The first major candidate to drop out of the Democratic Primaries, Senator Harris was nevertheless in the race long enough to eviscerate Uncle Joe in the debates and to get spanked by Tulsi in her own turn. Her fundraising was legendary but her polling was abysmal (particularly after the Gabbard debacle), and she dropped out not only before New Hampshire and Iowa but actually before 2020 — on the 3rd of December 2019, in fact, before even such notable losers as John Delaney and Marianne Williamson.
As a result, we never profiled here alongside the other candidates — a deficit we mean to make up for now. So who is she really, and what was she before?
A fair amount can be said about Harris’s tenure in the Senate; she’s been somewhat unremarkable from the standpoint of legislation, but her prosecutorial manner during hearings has gained her notoriety. She led the charge against colleague Al Franken, succeeding to his seat on the Judiciary Committee after his resignation; presently, she serves on several prominent committees, and is acknowledged even by her Republican colleagues as “well-prepared” and “a quick study”.
Regardless of her abilities, three years in the Senate can hardly be considered sufficient experience to qualify one for the Presidency* — which, given Biden’s age and the unlikeliness of him pursuing a second term if elected must be the standard to which she is held. As such, we are compelled to determine who she was before her contested accession to a Senate seat.
In 2003, Harris ran against incumbent District Attorney of San Francisco Terence Hallinan, under whom she had formerly served as a highly successful prosecutor until policy clashes drove her to resign. She outspent him nearly three to one — violating the Ethics Committee’s pledged spending limit in the process and paying a hefty fine — and won handily on the slogan “It is not progressive to be soft on crime.”
Her tenure as D.A. was marked by a very high conviction rate, with a record number of marijuana prosecutions and plea deals. Harris championed anti-recidivism programs for first-time nonviolent offenders, using suspended sentences and substituting community service and judicial check-ins for jail time. She also created a controversial anti-truancy program, making parents liable for high fines, on the theory that school attendance would reduce youth crime. Notably, she took a public stand against the death penalty, holding her ground against great public pressure. Overall, she modernized and streamlined her department while remaining Tough On Crime.
Her subsequent campaign for state Attorney General in 2010 capitalized on her record, and she brought her reforms with her, where they spread statewide — with, it must be said, mixed success. She spent the next six years fighting political battles, endorsing among other things a campaign for statewide use of body cameras by police and de-escalation procedures. Opponents have charged her with “weaponizing technicalities” during prosecution and being a proponent of excessive sentencing. Likewise, her wrongful conviction rate was said by many to be unconscionably high.
In 2016, Harris was elected Senator from California. A strong candidate from the outset and widely known throughout the state thanks to her highly public career, after she announced her plans to run many strong candidates declined to even run, and she received the state Party’s endorsement long before the June primary.
One might think after she made it through the primaries she was a shoo-in, but her major challenger was in fact another Democrat, Rep. Loretta Sanchez. Sanchez was known as a moderate, and championed criminal justice reform — which, due to a harsh conviction record as a prosecutor, became Harris’s weak spot. Still, the lesson was well-learned by Harris, who in her brief Senate career has worked hard to put her law enforcement background behind her in order to broaden her appeal. She’s spent much of her time since on the campaign trail, but even so she’s had several newsworthy moments challenging Trump appointees.
The bottom line: Her extensive experience in law enforcement makes her an interesting choice for a Vice Presidential candidate. In the wake of the George Floyd protests (which, some have argued, have been channeled by organizers specifically to promote her candidacy — though to be sure, some people will argue anything –Ed.) her undeniable expertise may prove to outweigh a conviction record so harsh that it prompted a fellow Democrat to run against her in the 2016 Senate race. Unlike anyone else in the race, she’s highly charismatic, with a proven ability to turn past errors into campaign assets.
Identitarians will make note of her African American identity as well, perhaps, as her mixed Indian/Jamaican parentage and status as a child of immigrants. Critics will question her eligibility on the same grounds — the which is just so much hogwash under present law, mind.
Her Presidential Issues page (since removed) showed her as progressive on law enforcement reform (naturally less so on prosecutorial misconduct). She’s fiercely anti-gun, anti-truancy, pro-unions, and rates solidly both on the environment and LBGT+ rights. Fundamentally, she remains Tough On Crime and supports the War On Drugs, however, with most positions indistinguishable from Biden’s or even those of the Republican Party.
Unfortunately, her experience in non-confrontational negotiation, mediation, and the legislative process is virtually nil. Should Biden survive through his first term she will learn from a past master of the art — but in the event he doesn’t, an early accession by her to the Presidency could well prove disastrous.
The Not Fake News, therefore, is unable to endorse her candidacy despite her exceptional qualities and unquestioned ability.
*Note: Neither Trump nor Obama had more experience in top-level government; in fact, Trump had none. That’s kind of my point. -Editor
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Where’s a credible source on the George Floyd protests being “been channeled by organizers specifically to promote her candidacy”? That seems like a real stretch and this seems overly focused on the flaws of a very accomplished candidate.
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That it has been mentioned is certain; credibly so, not so much. I should clarify that. Good catch.