Along with her Senate colleague, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris is amongst the more well-known candidates in the current field. If name recognition is anything to go by, Harris comes third — behind Biden and Bernie, obviously. Not a bad start in anyone’s books, especially for someone who has never run for President before.
While Harris has perhaps not had as much time in the national limelight as her Senate colleague and primary rival, Elizabeth Warren, the last 3–6 months have propelled her to the top (or certainly very near the top) of the favourites list to win the nomination. This doesn’t happen by accident, and she is certainly a strong candidate in a packed field, but sadly for her and her supporters, she will not win the nomination.
There appears to be a growing number of Democrat voters out there claiming that they will never vote for Harris under any circumstances, which, even if you’re not a political expert, I’m sure you will agree, is not so much of a good start. Personally, I would ask some of those who are fastidiously against her now to imagine how they’d vote in a Harris/Trump contest, but let’s park that at the moment.
Of all the current field, Harris had the best announcement, at least. It was on Martin Luther King Day and helped to frame her campaign as one being run by a woman of colour, and importantly, it wasn’t in the freezing cold snow (looking at you, Amy).
Truthfully though her name has been in the mixer for a while, and voters started looking at her well before her official announcement. Under a more forensic microscope, she has already crashed hard.
A quick Twitter search reveals deeply held beliefs that, far from being the Senator for California, Kamala Harris (if that even is her real name!) is, in fact, a cop. Jokes aside, her previous career as a prosecutor is already haunting her within Democrat circles.
It all started with the New York Times’ op-ed last month (wow, that’s been a long month) which highlighted Harris’ career as a prosecutor in California. A lot has been written since that has expanded on accusations which provide specific examples upon which people now base their opinions.
The case against Harris looks something like this:
- Uphold wrongful convictions which were originally ruled on through evidence tampering
- Withholding information and evidence
- Aggressive prosecuting which would disproportionately affect low-income families of colour
And as state AG:
- Declined Proposition 47 (finally flipping back on her judgement in 2018)
- Opposed a bill which would require her office to investigate shootings involving police officers
- Wrongful convictions. Namely of George Gage who’s jail sentence of 70 years, based on a wrongful testimony, is still being served
There were many others who influenced these decisions and Harris was not the judge, jury, and executioner of California, but it is her name that bears ultimate responsibility.
As Democrat voters hover over her name in the secrecy of the ballot box, they must ask themselves:
‘Does that woman represent what I stand for?’;
‘Am I happy to be associated with those behaviours?’
Kamala Harris’ reputation in her previous life is so far from the direction the party is travelling in this cycle that she ought to be very worried. I would actually suggest that of any issue any candidate is facing at this stage, #KamalaHarrisIsACop is the most damaging.
Regrettably for her campaign, it is not just her past as a prosecutor that is out of sync with grass root party demands this cycle, either.
Harris has back-peddled on single payer healthcare (much like many candidates in the field have, in fairness) and similarly, voted for defence budget increases. But most worryingly, she has taken special interest money — marking a distinct line between her and Warren. Courting special interests and big donors could be especially damaging, made worse when its revealed those big donors are coming from Hilary’s inner circle.
Any association with such a toxic brand will be treated with complete disdain. There will be no ambiguity either, no sitting on the fence or giving the benefit of the doubt this time. A link to Clinton, particularly through large donors could be devastatingly bad for Harris.
This aligns to a complementing point; it’s that Harris’ run is already starting to smell distinctly Clinton-esque, and I don’t just mean in the pant-suits. A sense of hubris is growing. A slight presumptive arrogance that even at this stage she will be a front runner and likely go all the way. A feeling she can rightfully frame herself in the optics of a President, not a candidate for a party nominee.
Harris’ behaviour as the heir-apparent of the Democrat leadership is an extremely dangerous road to go down. In 2016, the entire county was asked:
‘Who do I dislike the most?. Now, voters are sick of having their hard fought right to vote boiled down to such an uninspiring choice where they are proud to endorse neither candidate. Unfortunately, Harris fits perfectly into this old mould.
