At this point, it’s unfair to call yet another drastic shift in Kamala Harris’ policy a “flip-flop.” That would imply that she’s ever held a hard or original position in the first place.
Two years after co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill in the Senate, and a month after launching an incoherent healthcare proposal that would eliminate private insurers within a decade, Harris has staked out another new and completely contradictory position on healthcare. Speaking to billionaire donors in the Hamptons over the weekend, the 2020 hopeful declared that she’s no longer “comfortable” with the Sanders plan she so ardently defended just months prior. Echoing comments from earlier in the week noting that “people want choice,” Harris decided to recommit to capitalism as a virtue and declare that she would in fact allow private insurers to exist.
This kind of equivocation wouldn’t win an election for high school class president, let alone the White House. Perhaps that’s why this proven paper tiger can’t break into the double digits in national polling. Her fourth-place Real Clear Politics average is closer to Andrew Yang and Marianne Williamson than it is to third-place Sanders.
California’s former top cop has not so transparently modeled her campaign after another young, attractive, and black first-term senator. But Barack Obama is not a formula, and Harris’ attempt to float from socialist to moderate and every point in between clearly isn’t pulling across demographics as it did for the former president.
On a granular level, Harris just doesn’t have the policy chops to convince voters she believes in, let alone understands, the proposals she touts. In a race characterized by front runner Joe Biden passionately defending the decidedly liberal policies of the Obama administration against the emphatically centralized proposals of Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Harris doesn’t just come off as unfocused. She comes across as unintelligent.
She could easily counteract her lack of economic understanding by relying on her legal record. But she has no legislative record to run on, and she’d be better off not speaking of her prosecutorial record at all.
Despite having joked she got stoned while listening to Tupac and Snoop Dog – implying that she was already deputy district attorney in Alameda County at the time – she locked up nearly 2,000 Californians for marijuana-related offenses as attorney general.
Reversing a key campaign promise, Harris pushed to apply the state’s “three-strikes” law against non-violent offenders while District Attorney of San Francisco.
She criminalized truancy, leading to the incarceration of multiple parents.
And despite her sudden insistence that basic border enforcement is “inhumane,” Harris supported a law forcing schools to turn illegal immigrant children in to ICE. And her apparent disregard for the presumption of innocence during her staged questioning of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was no product of mere political expedience. In a case with ample exculpatory evidence, Harris refused to vacate an errant rape conviction by an all-white jury against a Ghanian university student, leading to his imprisonment and deportation. (The DNA of the student was not found on the body of the accuser, who obtained a rape kit just hours after the incident. The nurse did however find the semen of her white boyfriend, who was never considered a suspect.)
Not every politician can have as illustrious an origin story as Obama did. But voters may balk at a candidate whose political career was kickstarted by her mayor-boyfriend gifting her with low-effort patronage positions in government that granted her six-figure salaries and a one-way ticket to the top of San Francisco politics.
Harris may look the part of a promising politician, but as her debate meltdown demonstrated, she’s anything but that under the telegenic veneer and half-baked talking points. Prosecutors excel at challenging others by design, as exemplified by her illogical but vicious attack on Biden’s forced busing opposition in the first debate. But as dirty cops tend to do, she crumbles under scrutiny from every angle. She can call herself a liberal all she wants, but she spent decades actively advancing policies that disproportionately targeted society’s most disadvantaged. She may tout the same tax-and-spend and punish-the-wealthy policies as the 2020 socialists, she’s wined and dined with billionaires in Pacific Heights for her entire adult life while Sanders and Warren fly coach.
Right now, three candidates dominate nearly two-thirds of all Democratic primary support. Despite continued assertions from the media that Harris is about to happen, she’s still within a stone’s throw of a Midwestern mayor’s polling. It’s hard to see how that supposedly inevitable “moment” for Harris will ever come.