Kamala Harris announced her run for the presidency on January 21st; the date signifies Martin Luther King Jr. day and also falls on the same week the first African American woman sought the nomination back in 1972, Shirley Chisholm. Before uttering a word, Harris has made a bold statement in aligning with some of the most revolutionary individuals within the Civil Rights Movement. Even her logo is paying homage to Chisholms’ historic run. “KAMALA HARRIS: FOR THE PEOPLE.” These clues allude to a very progressive and inclusive platform, addressing some hot button topics such as race and inequality. The announcement has garnered some strong opinions from political pundits and citizens; both are highlighting her past as a lawyer and what the future may hold for the US Senator. Through victory or defeat, Harris’ road to the nomination will be one for the history books.
Senator Kamala Harris may be a familiar face to some. Perched in the Senate hearing room, she can be seen making one of her infamous judgemental faces towards Republican cabinet nominees. Between Senator Harris and Representative Maxine Waters, the memes are endless. Her clapbacks have made their rounds on the internet as well, leaving controversial players such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and newly sworn in Supreme Court Judge, Jeff Kavanaughspeechless. Those encounters have given her a reputation of taking a ‘no-nonsense’ stance when it comes to civil rights and women’s rights. So who is Kamala Harris? Well, she is currently serving as a Democratic California senator (she was the second black woman to serve in the US Senate) in which she was elected in 2016. She has been compared to Barack Obama, as he too, only served two years in the Senate before running for President. She moved to Canada with her newly divorced mother and sister when she was 12 years old, where she eventually graduated high school before moving to the US. “She earned an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Economics and graduated in 1986” from Howard University (Politifact). She would then go on to receive her law degree at the University of California at Hastings in San Francisco in 1989. She worked as a deputy district attorney from 1990 to 1998 and was elected to District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco, serving two terms. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she became California Attorney General in 2010. Harris was the “first African American and first woman to serve in that office. She was re-elected in 2014”. Her resume is very inspiring, but what is giving many people pause is some of her decision making on critical issues while she was an active prosecutor.
Progressive liberals and prosecutors have a shaky relationship. Many in the Democratic party feel that Harris’ history as a lawyer will be a disadvantage, in that, supporters of the party want to rally against the system. And to them, lawyers are a contributing part to the continuation of that system. Back then, being ‘tough on crime’ was popular but we have seen how that affected Hillary’s campaign with her infamous calling out of “super-predators” during Bill Clinton’s second term in office. Harris’ decisions seemed to straddle the fence of party lines. “She pushed for programs that helped people find jobs instead of putting them in prison, but also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proved innocent. She refused to pursue the death penalty against a man who killed a police officer, but also defended California’s death penalty system in court” (Vox). But, Harris is trying to erase that stigma by highlighting some of her more progressive stances. In 2005, she created the Back on Track Program “aimed at preventing young, first time, non-violent drug offenders from committing more crimes” (PSMag). Offenders were able to get job training and placement, while also having the opportunity to attend community college classes — only 10 percent of the graduates committed another crime. Her work as a Senator, however, has been streamlined and encompasses a more focused agenda compared to her period as Attorney General. She has supported “Medicare for All” and also proposed a bail reform bill that has been embraced by many civil rights groups. She has even gone as far as supporting the legalization of recreational marijuana. Changing her perception within the party will be a task in and of itself, but the fact that she can articulate a well put together though is miles ahead of what this current administration can do.
Kamala has the potential and experience to become a viable candidate in the upcoming election. We are currently paying a significant price because there was a lack of representation at the polls for a myriad of reasons in 2016. It’s pretty early to make a distinction of Democratic front-runners, but Harris has the ability bridge that gap and run a successful campaign.