group habitually hurled accusations of toxic behavior at the other during digital slap-fights that, when certain bad actors were involved, escalated into harassment and doxing.

Now, apparently, the KHive’s former enemies are eager to mend old wounds if it means a chance to get Biden out of the way. There’s a dash of irony to the overtures — can they really be that excited about Harris? But desperation makes for unlikely compromise, and on issues like Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, for example, Harris’ public remarks land closer to leftist sentiment than Biden’s approach does. She has compelling strengths as a leader and, what’s more, as a candidate.

There’s just one problem here, beyond the fact that Democratic voters don’t currently have a say in who leads this ticket: The actual KHive, contrary to assumptions, hasn’t shown much interest in bumping Harris into the top spot, and many of its prominent voices have continued to forcefully support Biden.

Take radio host Reecie Colbert, who ahead of the 2020 election tirelessly touted Harris’ political strengths and rejoiced at Biden picking her as his running mate. Far from imagining Harris becoming the 2024 nominee next week, she’s defending Biden’s media appearances, retweeting his official @POTUS account, and reminding followers that he will be in for “the remainder of the race.” There’s still plenty of love for Harris on Colbert’s timeline — and heat for Republicans questioning her qualifications — but the calls for an immediate promotion are nowhere to be found.

Julie Zebrak, a political consultant with strong ties to the KHive, subtweeted The New York Times when the paper ran several editorials arguing that Biden should drop out, implying that the staff holds a petty grudge against him for declining interview requests. She tells Rolling Stone that she’s fully behind the Biden-Harris team as it presently stands. “The president is our Democratic candidate, and I am grateful for all of the work that he and the vice president have done thus far for the American people,” she says. “I look forward to supporting them both between now and November!”

Chris Evans, co-president of talent management company Fusion Entertainment and another KHive crusader, is even more explicit in his stance on Biden seeing the election through. “Switching out an incumbent four months before an election is political malpractice,” he tweeted after the debate. “I don’t care if Biden is being wheeled up to the podium like fucking Weekend at Bernie’s.”

“The current extreme and corrupt conservative Supreme Court is terrifying to me, and the rulings they have issued this year show Project 2025 is already in motion,” Evans tells Rolling Stone, referring to an arch-conservative policy agenda from the Heritage Foundation. Meanwhile, he’s impressed with Biden’s work on infrastructure, gun control, and appointing Black federal judges. “I am clear-eyed about the need to reelect the Biden-Harris administration, keep control of the Senate, and win back the House, to keep Donald Trump and his band of white supremacists away from the federal government,” he says.

The only people suggesting that Biden step aside, Evans adds, “are the pundit and podcaster class of affluent white liberals like Jon Favreau and his buddies. They will be fine no matter how the election turns out. Black voters are pragmatic and recognize the need to be calculated and strategic in politics rather than idealistic.” Evans also takes issue with “very online leftists who have spent the last several years bashing VP Harris, even going so far as to call for her to be replaced on the ticket not even more than a few months ago. Now suddenly they’re ‘ironically’ supporting her with jokes and memes. This election isn’t a joke to me, maybe it is to them.”

Dr. Jason Johnson, a political analyst for MSNBC and professor of multimedia journalism at Morgan State University, doesn’t identify as a member of the KHive, though he was among the first to observe the fan phenomenon way back in 2017. Johnson’s assessment of the present race matches that of Evans: He believes certain commentators are spinning out Game of Thrones-style “fan-fiction” about removing Biden and “the NASCAR car-crash energy of an open convention,” while the men and women of color who have traditionally rallied behind Harris are more reasoned in their political calculus.

“If there is one group of voters in America who are consistently strategic about voting for who they think can win, as opposed to what feels good in the moment, it would be African-American voters,” Johnson says. “Most Black voters recognize that if Donald Trump gets back in office, he will know more about how to use the levers of government than he did the first time.” He points to the Project 2025 proposal to slash as many as 50,000 federal jobs, noting that many of those positions support the Black middle class in and around the D.C. region.

“I’ve not met one KHive supporter who has said to me, on or off the record, ‘I think Kamala Harris has a better chance of winning this election,'” Johnson says. Besides, he continues, even if you could throw Biden overboard without somehow sending Harris with him — all but logistically impossible — she’d be in a very tough spot. “I think even her team would be honest in saying that it would be a heavy lift for her to step in and win against Donald Trump” at this late stage, he says. “This is a woman, and she’s Black. You’re still gonna have a lot of people in America who just don’t like that, including Democrats. And that’s not gonna change in four months.”

If anyone might have fiercely advocated for a Harris takeover, it would have probably been Bianca Delarosa, a notorious KHiver whose abusive speech regularly saw her banned from Twitter and other sites. But her social accounts are inactive, and she did not return a request for comment. Also known for their extreme tweets is a KHive personality who goes by “Salad Shooter” — their Twitter page states that they are presently “on hiatus,” but also makes clear their view on the tumult within the Democratic party: “If you’re willing to drop Biden over a debate, you’re the problem,” the bio reads.

Another KHive activist declined to comment for this article and recommended contacting Democratic strategist and former Hillary Clinton spokesperson Jess McIntosh. “I’ve never considered myself part of any organized online fandom,” McIntosh says regarding an affiliation with the KHive, though she is “100 percent aligned with anyone out there trying to get progressive women elected,” and says it’s important that the movement has Harris’ back when it comes to battling unfair attacks and disinformation about her.

While McIntosh has found Biden to be “the best president of my lifetime,” far outstripping her expectations, she was deeply concerned by his debate performance — particularly when he fumbled on the critical issue of abortion. She contends that although he’s “crushing the job” in the White House, “it is extremely clear that he is not up for running the country and running a high-octane campaign at the same time. The person who can do the job of running for president, and extending the excellent work of the Biden-Harris administration for another four years, is the vice president.”

So there is at least some traction in this area of the political spectrum for the idea of Harris leading the Democrats toward a November showdown. McIntosh also doesn’t mind leftists’ abrupt reevaluation of Harris or their memes, saying, “welcome to the party.” In the aggregate, however, the KHive seems to find the coconut tweets and theorizing about a last-minute candidate swap to be exasperating distractions from the mission of ensuring that Biden beats Trump — with Harris at his side, of course.

If it’s a practical argument for the moment, it also contains an implication for the future: Harris is still second in line to the presidency, and will remain so should Biden win. Then, should he serve a full second term, there’s 2028 to consider. Sure, politics move fast in an election year. There’s still something to be said for thinking long-term.

  

 

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