The President Prosecutor?
Kamala Harris is a fantastic 2020 candidate and is likely the best choice for Democrats — but they may overlook her. Their loss.
Shocking news: we now have a lot of Democrats throwing their hat into the ring for the 2020 nomination! It’s no surprise that Democratic politicians are clearly excited for the 2020 election season — Donald Trump has historically low approval ratings that are (still) falling, even among his own base according to one NPR-PBS poll. His turbulent first two years in office, the longest shutdown on record (shameless self-promotion) and the 2018 Democratic wave have made Democrats particularly jumpy in vying for their party’s nomination. Their motives seem similar: of course, they may be fixated on being the next Saviour of America that finally drags his reckless administration into the grave — but it’s no doubt more likely that they just think they have a better chance of securing the office when the election finally swings around in November 2020.
Of all the notable candidates to enter the field, Kamala Harris must be my favourite. I am admittedly fond of Elizabeth Warren and, to an extent, Tulsi Gabbard (another shameless promotion) — nor would I hold any reservation against the nomination of Kirsten Gillibrand, for example. But Kamala Harris is for without doubt my choice for Democratic nominee — and my choice for U.S. President come 2021’s inauguration day. Granted; that is a long, long way away. The first Democratic primaries don’t start until February, with the Iowa caucuses currently scheduled for February 3, 2020 — more than a year away.
And yet there is something about Kamala Harris that already entrances me. It seems only right that a President such as Trump — one accused of collusion, fraud, draft-dodging, assisting foreign spies and now even editing his social media photos (not a crime but definitely amusing) — should be taken down by a brilliant prosecutor from one of Trump’s least favourite states (California), who also happens to be female and not white: the exact two demographics a decent portion of his supporters hold prejudices against.
Kamala Harris could well be the definition of a rising star within the Democratic party. After serving as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004–2011, she took the office of California’s attorney general from 2011–2017. As the shock of Hillary Clinton’s electoral college loss in the 2016 elections set in, Kamala Harris’ victory flew under the national media’s attention — she had just won election to the U.S. Senate, becoming the second black female senator to serve in Congress. Her rather short history on the national stage can be weaponised by her opponents, for sure: how can she be expected to work with Congress if she’s only been working inside it for 2 years? Fortunately, who her opponent would be alone invalidates that concern (or at least, it should) — Trump didn’t have any government service history at all when he was elected in 2016.
Furthermore, despite her progressive history, she enjoys support among moderates and has frequently embraced middle-of-the-road positions as important steps in helping disadvantaged Americans. Data journalism site FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver argued that 2020 candidates for the Democratic primary must appeal to “five constituencies”: black voters, millennials, the left, party loyalists and Hispanic/Asian voters. Silver made a point of emphasising the strength of Kamala Harris’ candidacy: she has strong support from all across the party.
Of course, it is wrong to judge a political candidate based on viability over policy — especially when only considering viability for the nomination, as opposed to viability for winning the White House. Despite her relatively short term on the national level, she has proven herself as a fierce liberal. She has a firebrand progressive political record: taking stances against the death penalty, being unapologetically pro-Planned Parenthood and winning huge support with her speech defending the Democratic Party’s attitude toward racial and gender issues, in which she criticised those accusing Democrats of focusing on “identity politics” and claimed that they were weaponising the term to diminish real issues of inequality.
Continuing: as of the time of writing, she has voted in line with Trump’s position just 17% of the time (see here for data) — which ranks her 7th in senators who disagree with Trump the most. While not exactly a testament to her bipartisanship nor willingness to “reach across the aisle”, it certainly shows to liberal voters and disgruntled Republicans alike that she would make for a marked breath of fresh air from the tumultuous and stubborn policy of the current administration, which seems only willing to work with the Democratic opposition about 1% of the time.
Her past as a prosecutor further goes to establish her as a formidable candidate: who else would have such an impressive and extensive history of arguing a point? When running for the seat she now holds, she delivered a rather defeating blow to opponent Loretta Sanchez in a debate after Sanchez decided to get down and funky with the youth and dab at the end of her debate performance (no, I’m actually not joking). Kamala Harris’ immediate response was somehow ambiguously cruel but perfectly delivered in punishing one of the most awkward things California’s voters have ever seen.
“So, there’s a clear difference between the candidates in this race.”
Harris came back without missing a beat. It instantly elevated her to be the more mature, level-headed and adult-like of the two (even if it did show her boring side). Her spokesman, Nathan Click, later shut Sanchez down further: “Her dab was as weak as the rest of her debate performance”, he said, an almost unnecessarily harsh comment on a quite awkward mistake. Sanchez already had an established record of not scripting or planning her appearances, an approach which not all of California exactly warmed up to. Harris won by a landslide, 61.6% to 38.4%, and taking all but four of California’s counties (including Sanchez’s home Orange County). One thing’s for sure: she can handle herself well in any confrontation, a skill that will for sure come in handy for primary and national debates.
But hold on — there is another reason I favour her campaign so highly [non-political argument alert]. Public image is clearly really important in any public electoral race, especially in primaries: it is often the only thing people see and can easily use to link themselves to a campaign (think how famous “Make America Great Again” became in 2016). Harris’ staff really get this — and when compared to Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign, for example, the logo for Harris’ campaign far better and has that punchy, strong message feeling expected from a political icon — and that is absent from the smoothly and complacently curved letters in Gabbard’s logo. It also has her campaign slogan and the patriotic blue and red of the U.S. flag which probably won’t matter but hey, at least she isn’t ‘disrespecting the flag’.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m thrilled that the staff of Tulsi Gabbard are able to use the gradient tool and round their letters in Microsoft PowerPoint, but when considering appealing to the public, the simpler but much more punchy icon of “KAMALA HARRIS: FOR THE PEOPLE” is without a doubt better.
As a conclusion to this loosely pieced together argument, Kamala Harris is a fantastic Democratic politician, inspiring woman and an encouraging candidate going into 2020. I can’t speak highly of her enough — and although I hold off endorsing her at this stage (we’ve got a year of campaigning to go), I’d recommend taking a serious look at her. And as for the current list of declared candidates, she’s by far the best shot Democrats have got. There is, of course, the worry that the Democrats will opt for established, long-time liberal Senator Elizabeth Warren or Kirsten Gillibrand, another blonde white woman from New York who can be easily painted as Hillary v2 — and if the primaries started tomorrow, they’d be wrong go for these options.
It’s not shocking news that the 2020 Democratic primary has a lot of contenders, and Kamala Harris certainly has a long way to go. It’s in the hands of Democratic voters come February 2020: will they recognise her strengths?