Kamala Harris seemed to come out of nowhere and right away garnered media buzz. Her early promoters referred to her as Obama 2.0 – or the “female” Obama.
Her dazzling smile and photogenic good looks had many people – especially white liberals – mesmerized.
We now know some of the reasons for her rise – and they’re not pretty.
Long ago she made a deal with the devil by bedding down the kingpin of California politics, Willie Brown, the ex-San Francisco mayor and state assembly leader whose support allowed her to catapult from the position of San Francisco District Attorney to become the Golden State’s attorney general, and eventually, two years ago, to be elected California’s junior senator.
Brown was married at the time, but it hardly mattered. He wanted Harris, some 28 years his junior and she saw a way to rise Cleopatra-like after she delivered herself – as so many other Brown protégés and ingénues had — to Caesar.
Her record as attorney general turned out to be mixed. She still portrays herself as a champion of Black civil rights but while in office turned on African-Americans with a vengeance, it seems, anxious to boost her reputation as “tough” on crime.
And to many her moral judgment seems dubious. In her recent book, she lauds a member of her staff who turned out to be sexually harassing his underlings. The man had to settle a multi-million dollar lawsuit filed against him – and Harris claims she never knew anything about it.
If she’s using her position as California’s top crime enforcer as evidence of her ability to exercise executive authority, the effectiveness of that authority is clearly in question.
And her flip-flopping on major policy issues also calls into question her vision. She’s changed her position on “Medicare for All” twice without a hint of an apology or explanation.
She’s also called for legalizing prostitution, a stance that is bound to alienate her from the middle-of-the-road constituency she says she wants to court.
Harris reminds some observers not so much of Obama — but of Hillary Clinton, whose former top advisors have flocked to her campaign. Is it any wonder that she’s become such an ineffective shape-shifter?
Harris is also a sucker puncher. Her brief rise in the polls was based solely on her disingenuous attack on Joe Biden for allegedly being on the wrong side of the busing issue and civil rights generally. But primary voters saw through the ruse. African-American voters still see Biden as their champion. He’s winning half of their support right now. Harris has no real standing with older voters, either. Youth love, Bernie and women are gravitating toward Elizabeth Warren.
Harris has no real constituency, in fact.
The latest nationwide poll has her down to 5%. She’s even running fourth in her home state of California where she once led. Nationally, she’s on par with former El Paso mayor and Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, another flash in the pan with more support in the media than among the grassroots in his party. Like Harris, he’s a flashy presence and he exudes a Bobby Kennedy-esque drive. But he too lacks clarity and substance.
It could be that Harris can still resurrect herself. In last Sunday’s New York Times, political analyst David Leonhardt, who evidently adores her, made the case for a “comeback.”
Leonhardt argues that the current Democratic primary field is “flawed” and there is room for someone else to emerge. This is a dubious contention. In fact, there are now three top tier candidates, Biden, Sanders and Warren, each with a solid hold on a piece of the primary electorate.
Maybe Biden will collapse, and Democratic voters will find Warren and Sanders too leftish to support. More likely, a Biden fade would open the door to former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg or New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who have deferred to the former vice president thus far.
Make no mistake: Harris is still an attractive figure. She has the charisma, passion, and energy to help mobilize the Democratic base, a failure that doomed the part in 2016. But she’s already proven she doesn’t have the strength or experience to go up against Donald Trump alone.
Who knows, if she ends up as the Democrats’ VP candidate—which many secretly hope — maybe she won’t have to.