Why I am Not Sold on Kamala Harris

Hurelayn Abdu, Editor-In-Chief

Senator Kamala Harris, a democrat from California, announced her bid for the presidency on January 21, 2019, a date that happened to also be Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Harris, 54, is from Oakland, California and attended Howard University before returning to California to attend the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. She got her start in government during the late 1980s as a California prosecutor before going on to become a district attorney and eventually the state attorney general.

On the national front, she is the second black woman to serve in the Senate and the first African American to represent California in the senate. In many ways she is a trailblazer. This trailblazer reputation has led some to label her as a progressive hero and has gained her much support among women and those in the black community.

However, just calling Harris a Black woman would be a misnomer as Andrija Bose of News 18 notes in her piece on Harris. Bose writes, “When Harris announced that she plans to run for the President of the United States of America in 2020, most of the headlines identified her as ‘African-American’. The Indian bit didn’t make it to many newspapers. But she may, in fact, be more Indian than you or the Americans may imagine.”

So, if elected president, Harris would become the first on many fronts.
However, what many fail to realize is that while she has broken some glass ceilings and is certainly on the progressive side of the aisle, many of the decisions that she has made while in office have accomplished the exact opposite. The truth is, her record is filled with contradictions.

As district attorney, she implemented prison diversion initiatives for youth, but when one looks at her throughout her career, it is obvious that she has been inconsistent when it comes to important issues regarding criminal justice reform. One of the most obvious examples of this is when she implemented racial bias training for police officers in California, but then appealed a court decision that threw out a criminal case due to the fact that the state prosecutor on the case, Robert Murray, falsified a confession and used it to threaten the defendant with a life sentence. Her office claimed that this action did not qualify as misconduct because there was no physical violence involved.

Similarly, Harris declined to support a bill that would require attorney generals to investigate police-related shootings and require statewide standards for police body cameras. She also advocated for a program that assisted people in finding jobs in the hope of keeping them from entering jails and prisons, but she then fought against efforts to allow prisoners who had already been proven to be innocent out of prison.

In her New York Times, Op-Ed law professor and former director for the Loyola Law School Project, Lara Bazelon writes that “In her career, Ms. Harris did not barter or trade to get the support of more conservative law-and-order types; she gave it all away.”

I know that my criticism of Harris may seem reminiscent of the criticism that Hillary Clinton received during her 2016 presidential campaign. At that time, it was clear that Clinton faced much more criticism than her male opponents. Clinton is not the only candidate who has had their actions more closely scrutinized because of factors they cannot control, as racial minority candidates have consistently dealt with this as well.

Having said this, I can see how it might be possible that Harris would not be facing this much backlash if she were not a black woman. But, at the end of the day, a politician’s track record should provide a clear vision of what she did, how she voted, and what she stood for while in power. And when looking at Harris’ record prior to her presidential candidacy, it does not allow me to be an enthusiastic supporter.

However, with many Democrats throwing their hats into the ring for the presidency, I am hopeful that there will be a politician whose past is as progressive as their current platform.