As I round up my cases for potential “endorsements” among the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates – of which there are not quite as many as the 2018 Montgomery County Council At-Large race, but almost – I’d like to make a case for a more-or-less “establishment” pick: Kamala Harris.
Let’s face it. Maryland voters generally vote to protect the Democratic establishment. We house federal government employees here, as well as lobbyists, corporate lawyers, and socially progressive business executives – many of whom may have their hearts in the right place on many issues but at the end of the day err on the side of not disrupting the status quo. Hillary Clinton beat Bernie by over 30 points here, after all. This all being said, some “establishment” candidates are less bad than others – and some make rather compelling cases for being the DNC-friendly candidate that progressives could actually get excited about.
Enter Kamala Harris.
Known for being a tough-as-nails prosecutor, she’s done nothing but shine in the Senate hearings, grilling both Brett Kavanaugh and AG William Barr. She’s been relentless and passionate and knows where to jab where it really hurts, and this will make Trump crumble – or better yet, throw a meltdown – during general election debates. As a woman Attorney General of color in California, I will give her the benefit of the doubt when coming down on the more authoritarian side of issues such as the state’s truancy program. As a progressive, I would disagree with this more hardline position, but knowing the barriers that women of color face in this field, her commitment to being a no-nonsense prosecutor has enabled her to overcome systemic career obstacles.
I’d also give her the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the bold, progressive ideas that Bernie Sanders has made central to the Democratic primary discussion, such as medicare for all and voting rights for those serving time in prison. Harris appears to be still feeling out her position on these issues, which indicates that she has the most potential of the establishment-friendly candidates to be pulled leftward. In her interview this winter on Pod Save America, she wavered on Medicare for All, initially jumping on the progressive bandwagon but somewhat stumbling when pressed on whether or not she would favor eliminating private health insurance. This response isn’t perfect, but it is superior to Biden’s, Klobuchar’s, and Buttigieg’s flat-out NO. In a similar vein, Kamala’s CNN townhall featured a much-repeated response when pressed on the boldest progressive positions (prisoners’ voting rights come to mind): “I’m open to having that conversation.”
Again, these responses aren’t perfect. In fact, they could be among the weakest, most waffling-politician-y responses you could get to the real probing questions – and Kamala knows a thing or two about relentless, probing questions. Still, it shows her as a potential ally.
Harris speaks in a way that shows she is relatable and likeable. She cracks jokes, she laughs, she speaks very matter-of-factly, and she isn’t boring. She wants to be liked. This could be a “politician thing,” but it could be used to our advantage. If she wants to be liked, then she wants to be liked by progressives. She knows that she needs us and she is willing to listen and take our ideas seriously. For these reasons, if you are voting in a state whose delegates are more than certain to go to a comparatively DNC-approved, Rachel Maddow-MSNBC-friendly candidate, Kamala Harris might be a wise choice.