Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris' Skin Color Is Not Why Her Presidential Bid Is Tanking

Blame her censorious and authoritarian approach to public policy instead.

|

California Sen. Kamala Harris' bid for the Democratic presidential nomination is imploding even before President Donald Trump could think up an insulting nickname for her. Once regarded as the Democrats' best hope to take down Trump, Harris has seen her polls collapse, her donations tumble, and her campaign in shambles. She claims her woes show that the country is just "not ready for a woman of color" to be president.

This is self-serving rubbish. What the country is not ready for is another cynical and self-serving bully-in-chief who, in her case, is masquerading as a progressive.

Harris, who catapulted herself to the second spot behind former Vice President Joe Biden in one or two polls over the summer, is now struggling to stay in the mid-tier. The latest USA Today/Suffolk survey shows that her support among primary Democratic voters has dropped from 15 percent at its peak to a mere 3 percent now. She is way behind South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Even Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has inched ahead of Harris, a particularly humiliating development given that Gabbard viciously attacked Harris' record as a public prosecutor in California on the debate stage, just like Harris attacked Biden's alleged opposition to school busing to propel herself up several notches in the polls in July. Stunningly, Harris, who everyone expected to be right at the top, is now tied with entrepreneur Andrew Yang, a political nobody.

All of this is affecting her fundraising ability, with her early lead dissipating in the last few weeks. She has spent $2.5 million more than she has raised, and she recently fired dozens of staffers because she can no longer afford them. Her New Hampshire operation has reportedly shuttered.

If Harris' fall from grace could be attributed to her gender and her mixed Indian and African-American heritage, then she would never have shot up in the first place. Also those very same attributes would doom Gabbard, who is part Samoan and a practicing Hindu Gabbard. Moreover, if the country is not ready for a "woman of color," it is even less so for an openly gay man with a husband. Yet Mayor Buttigieg is surging.

Harris is right that minorities and women have to scale a higher bar for the presidency. It is inconceivable, for example, that a black man—much less a black woman—who behaved like Trump would ever come within hailing distance of the White House. Still, Harris is crashing not among general election voters but among the more progressive ones in the Democratic primaries. So unless she believes her own party's base is racist and misogynistic, she should look within to understand why she is in trouble.

Here's the real reason she's falling: The more voters learn about Harris' decade-and-a-half record, first as a San Francisco prosecutor and then as California's attorney general, the more they recoil. And rightly so.

Harris has long billed herself as a "progressive prosecutor." That would strike many people as oxymoronic. But to her this meant using the carceral state that conservatives like to tackle social problems that progressives care about. She's got the mindset of a cop who wants to save you not from the bad guys but from yourself. "She repeatedly fought for more aggressive prosecution not just of violent criminals but of people who committed misdemeanor and 'quality of life' crimes," Reason's Elizabeth Nolan Brown noted in an exhaustive look at Harris' record.

What kind of "quality of life" crimes did she crack down on? Panhandling, prostitution, graffiti, loitering, driving under the influence, and living in an unapproved homeless encampment. This issue set would have made former New York mayor (and now Trump confidante) Rudy Giuliani proud. It is also one that targets people of color the most. Of all people, Harris should have understood that, especially since she was railing against mass incarceration and its disparate impact on poor and black communities at Yale University in 2006, when she was launching her "quality of life" crackdown.

Her most notorious "quality of life" crusade was against school truancy. She first launched it as the district attorney of San Francisco, an office she won after defeating her truly progressive boss, who had alienated police unions with his alleged softness on crime, and then scaled it up when she became California's attorney general.

On the theory that high school dropouts are more likely to become criminals, Harris personally championed a 2011 state law that made it a criminal misdemeanor for parents to let kids in kindergarten through eighth grade miss more than 10 percent of school days without a valid excuse. As if that was not bad enough, she also persuaded the state legislature to back the law with such harsh penalties as a minimum of $2,500 in fines and a one-year jail sentence. To prevent criminality in the future, she criminalized parents here and now.

