A collage of photos of Kamala Harris

Election 2020

Kamala Harris Is More Than Just Another Potential “First”

The former DA and Senate committee badass makes history with her presidential bid. But more importantly, she may just be the best person for the job.

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Somewhere in America, 2082

“Mommy, tell me again the story of the first woman President.

Well, after 40 years of trying, Bernie Sanders finally got the Democratic Presidential nomination. Of course, technically it was only his cerebral cortex hooked up to a Ring doorbell, his actual physical body having given out years before. And technically he was still an Independent. But when California broke off in an earthquake taking the entire Democratic party with it, (they had settled there in 2022 after the Republicans voted to rename Washington D.C. “Putingrad.”) we were out of options so it was finally Bernie’s turn. But the important thing is that his fans finally stopped complaining that the DNC was conspiring against them, and with no other white men left, they were ready to admit that a woman might be qualified for the job. Of course, it couldn’t just be any woman. She had to have been born pure, free from original sin, like the Virgin Mary. She had to think just like them on everything, but not actually have these thoughts before they did. And she couldn’t have had a job before she ran, lest they find out something she did that addressed a complex problem and required an imperfect, consensus building solution. And after holding fast to their principles despite it raining down ash daily on the death camps we were all living in, just such a woman was birthed out of a rosebud after being brought down to Earth by the faeries.”

Despite elements in the above scenario being fantastical, some are all too close to coming true. And it’s not just that we could soon be catching Broadway shows in “New Vladivostok.” A small, disgruntled, mostly male faction of the left treats the DNC like a booty call, where they don’t want to put a ring on it, but they’re sure gonna’ call demanding their needs be met and totally fuck us.

As of this writing, approximately 1,000 Democrats have thrown their hat into the 2020 Presidential ring. This early in the game it’s less a Presidential race and more like Hollywood Week on American Idol. And that’s great! Many of the new contenders resemble the voters of the Democratic party that has been its support and backbone for so long: they are diverse and energized and have what it takes to energize the party’s diverse base. These candidates scare the Republican party so much the GOP is no doubt already back channeling their election-year playdate with Russia. Unfortunately, that’s not the only people they’re scaring. I’m talking of the Ride or Die, Bernie or Bust Left who still believe a bird anointed Sanders the only one pure of heart enough to defeat Sauron. And without a doubt there is one candidate who is the scariest to them all: Kamala Harris.

When on one side of the aisle you have old, straight, white men, and on the other side you have old, straight, white men, their antithesis is a multitude of possibilities. And Harris, a half African-American, half South Asian woman is one of them. As only the junior senator from California, she’s become a breakout star in committee hearings, questioning the likes of Brett Kavanaugh and William Barr with a prosecutorial focus and command of the facts. In fact, she so made Jeff Sessions crap his Klan robes during one such hearing that both Republican Senators John McCain and Richard M. Burr interrupted her in their best, condescending, “Don’t use that tone of voice when you talk to your mother, Young Lady” voice. But if her prosecutorial experience is an asset as she fights for us, it’s also an Achilles heel, one that is fast being exploited in the strongest rhetoric possible by “The Horseshoes,” the faction of allegedly progressive voters who see themselves as so far to the left they are actually closer to the right.

Kamala Harris was the San Francisco District Attorney from 2004 to 2010. She then went on to win two terms as the California Attorney General, serving from 2011 until she won her Senate seat in 2016. Despite her progressive background, she sought the offices so she could fight for change “at the table where the decisions are made.” And at times she was able to, like when as DA she implemented a program allowing first-time drug offenders the chance to earn a high school diploma and avoid prison. The program was small but had an extremely low recidivism rate and is an example of how she didn’t just prosecute crime, but was also able to look at its origins and try to prevent it. But she was there to prosecute crime and it’s these decisions that made her into a political Rorschach blot with each side seeing what they want. She is the tough negotiator who walked away from what she deemed an insufficient payout from the country’s five largest mortgage companies only to secure a much larger one for their victims and who also declined to prosecute Steve Mnuchin and his One World Bank for violating state foreclosure laws. She stood firm to her principles and did not seek the death penalty for the murderer of a police officer, even after Senator Feinstein implored her to publicly at the officer’s funeral, but then seemingly dropped the ball when it came to investigating the alleged egregious misconduct of an Orange County DA. She zeroed in on school truancy as a pathway to criminal activity, but some of the policies she implemented to curb it only hurt the communities she was trying to help. In a Jenga of pros and cons, for every criticism piled onto her CV there is an achievement there balancing it out.

