A couple of days ago, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her run in the 2020 presidential election. Before becoming a senator, she was a district attorney (DA) in San Francisco and former attorney general (AG) of California. Harris’ experience in the law field can definitely be seen through her work in the Senate Judiciary, Homeland Security, Budget, and Intelligence committees.
Harris is known for her relentless and unapologetic questioning tactics on these committees; her most famous exhibition of this was during the Kavanaugh hearing. However, many democratic and liberal Americans and even fellow politicians are questioning Harris’ credibility as a 2020 candidate.
During her time as DA in San Francisco, the Howard alumn promoted a California law that would prosecute the parents of children who were truant (consistently late/skipping class). This law however would disproportionately affect low income families of color. Blake Simons, a Bay Area activist, called out Harris for “terrorizing black communities through the prison industrial complex.” Some have criticized Harris for inadvertently promoting the school to prison pipeline through her support of the anti-truancy law, a connection that is not entirely far fetched.
As AG, Harris’ poor track record continues. She appealed a federal judge’s ruling in 2014 that the death penalty is unconstitutional, opposed a bill in 2015 requiring her office to investigate police shootings, and defended the wrongful sexual abuse conviction of George Gage in 2015. Unfortunately, the list continues, and you can read more in the New York Times Op-Ed explaining why Harris was not a “progressive prosecutor.”
Many people of color, especially black women, are not supporting Harris’ 2020 run, most citing her less than squeaky clean track record as DA and AG. Some are even saying Harris’ actions reflect anti-blackness, despite her degree from a Historically Black College and University and being a member of a Divine Nine historically black sorority. However, many democrats are still holding on to Harris as their candidate of choice, being drawn in to her work as a Senator, and not being dissuaded by her mishaps as DA and AG.
I conducted an informal survey* to see where many people stand on Harris. 70% of people are not choosing to support Harris, and 30% still are. All of the 70% were women of color, and 75% of the 30% were white men. Why bring this up? Many of Harris’ remaining supporters are white, the demographic that is less likely to be directly impacted by many of her questionable policies. This I found interesting, because this was seen with early supporters of Hillary Clinton as well. In an interview at Howard University, Harris stated her regret for some of the decisions she made as DA and AG, and taking full responsibility. To me, that’s commendable.
Not too long ago, I supported Kamala Harris; I even wrote many of my college admissions essays about her. However as a black woman and journalist I have to be skeptical. In general, I admire her conviction and courage and agree with a lot of her policies, but at what point do you lose respect for a political figure? For me, it was learning about almost every decision she made in 2015. It took me some time to come to the conclusion to not support Kamala Harris, and it wasn’t an easy one to make. I saw all of the screenshots and tweets condemning her, but was refraining from so easily relinquishing my support. It’s easy to get caught up in “cancel culture”, so I was hesitant.
In my political science class, my professor talks frequently about how politics involves compromise and bargaining. Sometimes politicians have to make decisions that contradict their beliefs for the betterment of the people they represent. I think it’s easy to see a politician do or say one thing that their constituents don’t believe in, and a hail storm of hate and condemnation ensues. But it’s important to have a holistic view of the situation. Who are they collaborating with? Who serves on the committee with them? Is this the first time this has happened? Do they seem reluctant to make this decision? I considered all of these things before pulling my support from Sen. Harris, but her continuous misdemeanors were too much to ignore.
Stacey Abrams often collaborated with Republican representatives in Georgia, even accepting money from them or promoting their bills, but that’s what politics is about. It’s about bipartisanship and working with people who you sometimes rather not talk to. It’s about setting aside differences to achieve a common goal. But there’s a fine line between compromising your beliefs and compromising for the people.
*If you'd like more information about what methods I used to conduct my survey, please reach out to me!
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