HuffPost reports that hundreds of parents have been booked under her law, the vast majority poor minorities juggling several jobs and struggling to keep their heads above water. One particularly tragic case HuffPost highlighted involved a poor, black mom, the sole caregiver of a daughter who missed school because she was suffering from severe sickle cell. The police whisked the mom away from her home in handcuffs and then subjected her to a harrowing and expensive two-year court ordeal.

If Harris didn't spare parents, there was no way she was going to go easy on less sympathetic offenders, such as sex workers. In fact, on the pretext of stopping human trafficking, she ramped up stings in immigrant communities and aggressively targeted websites such as Backpage on trumped up charges of child sex trafficking—even though Backpage, Brown reports, was one of the few venues where sex workers could seek clients without having to roam the streets. And although Harris now says she's in favor of decriminalizing sex work, she doggedly opposed the idea previously.

And then there is Harris' duplicity on three-strike laws. Such laws, along with mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, came into vogue in the 1990s and decimated minority communities in inner cities. Harris campaigned against California's law, which threw third-time offenders in jail for 25 years. She pledged to invoke it only in rare cases of very serious and violent crimes. What she didn't say was that she counted sex crimes and the possession of an unauthorized firearm as "serious" crimes, even though the penal code did not define them as such.

As if all that was not bad enough, Harris threw 1,500 people in jail for minor marijuana violations and, as Gabbard pointed out on the debate stage, argued against commuting jail sentences. She also pushed to increase the cash required to obtain bail. All of these issues have a disparate impact on people of color far more unfortunate than Harris.

What accounts for Harris' draconian record?

Part of the reason is that just as surgeons have a bias for wielding their scalpels to treat illnesses that can be cured by less invasive means, Harris wanted to use the tools of law enforcement and government coercion at her disposal to solve social problems that could be far more humanely tackled through other means. (That's also apparent in her ham-handed attempt this week to ingratiate herself to working parents by sponsoring a bill to fund a pilot program to prolong the school day so that these parents don't have to quit work early to pick up their kids.) But the bigger reason is that her law enforcement career took shape in the pre–Black Lives Matter days, when the progressive backlash against the aggressive policing techniques of the 1990s hadn't yet fully matured. Her political strategy was to present herself as a centrist, courting law-and-order conservatives and police unions with a tough-on-crime approach and appealing to progressives by backing various social causes.

That was a massive miscalculation born of an inner lack of convictions, and it is backfiring spectacularly. Instead of pointing fingers at voters, Harris ought to do a little soul searching. Looking past her skin color at her actual record is one thing America is doing right.

A version of this column originally appeared in The Week.

Advertisement

NEXT: If He Thinks It's Such a Good Idea, Why Won't Rand Paul Name the Whistleblower Himself?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “She claims her woes show that the country is just “not ready for a woman of color” to be president.”

    To underline the point:
    She is running in a primary of Democrats.
    So no Republicans are implicated here.

    1. Good point. She just called Democrat voters racist. I’m sure her polling will recover as they scramble to prove her wrong.

      1. A lot of democrats are, but they’re the good kind of racists who only want what’s best for “those people”

        1. Condescending and pandering racists are my favorite kind of bitter prog clingers as their hypocritical ideology falls down around them and they are replaced by their betters who see people as individuals, not victims to be mined for grievance.

          Haha.

    2. But as Democrats have absolutely no accountability, very thing is someone else’s fault. Remember Hillary’s press tour plugging her book that explains her loss to Trump being everyone else’s fault?

      This is just how their kind roll. And blaming her crappy candidacy on racism is just so predictable.

      1. You actually nailed the essence of liberal philosophy: people have no personal agency or responsibility, so anything good that happens to them is not earned and must be shared, and anything bad that happens is the fault of others.

  2. //In fact, on the pretext of stopping human trafficking, she ramped up stings in immigrant communities ….//

    And we all know that is why Shikha wrote this article. Harris is unqualified because she’s mean to immigrants. Everything else referenced was just window dressing.

  3. Harris in January: “America is definitely ready for a woman of color to be President.”

    Harris in November: “I guess America just isn’t ready for a woman of color to be President.”

    Tulsi: “LOL.”

    Guess Harris confused “woman of color” with “corrupt cop.”