So is she a progressive champion or, as one hashtag suggests, #CopMala? Maybe there’s a third choice. Maybe, it’s just really fucking challenging to solve the world’s ills. And anyone who has tried for any length of time isn’t going to get it all right. Harris herself has defended her record as an Attorney General saying, “we take a case wherever the facts lead us” and “I have a client, and I don’t get to choose my client.” And she has a point. She is privy to evidence that we don’t see, as well as the lack of it. Prosecutors like to try cases they think they can win. She is there to defend the laws of the State of California, not her own personal beliefs. And the one thing every candidate has in common is that we will never agree with everything they have ever done.

But there is another factor at work here: Harris is a woman of color. If, as Obama said, Hillary had to do everything backwards and in heels, Harris has to do it backwards in heels, on a tightrope, without a net. It’s very easy to scream, “Revolution!” as a white guy. It’s another thing to do it when you’re Black and female, having to appear to be tough lest they say you’re too soft on crime, but also knowing if you do you’ll be labeled a “ball buster.” You have to fight for social justice without hearing your detractors say you’re playing both the “race card” or the “woman card.” And on it goes. The scrutiny is higher, the praise less frequent. In the words of Papa Pope, Michelle Obama and Black parents everywhere: You have to be twice as good to get half as far.

None of this is to suggest that we pick a candidate and then have blind allegiance to them, whatever their past transgressions. Why, that’s why we find ourselves in our current dystopian pickle. (Or as they say in Russia – соленый огурец) The responsible vetting of candidates is why we have a primary process to begin with. Isn’t Democracy grand? We all get to decide for ourselves who best represents our values before the Republicans cheat and Russia decides for us.

But please listen up Horseshoes, Purity Police, Bernie Bros, Rose Emoji Enthusiasts, et al: We will call out your bullshit when you come at Kamala Harris because she is a woman and because she is a woman of color, using the same misogynistic tactics used on Hillary in 2016 and Obama the two cycles before that. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Here’s a sampling and this was before she even announced she was running:

Now as we know now, some of these people aren’t real at all, but are fake accounts set up by Russia and the GOP to make their angry, real-life counterparts stewing in a broth of their own mediocrity think they aren’t alone and further sow chaos and discord. But it emboldens the ones who are real, and we can no longer afford to allow them to put forth a false narrative, creating a world in which their candidate can do no wrong and everyone else’s can do no right. And the assertion that Kamala Harris, as one angry Twitter man said, “does not give a fuck about you” is not only completely untrue but it’s dangerous to pretend otherwise. Whatever her mistakes or blind spots, you cannot take away from the good she has done and continues to do. In addition to being a formidable presence during hearings held by any of the four Senate committees she sits on, she’s co-sponsoring legislation for a $15 an hour minimum wage, sounding the alarm about climate change and calling for the resignation of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen over the separation of families at the border. Plus Harris is the rare combination of a wonk with charisma, who can deftly breakdown figures and concepts with a reference to an X Men movie. The question we all should be answering in 2020 is, “Who is most qualified to do this job?” and with no doubt Kamala Harris is a top contender. And we will no longer be afraid to say things like that loudly because a few Russian bots and internet thugs are louder than us. We will be louder. We will no longer accept the double standard that men can be “too busy” to handle things correctly or can evolve on their erroneous views, but that women must be able to do it all perfectly, from the jump. We will not be held hostage by our own evangelicals, who believe, like their right-wing counterparts, that women are to blame for us not living in a Utopia. We’ve learned from 2016.

Making the world a better place means making hard choices and nowhere is this more evident than in the people who couldn’t put aside their own disappointment long enough to vote for the greater good, choosing instead to vote for Jill Stein or staying home. We need a President who understands this, and I recognize that, even if their hard choices mean they don’t always come down on the side I would have liked. There are no fairy tale endings, but there are cautionary tale ones, and we’re living it. And we must keep telling that tale, telling anyone who will listen and even those who won’t, so that generations from now we’re not telling the one above.

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