Vice President Kamala Harris is being criticized for her attempt to define “culture” last week during the 2023 Essence Festival on Culture.
Kamala Harris was at the event to talk about small businesses and abortion – but during a panel discussion, Harris was asked to define culture, and the results were pretty good.
“Culture is – it is a reflection of our moment and our time. Right? And present culture is the way we express how we’re feeling about the moment and we should always find times to express how we feel about the moment. That is a reflection of joy. Because you know…it comes in the morning,” Harris said as she started to laugh. She continued. “We have to find ways to also express the way we feel about the moment in terms of just having language and a connection to how people are experiencing life. And I think about it in that way, too.”
Kamala Harris, I award you no points
Harris’s response harkens the 1995 Adam Sandler film Billy Madison, when the title character, a high school drop-out, attempts to answer a moderated debate question about the Industrial Revolution with a rambling answer about a puppy-themed children’s book. The moderator’s response could apply to Harris’s attempt to define culture.
“At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points and may God have mercy on your soul.”
“Okay, a simple “wrong” would’ve done just fine,” Billy Madison responds.
Cut her some slack
I joke. It was a terrible answer, but come on. Could you define “culture” on the spot like that with a microphone in your face? The response is indeed a “word salad” as Fox pointed out, but as anyone whose ever been caught off guard with a weird question – on the record – knows that sometimes one’s mouth just starts talking and you sit back and you hope what comes out is coherent.
But seriously, define culture? It’s a tough question if you’re not expecting it. Harris’s mistake wasn’t in her word choice but in in trying to answer the thing in the first place. She laughs halfway through because she knows she has completely botched it and she knows it really doesn’t matter. She was probably laughing because in that moment, she glimpsed the future: a Fox News headline that rated Harris, an attorney and Vice President, the ‘dumbest human alive’ or something similarly hyperbolic and rude.
Listen, I’m not a huge Kamala Harris fan. She doesn’t have my vote. I’m not necessarily impressed with her intellect.
And it’s true, her attempt to define culture is fully incoherent. But it just doesn’t indicate anything we didn’t already know. Harris is not super smooth. I’ve got a feeling most of her responses are well rehearsed and that when she gets a question she’s not expecting she has a tendency to go off the rails.
But I’m more concerned with Harris’s ability to govern; I’m more concerned with her belief system.
How she defines culture on the spot doesn’t mean that much to me, nor does her general ability to be smooth on camera or on stage.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer 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.