In 2020, there were plenty of online supporters of Democratic primary candidates, all ready to flood mentions and drown out any take which roused their ire.
And the K-Hive—supporters of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)—were among the most formidable.
Their name is a reimagination of the BeyHive, the omnipresent online supporters of Beyoncé who any seasoned Twitter user knows to keep from angering.
And now that Harris has been named as Joe Biden's running mate, will the K-Hive factor into the race?
What is the K-Hive?
The first mentions of the K-Hive appeared in August 2017 after MSNBC host Joy Reid tweeted that she, the Root’s politics editor Jason Johnson, and Sirius XM’s director of progressive programming Zerlina Maxwell “had a meeting and decided it's called the K-Hive.”
That proclamation by Reid was quickly adopted into the lexicon.
The Root’s Jason Johnson uploaded a video of that “meeting,” which was broadcast on MSNBC on Reid’s show, AM Joy. In their conversation, Johnson, Reid, and Maxwell complain about Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) army of online trolls, often known as Bernie Bros.
Maxwell says: “the ideological purity that some Bernie Sanders supporters want to implement in the Democratic party is really a manifestation of privilege, because people of color and women who are running for office can’t abide by purity tests because of the structural difficulties in running for office.”
Moments later, Johnson adds, “Here’s the thing Joy, and I think this is the part that some people on the left have already forgotten, Kamala Harris has her own BeyHive. She has people that protect her and love her to death.”
He continues, “The Democrats should be embracing anyone who elicits that level of excitement. If you ask Democrats now, it’s Bernie Sanders or Kamala Harris. So, rather than being critical … let [Kamala] do her job, let her build her resume up. Because the Democrats are going to need as many stars as possible to go against Trump in 2020.”
The account @FlyWithKamala, run by Eric Chavous, was one of the earliest accounts to tweet about the K-Hive. Chavous was in the replies to Reid’s 2017 tweet and remains a Harris supporter today—@FlyWithKamala now counts over 13,000 followers.
Chavous told the Daily Dot that he first heard the term on Reid’s show, adding, “since Kamala arrived in Washington, D.C. she has faced disparate levels of scrutiny and criticism. She was the most attacked ... candidate in the 2020 primary, and yet her K-Hive remained as fervent as ever. We did not flee when she suspended her campaign.”
He noted that the K-Hive also features a uniquely tangible sense of community in the abstract arena of online political supporters. In June this year, they launched the #KHiveWellnessChallenge. Before that, in October 2019, the hashtag #CookingForKamala appeared.
The group was known for feisty spats online during the 2020 primary, including repeated bouts with Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). How they’ll line up with Trump trolls should make for an interesting summer and fall of being online.
And Biden is actively courting that army for the upcoming race. Just after Biden announced Harris as his VP, Biden’s national director of state organizing tweeted, “Ok #KHive, have y’all signed up for a volunteer shift yet?”
Meanwhile, after Harris endorsed Biden in March, the two cut a campaign video together featuring Biden asking his eventual VP, “tell me about the K-Hive.” The video cuts to a quick montage of Harris’ supporters in marches and drumlines and Harris says, “they’re pretty awesome.”
Biden responds, “I’d sure love to have their support.”
Notable figures who nodded to the K-Hive in tweets after Biden’s announcement include Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), an official Joe Biden campaign account, former 2020 Biden campaign manager Greg Schultz, and the powerful progressive organization MoveOn.
Reid, the woman behind the term, was also among those celebrating Harris’ nomination as Joe Biden’s vice president, writing: “This lady ... this Senator ... this Black woman ... became a part of every future American history book today.”
And if she makes it to the White House with Biden, they may both have the K-Hive to thank.