Tuesday, May 28, 2024

CANDIDATE CORNER: Harris inspires, needs to address criticism

Kamala Harris has wore many hats. She served as the district attorney of San Francisco, the attorney general of California and the junior senator of the previously named state. She’s the “progressive prosecutor” who wants to be commander-in-chief.

Harris brings to the table a passion for fighting inequality and pursuing justice. Her presence on the Senate Judiciary Committee has made waves in the Democratic Party. A simple YouTube search with the keywords “Kamala Harris senate judiciary” will pull up videos where Harris questions political figures Attorney General Bill Bar and Associate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“Any fight, any good fight, is born out of optimism,” is a quote emboldened on Harris’ campaign website.

Harris was born in Oakland, California to an Indian mother and a Jamaican father. As a child, Harris was a participant in the Berkeley school desegregation bussing program, which sought to bring racial balance to schools. She sparred with fellow presidential candidate Joe Biden during the first debate over his senate voting record in regard to the issue. Harris spoke passionately about the need for the federal government to step in when states were unwilling to integrate their school systems. It was a moment that gave Harris the spotlight.

She attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she served on the liberal arts student council, was a member of the debate team, protested against the apartheid in South Africa and was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Harris looked for a job in law enforcement because she wanted to be “at the table where decisions are made.”

If Harris were to win, she would be sitting at the table where the most important decisions are made.

But first she has some criticism to address before she can take a seat.

Harris’s career as a liberal prosecutor is clear when examining her views on criminal justice as a presidential candidate. She wants to abolish the death penalty and eliminate private prisons and cocaine sentencing disparities, but her record as a prosecutor doesn’t come across as clear-cut.

A New York Times profile of Harris in early February details the beginning of her term as San Francisco district attorney. It reads, “Kamala Harris was three months into her tenure as San Francisco district attorney in 2004 when a gang member killed a police officer with a hail of bullets from an AK-47. Her announcement within three days of the murder that she would not seek the death penalty set off protests from her fellow Democrats as well as from the police.”

Harris’ reason to not seek the death penalty is documented as “a matter of principle.” According to the New York Times, “The death penalty, she believed, discriminated against poor and black people and would not deter more killing.” Ten years after, Harris appealed a judge’s declaration of the state death penalty as unconstitutional on the grouds that the law must be upheld. This drew a clear contradiction of her previous message.

It is possible to be both a servant of the law and an advocate of reform simultaneously. But to be both you must be consistent in your reading of what is fair and unfair.

Harris would bring a different tone to the White House in a new decade, but it’s unclear at this moment if she can prove herself to those who were her loudest critics.

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