Remember back in 1996 when First Lady Hillary Clinton referred to young African-Americans as “superpredators” and insisted we had to “Bring them to heel”? Not a single decent American could get behind such blatantly racist rhetoric then or now. However, twenty-three years later we have to wonder if the same message rebranded will work for Kamala Harris in 2020. If nothing else, I’m sure those small groups of white supremacists at the fringes of society are excited to be able to quote a woman of color when they are developing their racist messaging strategies.
In January, Senator Kamala Devi Harris (D-CA) announced that she was running for president of the United States in the 2020 election. Prior to being elected into office at the same time President Trump was elected into the White House, Harris served as the district attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011 and the attorney general of California from 2011 to 2017. During her campaign for the Senate, Harris ran on a platform that supported Medicare for all, sanctuary cities, legalization of recreational marijuana, lower taxes for the middle class, and higher taxes for the wealthy. However, given the swampy nature of Washington, it is almost impossible to actually discuss her actual effectiveness as an elected official in D.C. So let’s take a look instead at her actions as a self-identified “progressive prosecutor.”
One of the crown jewels of Harris’ time as a prosecutor was championing legislation that made truancy a crime that allowed for the incarceration of parents whose children skipped school. Think about that for a moment. She locked up parents whose kids managed to skip school. Oh, and she laughed about it.
At a speech in 2010, while running for the attorney general post, she told the California Commonwealth Club, “I decided I was going to start prosecuting parents for truancy. Well, this was a little controversial in San Francisco,” and she laughed. She then reiterated a story that ended with the punchline “If you don’t go to school, Kamala’s going to put [your parents] in jail!” She then told a story where she bragged about using the law to threaten a homeless woman with jail time, only dismissing charges after she improved school attendance to her office’s satisfaction. Wow, I guess that is what “progressive prosecution” looks like.
Kamala Harris loves mass incarceration so much that she worked hand-in-hand with then-Governor Jerry Brown to slow down implementation of a United States Supreme Court ruling that declared overcrowded prisons unconstitutional and ordered states to reduce their inmate populations.
The self-identified “progressive prosecutor” also opposed a bill that would have required the Attorney General’s office to investigate police officer-involved shootings. As well, she refused to support statewide standardization of body-cameras for California-based police officers.
For any of you law enforcement professionals who are thinking “Well, to be honest, I like her tough on crime stance,” please remember that in one of her earliest cases as a prosecutor, she refused to seek the death penalty for a man who murdered police officer Isaac Espinoza as he was working undercover. And that isn’t because she opposes the death penalty, because she sure as hell fought hard to protect California’s right to use it. Or that time when, as a district attorney, her office ignored the basic Constitutional rights of American citizens she was prosecuting by covering up the fact that one of her technicians had been tampering with evidence, to include stealing cocaine. This led to 700 cases being dismissed because Harris covered up corruption rather than uphold the law.
Also, let us not forget that she forbid parole officers from enforcing residency restrictions for convicted sex offenders. It is important to note that Senator Harris doesn’t always support the enforcement of law and order, supporting governmental disregard for federal law enforcement stemming from her favoring so-called “sanctuary cities.”