Just as America seemed to be in the midst of reckoning over-policing and racial justice, the Democratic establishment threw its support behind a hawkish former prosecutor with a questionable record.
There were mixed reactions to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden choosing Kamala Harris as his running mate last night. Many at the top of the party hailed the pick as a strong choice. “I’m thrilled to welcome Kamala Harris to a historic Democratic ticket,” said Biden’s predecessor Hillary Clinton, who described her as “an incredible public servant and leader, “I know she’ll be a strong partner to Joe Biden. Please join me in having her back and getting her elected.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Trump campaign opposed the move, a newly-released advertisement describing her as a “phony” controlled by “the radical left.” “Voters rejected Harris,” the ad says, referring to her failed campaign for the presidential nomination. “They smartly spotted a phony. But not Joe Biden. He’s not that smart.”
Yet the Harris pick appears not to have gone down at all well with those on the left. Political commentator and co-founder of the leftist group Justice Democrats Kyle Kulinski reacted by claiming Biden was “going with the strategically brilliant move of picking somebody for VP who is despised by both the right and the left.” Journalist Elizabeth Lea Vos wrote that the DNC has chosen to “run an alleged rapist and a corrupt prosecutor… against Trump in the age of #MeToo and Black Lives Matter. In other words, the Democrats are the Republicans and everything is business as usual.” Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders’ National Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray could not contain her dismay at the pick. “We are in the midst of the largest protest movement in American history, the subject of which is excessive policing, and the Democratic Party chose a ‘top cop’ and the author of the Joe Biden crime bill to save us from Trump. The contempt for the base is, wow,” she said.
A memo from the Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins described the announcement as Biden “doubling down” on his “long history of excessive law enforcement and support for the war on drugs.”
While the left might think Harris’ past role as a California prosecutor is a negative, business executives felt it added to her campaign. “Her experience as a prosecutor makes her uniquely qualified to deliver the case against Trump,” marketing executive Mike Kempner told CNBC.
Kamala Harris at an event hosted by the Commonwealth Club in 2010, explaining her decision as San Francisco DA to get tough on truancy.
Critics of truancy crackdowns say such efforts unfairly target poor parents and children without actually helping students. pic.twitter.com/GKkDpayxuv
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) January 28, 2019
A “lock them up” mentality
Harris certainly has a controversial professional past. Although presenting herself as a “progressive prosecutor,” her record more closely resembles a tough on crime, “lock them up” mentality commonly seen among Republican lawmakers. Over the protestations of her own team, she pushed forward on her plan to jail parents for their children’s truancy, later publicly laughing about imprisoning them. She also has a long history of ethically questionable practices, including withholding evidence that would have freed innocent people from prison. As The New York Times wrote, “Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.” In 2014, Harris’ legal team argued in court that if minimum-custody inmates were released early, the state of California would “lose an important labor pool.” These inmates included firefighters, who are paid $1 an hour to confront the state’s deadly blazes. She later claimed she did not know her own office argued in favor of keeping parolees in jail so they could serve as cheap labor.
During her short and unsuccessful shot at the party’s presidential nomination, Harris received more funding from billionaires than any other candidate. In 2017, she also broke ranks to side with Trump against outgoing president Barack Obama over the latter’s position on Israel, leading Grayzone journalist Max Blumenthal to describe her as a “political algorithm programmed by the Israel lobby.”
The establishment’s warm embrace
Her competitors for the vice-presidential nomination, however, appeared happier, at least publicly, about the decision. “My warmest congratulations to Kamala Harris. I am confident Biden-Harris will prove to be a winning ticket. I will do my utmost to help them win and govern,” wrote Obama national security advisor Susan Rice, tipped by many to be Biden’s choice.
Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, who was considered the favorite for the job by some until MintPress revealed that, while state prosecutor, George Floyd’s killer Derek Chauvin also killed another black man, tweeted that she was “filled with joy” at yesterday’s announcement. “This is a historic moment,” she said, adding that “her leadership, experience and character will help move our country forward when she and Joe Biden take back the White House!” Other organizations like Greenpeace offered more qualified praise.
Support for President Trump has been sliding over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests. While Biden leads in polls, he still suffers from an enthusiasm gap, with most Republicans fully behind the president. In contrast, Democratic voters are less passionate about Biden, the majority seeing their vote primarily as one against Trump. Nina Turner, co-chair of the Sanders campaign described the choice leftists face in choosing between Biden and Trump as, “like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.’ It’s still shit.” If Biden is to win in November, he may need the enthusiasm and volunteers Sanders was able to draw upon. But judging from their response, his Kamala Harris VP pick is unlikely to secure it.
Feature photo | Then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., reacts as she speaks at a town hall in Las Vegas, Nov. 8, 2019. John Locher | AP
Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.