    1. She means a specific color.

      1. Even her own dad finds her embarrassing.

  4. What is it with Democrats and their insults on the voters?

    1. When you know for a fact that you are a paragon of good, everyone who disagrees with you (even in a minor way) must be evil.

      1. It also works. It got Obama and Sinema elected.

    2. It worked so well last time, calling everyone they didn’t like Deplorables really worked out for them at the ballot box.

      Politics is mostly a popularity contest, and most people don’t like feeling stupid. Democrats haven’t figured out how those statements interact with each other.

    3. It’s because they think only NYC and LA should count.

    4. Since every voter is on the bellcurve of human intelligence, that means the vast majority of them are so stupid it’s a wonder they can breathe air. probably they deserve about every insult you can think of, but saying something like “They aren’t ready for….” is just an observation or opinion – not an insult. That said, fuck Kamala in the ass with a hot poker.

    5. They know that the people who vote for them are idiots.

  5. On the other hand, Harris got as far as she did in California politics largely because of her skin color. I understand her confusion.

    And on the other, other hand, her totalitarian approach to implementing progressive values is perhaps just a decade or two early.

    1. I thought it was teasing sexual favors? Maybe both.

    2. Her biggest problem is she’s the least charismatic person I’ve ever seen.
      She’s basically the anti-(The Rock) Dwayne Johnson

  6. Harris got as far as she did in California politics largely because of her skin color.

    Sherwin Williams has a paint color named “Willy Brown”?

    1. Sorry about the failed tag closure. I blame the Russians.

      1. “one in the stink”

  7. Not sure I would put “driving under the influence” in a list of “quality of life crimes”. The negligence and recklessness may not violate the NAP, strictly speaking. But the people maimed and killed by others doing it certainly suffer more than a reduced quality of life.

    1. There is driving under the influence, and driving under the influence. Most folks are competent drivers at .08, and based on circumstance, could be ok with a warning or escort home Andy Griffith style. Over .10, less so and deserve the book thrown at them.

      1. Agreed. It’s common sense and discretion that police and prosecutors either lack or abuse.

  8. “Harris has long billed herself as a “progressive prosecutor.” That would strike many people as oxymoronic. ”

    Not at all. Progressives are racist ideologues that use “their truth” rather than the actual truth to control and punish others.

  9. If anything it has helped her get farther than she otherwise would have.

  10. Never forget https://twitter.com/KamalaHarris/status/1089645002991521797

    “Too many black and brown bodies are locked up.”

    yeah, because of YOU you awful piece of shit.

    1. Bodies are locked up? Where? In the morgue, I hope.

  11. If Shikha doesn’t like her, maybe I should give Kamala a closer look 🙂

  12. Who needs a New Hampshire operation? Entire state’s got like a hundred people.

    1. And each one of them expects every campaign to persuade them to vote for them. Much tougher than a wholesale campaign to find niches that no other candidate is talking about and then blasting ads.

    2. Our national voting operation is pretty messed up.

    3. Presidential primaries are a major industry in NH.

    4. I wish it were that low, I’d be 1% of the whole electorate.

  13. It is inconceivable, for example, that a black man—much less a black woman—who behaved like Trump would ever come within hailing distance of the White House.

    IMHO, this shows a fundamental misunderstanding of why Trump’s behavior is excused and even liked by “deplorables”. It isn’t because he’s an old white guy. Some people in this country have long wished for a President with the stones to tell progressive scolds to fuck off, and the more the progressive scolds insult “deplorables” the more they’ll like Trump’s behavior.

    1. Post of the day right here

    2. It’s not that a “person of color” could not act like Trump and get within a thousand miles of the White House. No one aside from Trump can do it.

      His crass demeanor made him a household name decades ago. Not even his supporters believe that all of what he says given his tendency to shoot from the hip. On the other hand, he is shockingly honest about his intentions. He’s a compulsive liar, but cannot scheme to save his life.

      1. You really need the calculated and complete lack of shame Trump has to properly fight the totalitarian scolds.
        It takes an immense amount of energy to withstand all their attacks and not flinch

    3. You so nailed this one. YES!!!! = Some people in this country have long wished for a President with the stones to tell progressive scolds to fuck off, and the more the progressive scolds insult “deplorables” the more they’ll like Trump’s behavior.

