A recent article in Politico blames the floundering Kamala Harris campaign on everyone but the candidate. Her sister, Maya Harris, is named as a culprit, along with campaign manager Juan Rodriguez, but Kamala Harris is spun as a competent candidate with an inadequate team.
If she’s so competent, how’d she pick such a disastrous team? Politico states that a top aide claims, “The whole campaign has been a bunch of people sitting around a table giving opinions and then not backing them up when it comes down to it… The apparatus wasted her talent more than she blew it.” But the only person who blew Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign was Kamala Harris.
Harris came onto the presidential scene in January 2019, and since then she’s done very little to distinguish herself. The main point she makes is that she would fight for the marginalized in our society, but her idea of how to do that is to entrench a mentality of victimhood. This is what she did when questioning Neomi Rao to fill Brett Kavanagh’s vacant seat on the D.C. District Court. When Rao talked about women taking precautions in dangerous situations, a basic common sense thing, Harris said this was victim blaming.
In the recent debate, Harris spoke about how important it is for the Democratic Party to “show up” for black women, and to not simply expect this demographic to keep voting for Democrats. She cited the high maternity mortality rates for black women, which have been shown to be a problem.
But she hasn’t mentioned what she’d like to do about it. Maybe she has a plan in mind similar to the one California recently introduced, wherein the problem of high maternal mortality rates among black women will be addressed by prenatal caregivers undergoing… sensitivity training. Of course, there’s no evidence that sensitivity training actually works, especially in a medical context.
Harris speaks at length about how she is the candidate speaking up for marginalized Americans, but her record shows a different legacy, and her constituents know it. After the most recent primary debate, “she once again argued that she had done more for criminal justice reform than any other candidate. But [in Oakland], doubts often center on what she did as district attorney and attorney general, when she sought to combat truancy by punishing parents whose children regularly missed school.”
Harris has been in trouble from the start. She tried to frame herself as a progressive prosecutor, but as Lara Bazelon noted in The New York Times, “Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent. Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.”
Bazelon is not wrong. Harris’ record in supposedly advocating for the black community has included opposing marijuana legalization, although marijuana crimes result in huge incarceration rates for black citizens. She opposed body cams for police officers. She refused to allow independent investigations of police shootings, and defended three-strikes laws, although these disproportionately affect black people.
Additionally, she supports the death penalty, and has done so even to the point of refusing DNA testing for a man whose cause was taken up by the Innocence Project, Kim Kardashian, and others, who believe he never received a fair trial. Harris now says she regrets this decision.
As a presidential candidate, she tried to socialize her image, now backing marijuana legalization and mandatory minimum sentence reform, but these are views she clearly changed to suit public opinion. She’s basically a nothing candidate who reverses course based on going trends and not an internal value system.
Because she doesn’t have a clear-cut vision, does not lay out a core set of values, and seems to guide her plan by emotional response and not a rational blueprint, it’s hard to know just what Harris stands for. Next to Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and whoever else is making a little splash this week, it’s hard to come to the conclusion that she stands for anything at all.
Her place on the Democratic stage has consistently been more confusing than enlightening. More important than “barrier-breaking” candidates are those who won’t see the presidency as a personal platform to enact whatever idea seems it will get her the most clicks at the time, but one who has a clearly identifiable and effective vision for the country.
After 11 months on the campaign trail, there’s still no good reason to think that Harris has the best interests of the nation at heart, or anything outside of her own likability. With her campaign grinding down, letting people go, and appearing rudderless, it seems plain that her donors and supporters are starting to wane as well. This is a good thing, because her candidacy added nothing but bafflement to the array of Democratic candidates.
A team is only as good as its leadership, and if the Harris campaign is falling apart, it is only because Harris is as good a commander of her campaign team as she would be for the country. Harris blew it by being confusing on the issues, making more of her identity than her qualifications or intentions, and having no clear vision.
Her team can’t be blamed for not adhering to a game plan that didn’t exist. When Harris doesn’t win, it won’t be because she is black, or because of her team, but because her policies are not cohesive, and her record doesn’t back up her rhetoric.