If Harris knows that if she cannot successfully shoot at the heart of the party’s progressive movement then she will have to explore alternative paths. But paths, such as the millennial vote, the black vote, the women’s vote, will have already been trodden by her colleagues who have begun to shape their campaigns around that support base. If Harris has to go through the party’s establishment (and dare I say it, super-delegates), then she is doomed. Further tethered to a failed legacy and a toxic brand.
What has happened in the past and what reaction that will be met with in the future is all hypothetical for now. In the meantime, it is worth examining where Harris is currently.
On the face of it, she polls well. Fairly consistently in the top 3, which, excluding the undeclared candidates, Biden (maybe Beto at a push), puts her as a front runner in the top two. In addition, her name recognition is significantly higher than her colleagues’.
However, once again, a more detailed look reveals that this isn’t all its cracked up to be. Harris’ polling success comes from a national view, not a state specific one. If Harris gets off to a poor start in Iowa — which put Hilary to the sword (2008) remember — , New Hampshire and South Carolina, meaning she stumbles into California’s March 3 primary and Super Tuesday, it doesn’t matter what her numbers are in a national poll, she will already be too late.
For the record, I do not think this will give her as many sleepless nights as her reputation as a prosecutor should, not least because there’s an awfully long time for her number to improve (that said, it could be worse. She could be Kirsten Gillibrand who regularly fails to even register a single point in polls)
but Harris might want to consider how she is campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, especially considering her colleagues could perform strongly here.
Amy Klobuchar, the Senator for Minnesota, could secure the Midwestern vote on her side, the ‘beer-track’ if you like, opposed to the painfully ‘wine-track’ feel of a Harris campaign. Remember, too, there are still some in Hilary-land who believed Obama thrashed them in 2008 because he was more local than her.
But also look at Harris’ CNN Town Hall — I’m not sure it will wash in Iowa. As I said in the Elizabeth Warren piece, Iowa rewards values not simply credentials. I think both New Hampshire and Iowa could be for Warren’s taking, marking a potentially disastrous start for Harris’ campaign.
In the meantime, however, she might be better off focusing her attention closer to home anyway. This is probably the weakest of the arguments so far, but it is worth mentioning anyway:
There has been movement against her in her home state, already. This does seem a bit crazy to suggest she will lose her home state, but (and its a big but), there might be some powerful forces at play.
Not least, the yet undeclared Joe Biden, who has been distinctly quiet but simultaneously courting west coast donors. If you add into the mix the fact that Harris’ Senate colleague, Dianne Feinstein, has said on the record she would support Joe Biden. It will be interesting to see how Feinstein moves here; I have memories of Chuck Schumer privately egging Obama on in 2007/08 but knowing he could never publicly denounce his then fellow New Yorker, Hilary Clinton.
The impact of losing the home state is massive, particularly in a crowded field where you need things to go well in order to stand out. Marco Rubio, of course, dropped out when he finished second in Florida.
There are 8.5 million registered Democrats in California who will — assuming no one drops out — have the choice of around 10 candidates to choose from, so unlike in 2016, even the strongest candidates have had their % of the vote immediately slashed.
The timing of the California primary could be troublesome, too. This cycle, early voting in The Golden State will overlap with traditional early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Everyone will play in IA and NH, but according to Ben Tulchin, pollster from San Francisco ‘there are…3–4 of the top-tier candidates who will compete in California.’ If either one of them, including Harris, gets this approach wrong, it could derail their national campaign at an early stage.
Kamala Harris could well meet the voters at the intersection of a number of significant movements sweeping the county. A woman of colour with experience, qualification, and name recognition in a crowded field theoretically makes for a strong candidate. Moreover, Harris meets the criteria of someone under 60 and who hasn’t ran before.
I’ve drawn on multiple what-ifs here; including the idea that she will lose her home state in the primaries. Assertions like that are fairly far-fetched at the moment, admittedly.
But what will cause concern is her reputation as a prosecutor. Specifically as one who unfairly targeted low income families of colour. In a cycle where the Democrats are vocally pi**ed off at having to support centrist candidates disguised as progressives, this should worry Senator Harris.
Perhaps she gets away with it, but perhaps the grass roots Democrats rally, organise, and vote to make an example of their new-found commitment for true left progressiveness.
There is a campaign for Harris, but there is a movement against her.
Kamala Harris will not be the Democrat candidate.