    4. If Trump had been black he would have gotten 70% of the vote and the 22nd Amendment would have already been repealed.

      Half of the cars on the road would have GEOTUS bumper stickers.

  14. Well, looks like Bloomturd might be jumping in now. Didn’t think Trump could pull off a landslide, but this just might do it.

    1. I mean-how many Rev Kirklands are there out there who could deliver any state for Bloomturd? He has openly mocked MeToo-so won’t turn out the vagina vote. Also has horrendous record of harassing brown people through NYPD.

      1. I think the idea is to be a slightly less senile Joe Biden and hope the rest of the party realizes running an actual socialist in the general election is a suicide mission.

        1. It’s either him or Hilda, and they surely do not want a replay of 2016.

          1. The Democratic Party

            “We aren’t repeating the mistakes of the past, we are making entirely new ones.”

            1. I actually think most Americans, especially the younger ones would vote for a socialist. Who doesn’t love someone who promises you free shit and tells you what you want to hear? This is how Trump won.

      2. I like Reverend Kuckland so much better. 🙂

        1. Where is the real Rev. Arty? Did someone finally murder him?

          1. He won the culture war and retired. All clingers have been replaced by betters. Haven’t you noticed?

            Haha.

          2. “ Where is the real Rev. Arty? Did someone finally murder him?”

            Saw the new Joker movie and this comment made me want to get up and dance.

  15. Blame her censorious and authoritarian approach to public policy instead.

    If this were the problem Elizabeth Warren would be failing as well. The real reason is that her authoritarianism is not limited to left wing approved targets.

    1. As someone said recently, most Americans are fine with authority, as long as it directed at those they do not like or agree with.

      1. And when nobody likes each other, we get the Democratic fascist clown show

  16. Of course it is the voters who are not ready for a woman of color to be president. To suggest otherwise might mean it is her fault she is not gaining more support. It is the sort of crutch every progressive uses to explain that it is not me, it is you.

    1. Primary voters no less, which means she is dissing no one outside of her party.

      1. “Deplorable Democrats”? Haha. Yeah, sounds about right.

    2. Feminist crutch

  17. My not so humble opinion is that people are realizing, going by her traits exhibited in public life, Kamela Harris is more a prosecutor’s prosecutor (“I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition!”) than a person of color or a woman or a Democrat.

    The Hill @thehill 3 Oct 2019
    Sen. @KamalaHarris speaks in LA: “In this election, people have started to say, ‘Oh, they’re not ready for you, Kamala. They’re not ready for a woman. They’re not ready for a woman of color’… We’ve heard this in every campaign, we have — & here’s the operative word — ‘won.'”

    Ed Morrissey, “Harris: My Failing Campaign Shows America’s Not Ready For A Woman Of Color As President”, Hot Air, 28 Oct 2019.
    “Can Harris win a Democratic presidential primary by calling its voters [Democrats] racists and bigots? Almost certainly not, but it will be hilariously fun to watch her try.”

    Her campaign has been in decline. If anything, being a woman and of color were her strongest assets, just not strong enough.

    1. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

      Bring out the comfy chair!

  18. One wonders if she wouldn’t be in the top tier if she had appealed to the Democrats who are sick of crime and not n aboard with the out and out economic fascism of the rest of the lot?

    1. Good point; she certainly is willing to adapt herself to any and all other trends she has perceived. Not hard to do when you don’t actually have any principles of your own to guide you.

  19. hey hey we agree for once.

    >>she should look within to understand why she is in trouble

    you know they don’t do this.

  20. A Shikha Dalmia article in which I can find nothing to disagree with; is this alternate universe day? It’s like the new Butt Plug [though of course I realize the new owner just took that over wile the original asshole is banned].

    1. Must be the change from DST, because we have yet to hear from OBL. On a Shikha article!

    2. She’s really not too bad when the topic isn’t immigration or Trump.

    3. She had to stick in that one little dig at Trump though. But overall, not bad. If I were her editor I’d promise her a lollipop if she could write an entire article without mentioning or referencing ‘that guy’.

      Also, did she ever refer to Barry ‘The Oracle-Orator’ as just ‘Obama’?

