Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., seems like the perfect candidate for president. She’s the former California attorney general, a decisive senator and the face of moderate progressiveness in the U.S. She runs on a platform of equality, of speaking truth and of demanding justice.
She’s also a life-ruiner. She ruins people’s lives.
Harris is the friend who you foolishly invite to the party because she dresses well and gives good toasts, but she’s also the sort of person who arrests half of the attendees and then makes money off it in a bestselling book before blaming the whole fiasco on the neighbors.
This scenario clearly didn’t happen, but it isn’t far from the truth of Harris’ policy record. While serving as California’s attorney general, Harris backed legislation that allowed parents of children who were frequently late or absent from school to be prosecuted, fined up to $2,000 and faced with jail time, according to The New York Times. This legislation isn’t directed at the children of the white and wealthy, but at children of color, many of whom face extenuating circumstances and systemic oppression that prevent them from making it to school on time or at all.
She opposed a bill that required the investigation of shootings involving police officers and did not support the setting of a statewide standard for body cameras, also according to the Times. Essentially, Harris is the closest someone can be to a cop without actually going through the police academy, and if that doesn’t put off young and progressive voters, there isn’t much that will.
She refused to support the legalization of marijuana until 2018, and refused to take a stance on Proposition 47, which lowered the charges for some low-level crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, according to the Times.
Harris’ long history of upholding wrongful convictions is probably the most problematic of her failures. Despite being presented with compelling evidence that suggested innocence, Harris declined to overturn long sentences or only did so under media pressure.
Harris’ long history of upholding wrongful convictions is probably the most problematic of her failures. Despite being presented with compelling evidence that suggested innocence, Harris declined to overturn long sentences or only did so under media pressure. — Eamon Morris
Her apology for all of these transgressions was pathetic.
“The bottom line is the buck stops with me and I take full responsibility for what my office did,” Harris said at a rally at Howard University.
At face value, this seems like a heartfelt apology. It isn’t. Harris might be apologizing, but she’s essentially claiming that her failures as district attorney are the result of missteps at lower levels.
This is the kind of apology that so many politicians employ. By apologizing while simultaneously pointing a finger, Harris makes herself seem like a reformed activist who had no true control over what her office did.
Granted, some of Harris’ programs regarding criminal justice reform have been greatly beneficial.
She implemented implicit bias training to address racist biases by police officers, and created a program that allowed first-time drug offenders to receive education or employment rather than prison time. She’s also a woman of color and a daughter of two hardworking immigrants who succeeded against the odds.
Harris has done good work, and she’s worked hard. However, to hail the good work she has done while avoiding the despicable things she and her office have done is to condone it. If anything, all Harris’ good work shows is that she is inconsistent. If there’s anything that the current president has taught us, it’s that inconsistency is dangerous.
To support Harris without criticizing her shortcomings is inherently harmful and follows the long-prevalent trend of letting politicians redeem themselves with a few carefully placed words and loose promises. Going into the 2020 election, we have to avoid making the same mistakes made in 2016.
Letting rhetoric run campaigns without diving into candidates’ pasts is a failure of citizenship. Start asking questions. Do your research. Whatever you do, don’t believe everything the campaign websites say.
Eamon Morris PZ ’22 is from Orange, California. He heard Kamala Harris does car commercials. In Japan.
Eamon Morris PZ ’22 is from Orange, California. He’s one of TSL’s opinions editors.