There are a lot of articles and even lists (and, yes, listicles) about Senator Kamala Harris’ worst actions and decisions, primarily as a prosecutor in San Francisco and the Attorney General of California. Let me be quite clear: I hate a number of things that Harris has done and a number of positions she’s taken in the past.
THAT SAID: when you’re considering all the bad crap in one of those lists, consider that it is, quite literally, harder for women of color to get elected in the USA than for a white man with the exact same resume and political positions. A LOT harder. You can only rock the boat so much and still be electable because of the way the USA’s plutocratic electoral system operates. Black skin rocks the boat. Being female rocks the boat. Being a woman rocks the boat. That leaves Harris dramatically less leeway to rock the boat with her actions or positions and still get elected. She has to take conventional positions on a number of issues to get to the position where she might be considered as a VP candidate.
In other words, white men are allowed to be more liberal and still get elected than black women are.In other, other words, you would never have gotten a VP-candidate Harris if Harris had not taken those positions that we progressives so roundly criticize.
This does not excuse those positions in any way…
HOWEVER: the only way to normalize the election of women of color is to elect women of color. The more Black women and Asian women and mixed-race women we have as POTUS or VPOTUS or SCOTUS Justice or Senate Majority Leader or Speaker of the House or SecState or SecDefense, the less merely being Black, merely being Asian, merely being mixed-race, or merely being a woman rock the damn boat.
Every woman of color we elect makes it easier to elect the next woman of color. Every woman the senate confirms to those precious few high offices makes it easier to confirm the next woman of color. Every single woman of color who takes up one of these offices makes the next woman of color a little bit more free to take up left-wing causes of justice that would otherwise be represented in the halls of power only by white men.
I’ve fought for trans* rights for more than 25 years now. I’m appalled at her positions on trans* health care and on prisoner health care more generally. (As AG she wasn’t responsible for the prisons directly, but she was responsible for California’s responses to prisoner lawsuits.) I’m disgusted that she has sought to imprison innocent people to save face for the flawed human beings who work within the justice system rather than openly embracing the ideal that embarrassing justice is so much better than face-saving injustice that there should be no difficulty choosing what’s best for our country and our community.
But I’m also not naive enough to think that her anti-health care, anti-prisoner, anti-justice, pro-punishment positions are somehow right wing. They are the status quo we’re trying to fight, but they are the status quo. They are conventional positions in the contemporary United States. I feel the wounds acutely because she has targeted me and people I care about, but even in my pain I am sufficiently clear-headed to say this:
If we ever want a multi-cultural democracy where a woman of color, maybe even a queer or trans woman of color, can hold one of our highest offices while advocating justice over punishment, health care over tax cuts, prisoners over profits, then we sure as fuck need to elect Kamala Harris. We need to elect so many goddamned Kamala Harrises that they seem positively boring. We want to elect so many that conservatives whine about the good old days when the President exempted all assets under USD$100,000,000 from the wealth tax instead of just $50,000,000, subsidized rural electrical self-sufficiency, compensated for-profit prison companies when drug law reform caused their prisons to run unprofitably below capacity, and even wore a flag pin proudly on her lapel. We want them to forget that they used to oppose any wealth tax, that they thought solar panels were tyranny until the feds helped rural homes run electric-bill free and immune to black outs, that our federal prison population in 2040 is less than 1/3 of what it was in 2020, and that flag pins are just symbols.
When we accomplish that, then we can get the 85 million votes we’ll then need to elect a Black woman POTUS whose policies are to the left of Sherrod Brown and whose passion is more powerful than Bernie Sanders and whose voice, when crying out against miscarriages of justice, is more shrill than Hillary fucking Clinton’s.
We need Kamala Harris desperately; the fact that she’s a conventional politician only proves how much.
And this is the perfect year for her as well. You can’t put Bernie on the ticket with Biden and get a left-wing White House. Biden is still gonna Biden. You sure as hell can’t reelect Trump. But you can put a Black woman’s skin in front of the country as the every day appearance of one of the USA’s leading political figures. You can send the message, repeatedly for at least 4 years, that Vice President Kamala Harris is what power looks like. You can help normalize the exercise of power by women of color to the point where our media, our Senate, our democracy, our metaphorical-fucking-boat is not rocked off balance by the few hectograms of mass found in two black tits.
You may hate it. I don’t like it, but the USA is so fucked up that electing this Black/Indian Californian prosecutor who defended bad crime labs and opposed basic health care is actually a really, really, really good fucking thing for the country.
Even I’m not white enough to miss that.