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Why Kamala Harris Fails

Kamala Harris. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa.

WGBH, a public radio station and NPR affiliate in the Boston area, has published a piece from Callie Crossley lamenting the disappearance of Vice President Kamala Harris – which is about the only point Crossley and I agree: Harris does not feel especially consequential right now.

Otherwise, Crossley and I have very different interpretations of who Kamala Harris is and what she is capable of.

The Crossley piece takes a weirdly favorable and sterilized view of Kamala Harris and her abilities – the type of portrayal you might find in Harris’s own memoir. “To get to this high altitude rung of the political ladder, [Harris] had to muster up Marvel she-ro superpower, Amazon warrior emotional fortitude and chess master strategy,” Crossley wrote. 

Kamala Harris: Don’t Make Her Out to Be a Superstar 

Yeah, that’s Kamala Harris chess master strategist who climbed to the vice presidency with a brilliant strategy.

Pardon my sarcasm but what Crossley seems to have forgotten was Harris’s 2020 presidential campaign, where Harris rolled out a misguided strategy in her bid to win the White House.

That effort, which began with so much pomp and circumstance, ended early in December 2019 thanks to Harris’s inability to poll above three percent and her subsequent inability to raise funds sufficient to extend her campaign.

What Crossley glosses over is that Harris advertised herself as a top-cop prosecutor at a time when the left was calling explicitly for criminal justice reform measures. That was Harris’s strategy to launch herself to the White House.

It was comically misaligned with the zeitgeist. Harris is no master strategist. A master strategist would probably be able to retain a degree of relevance once posted in the vice presidency of the United States of America – something Harris has failed to do.   

A Sexist Attack on Harris? 

Crossley moves on, predictably, to denounce the criticisms leveled against Harris and her vice presidency as “sexist and racist.”

“There’s been a two years-long strident drumbeat by conservative mouthpieces questioning both her competence and leadership,” Crossley wrote. “I recognize the vitriol for what it is: sexist and racist.”

I disagree on several fronts. First of all, the criticism isn’t just coming from conservatives. Democrats are so worried about Harris’s lack of performance and lack of popularity, that observers are starting to question whether Harris should be included as Biden’s running mate on the 2024 ticket; Democrats themselves are beginning to view Harris as a liability. 

And perhaps no one is more critical of Harris than some of the people who worked in her administration, people who at one point dedicated their professional lives to enacting Harris’s policies and bolstering Harris’s image. Allegedly, Harris has created such a dysfunctional, poisonous office culture that she is having trouble retaining staff. Exiting staffers have referred to Harris as deeply insecure and unwilling to put in the preparation necessary to understand complicated policy platforms prior to rolling out those platforms. Granted, exiting staffers are likely to be disgruntled – but the volume of staff turnover is hard to ignore. 

Second, I’ve said it before, I don’t need to get into again, but you can’t just cite racism and sexism whenever someone disagrees with a candidate who in this case happens to be an Asian, black, and female. You can’t just cite racism and sexism even when someone openly dislikes that same candidate. Those are serious charges without much substance behind them.

And it is possible for someone to dislike Harris because of, say, her policies, or even her personality, without it being about race or gender.  

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.