      Just wondering.

  21. Harris isn’t African-American her father was Jamaican. If not for birthright citizenship she wouldn’t even be one.

    1. It’s pretty funny for the child of more or less upper class Jamaicans and Indians to try to claim some kind of authentic African-American experience.

      1. And she went to school in the most affluent part of Montreal in the enclave of Westmount – where it’s majority white.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westmount,_Quebec

  22. It is inconceivable…that a black man…who behaved like Trump would ever come within hailing distance of the White House.

    He would, however, get approximately 100% of the Black vote, and no “progressive” would dare to criticize them for that.

  23. This didn’t even need an article. Everyone with a functioning brain cell knows that Tulsi Gabbard (a woman of color) single-handedly punched her campaign in the dick.

    And by the way, this is the primary, sunshine… that means Democrats– ie, YOUR people are racist, not America as a whole.

  24. She has spent $2.5 million more than she has raised, and she recently fired dozens of staffers because she can no longer afford them.

    $15 Now!

  25. Listen…This is not exactly Rocket Science on why Heels Up Harris is tanking.

    One, Tulsi the Team D Front Runner Slayer absolutely kicked her ass on national TV and exposed her as the biggest liar and hypocrite since….Crooked Hillary. 🙂

    Two, Heels Up Harris slept her way to power in CA. And then had the temerity to crap all over Uptown Willie Brown, who she was screwing to get ahead. That doesn’t go over with women (sleep up the ladder), or men (old squeeze turning nasty).

    Three, Horizontal Harris just does not connect. Seriously? She is the prototypical limousine riding, chardonnay swiller. Newsflash to Heels Up Harris: Most of America just doesn’t live that life. And my God, that twangy, screechy voice? Crooked Hillary 2.0, tanned version.

    Just stick a forceps into her. Heels Up Harris is done.

  26. There are a lot of “rubbish” assumptions in this article.

    “What the country is not ready for is another cynical and self-serving bully-in-chief who, in her case, is masquerading as a progressive.”

    What? If so, how do you explain HRC winning the popular vote and Pocahontas and Sanders being front runners?

    ” It is inconceivable, for example, that a black man—much less a black woman—who behaved like Trump would ever come within hailing distance of the White House.”

    Seriously? We just had a black man as a two term President who won reelection despite repeatedly lying about almost everything in his major health care “reform.”

    1. And who also weaponized the IRS, and other federal,agencies against his opponents. Nope, no bullying there at all.

      1. Good points!

  27. “Stunningly, Harris, who everyone expected to be right at the top, is now tied with entrepreneur Andrew Yang, a political nobody.”

    YELLOW JOURNALISM AT ITS WORST.

    1. No, you got it all wrong… They expected Harris to be “on top” not “at the top”.

  28. “She claims her woes show that the country is just “not ready for a woman of color” to be president.”

    That’s not true, Elizabeth Warren is still in the top 3 contenders.

    1. Ah, but Warren’s color is so very pale – just about 1/1024th of a drop of red.

  29. On the theory that high school dropouts are more likely to become criminals, Harris personally championed a 2011 state law that made it a criminal misdemeanor for parents to let kids in kindergarten through eighth grade miss more than 10 percent of school days without a valid excuse.

    The obvious progressive solution to this would be to grant everyone a high school diploma.

  30. What is it with Democrat women being so good at making skins crawl?

    Warren, Wasserman-Schultz, Hilary, Ilhan, AOC, Rashida, Hilary, Harris, Hilary….just foul, nasty chicks.

    1. Tulsi is really likable. Her domestic policy is shit, but she comes across as really likable especially when she goes on platforms that aren’t DNC bootlickers.
      And of course: would.

      1. And she served her country.

        1. Tulsi doesn’t hate America.

          That stands out in a Democratic Primary.

      2. And I didn’t mention her because she’s the exception.

  31. Can we just cancel the Democratic primary, now? Just make Ron Wyden the nominee and call it a day.

  32. “This is self-serving rubbish. What the country is not ready for is another cynical and self-serving bully-in-chief who, in her case, is masquerading as a progressive.”

