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Old 10-19-2018, 10:08 PM
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The Kamala Harris thread


A new poll of 2020 Democratic Presidential contenders shows no surprises for the top two spots. Joe Biden has a big lead at #1 and Bernie Sanders sits comfortably at #2. But at #3, surprisingly, is Kamala Harris with 9%. This is much better than she's done in previous polls and ahead of other contenders such as Elizabeth Warren. So perhaps it's time to start taking Harris seriously.

It seems she'll be advertising herself as a no-nonsense, won't-back-down progressive and indeed, there are some cases where she has been such. For example, she has always opposed the death penalty, even when it earned her aggressive disagreement from Dianne Feinstein.

There have been plenty of cases, however, where she brought her no-nonsense, won't-back-down attitude to the opposition of what progressives would normally support. As prosecutor and attorney general in California, she got felony conviction rates to go up, and bragged about it. Then there's the Daniel Larsen case, in which an innocent man was sent to prison, and later had his conviction overturned. The Attorney General's office under Harris fought to keep him in prison for years, even after the case brought down a torrent of publicity. Jacobin magazine has compiled a long list of reasons why progressives might not be so happy with Harris' record, ranging from police shootings to mass incarceration and basic civil rights of prisoners. And then there's her refusal to prosecute certain banks that went on crime sprees during the financial crisis. (One of the worst offenders was run by Steve Mnuchin, currently a member of Trump's cabinet.) It's not hard to imagine some of these things coming back to haunt her, much as the Goldman Sachs issue haunted Hillary.

In a perfect world there would be no need to mention the fact that Harris would be the first woman of color to make a serious run for the presidency. Today's media environment is far from perfect, however. She could easily collect countless accolades from the New York Times and other legacy media sources, all focused on the "historic" nature of her candinacy. But there seems to be a large and growing gap between the media and Democratic voters. The media has an obsession with identity characteristics of candidates; the voters want policy, especially younger voters. In 2016 younger Democratic voters preferred Bernie to Hillary, even among women.

Most media profiles that I've read describe Harris as black. A few mention that her heritage is half South Asian. One hesitates to mention that by physical appearance, she does not look black, though she does meet the census bureau's official definition of being black. It would be interesting to know how many black people feel what this Kos diarist feels:
As someone who cloaks herself in Blackness, Harris should understand that she was a central cog in the wheel of Black Incarceration. Either she does not, which is nearly impossible to believe considering her schooling and her association with Black culture, or she does understand and chooses to continue both racist and segregationist policies. And here is where my problems begin with Senator Harris.

Senator Harris is NOT by any stretch a Black woman. She is not African American, as was Barack Obama, though she does seek to emulate his meteoric rise to power. The junior senator from California is an Indian/Jamaican American. Not black. Not Black. Not African American.
I don't know whether enough people feel that way to have a meaningful effect in the primary, but certainly racial identity is a fraught topic that produces strong reactions, as Elizabeth Warren is finding out right now.
 

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