    I dunno. They seem ready for a cynical self-serving bully-in-chief who is masquerading as a conservative.

  33. Well, well. Once every 40 or 50 articles, Dalmia gets it right.

  34. That “First-Tier Candidate” quip didnt age well.

  35. “Immigrants’ Skin Color Is Not Why We Should Protect Our Borders
    Blame their censorious and authoritarian approach to public policy instead.”

    Import Not Americans, Become Not America

  36. “even before President Donald Trump could think up an insulting nickname for her.”

    He wasn’t the one who came up with “Heels Up Harris”?

    I bet he wishes he had.

  37. Not to mention her LYING… she is NOT eligible, and knows it, but refuses to bow out on that basis.

    Or her deceptive failure to mention (and to ignore when brought up by others) her history of hard-core “law n order” tactics, strongarming the citizens, and her diabolical anti-gun stance and practice as California’s AtG.

    As dirty as another family we all know and abhor…… the He and She units.

  38. “…poor minorities juggling several jobs…”

    Unless she was prosecutoring in Jamaica, this is unlikely to be true.

  39. “What the country doesn’t need is another self serving bully in chief who, in her case, is masquerading as a progressive”

    Yeah, because the two are mutually exclusive. I see what you tried to pull there, Shrieka.

  40. I lived in CA, in the Bay Area even, during all of Kamala’s time in public office.

    I just don’t recall her begin tough on anyone. She was dogmatically against the death penalty.

    I think that stuff is a bad rap. What’s not a bad rap is that she’s just not as intelligent as she looks. She seems to think that incoherent policy plans are sellable. She seems to think that sighing while analyzing Trump will get her campaign back on track.

    Some say that the electorate will vote for the prettiest candidate.

    I guess that’s how we ended up with Trump.

  41. Harris is hardly Black and not African American at all. Her Black side is a mix of EuroWhite-Black, 50/50 out of Jamaica. The other half of her is high-caste Indian Brahman. What Harris is, is Indian/Asian overclass, she’s a rich, privileged, feminist with a couple of race boxes checked. But she’s privileged first nearly as much as the Faux Indian Liz Warren with who she shares fraudulent race and feminist privilege. Other hand, she’s like Obama in that she never got a taste of the African American experience, even if they behaved as if they were real. Willie Brown surely considered she passed for White given he took up with her and got her jobs in San Fran. For her to claim kinship with African Americans is patently ridiculous and unlike Hispanic illegal immigration, African Americans aren’t falling for the Kamala Harris fraud.

    1. Half what. One eighth something. I don’t care about that racial recipe crap.

    2. It’s odd how the Democratic Party, for all the support Black Americans give them, only advances candidates with African ancestry who *are not* descendants of US slaves, but *are* descendants of slave-owning whites.

      1. Also, on Obama, I just realized the other day that he was the first Asian American President.

        Born in Hawaii without his father, his mother married an Indonesian student at the University of Hawaii and they moved as a family to Indonesia when he was 5, where young Barack was raised until 10, at which time his mother sent him back to the US to be raised by his white grandparents in Hawaii, where the dominant culture was Asian, predominantly Japanese.

        He spent most of his youth in the Asian American culture of Hawaii, with 5 formative years in Asia proper.

        First Asian American President.

  42. why is this idiot still writing for Reason

    1. Two theories on that.

      1) She’s an America First false flag mole sent to Reason to thoroughly discredit Open Borders advocates.
      2) They needed someone to take the bullet and defend Open Borders in writing, and only idiots applied to support an idiot position.

  43. Anybody who has seen her record on civil liberties will not want Harris. SF’s District Attorney office under her guidance had a record number of cases reversed because the DA had not given exculpatory evidence to the defense.

    And as CA’s Attorney General she tried to get the courts to ignore those cases and several others from other counties with the same problem.

    Not who I want making policy for the US.

  44. “Even Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has inched ahead of Harris, a particularly humiliating development given that Gabbard viciously attacked Harris’ record as a public prosecutor in California on the debate stage,”

    Even vicious Tulsi is ahead of Harris!

    Reason, carrying water for the corrupt Democratic establishment. Perhaps Shikha’s next story will explain how Tulsi is a Russian agent.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.