Bankole: Don’t cry for Kamala Harris exiting presidential race
A prominent African American politician and a darling of the white liberal establishment has exited the race for president for failing to gain traction with black voters.
Kamala Harris can now return to the U.S. Senate and work to create change from inside the most powerful legislative chamber in the world.
From the day she entered the crowded Democratic presidential field, I knew Harris wasn’t going to go far. It wasn’t because she isn’t a highly educated black woman with the proper credentials.
The problem is Harris’ entire political biography isn’t one that tried to hold the system accountable and forced it to change. She is the personification and defender of a system of justice that many blacks have long derided for its bias in the kind of punitive measures applied to black and brown people who encounter the criminal justice system.
When her record as both former San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general came under serious scrutiny after she entered the presidential race, it reminded me of Hillary Clinton’s bundle of contradictions. She is a status quo Clinton Democrat, not the progressive prosecutor she was made out to be.
As California’s top law enforcement leader, Harris opposed legislation that would have mandated her office to investigate fatal police shootings. She also wavered when asked to support a new statewide requirement for police officers to wear body cameras, which prompted rebuke from the legislative black caucus in that state.
And there are more disappointing actions in her record in California that blacks who are now demanding serious changes in Democratic politics can no longer tolerate.
If Harris’ California record mirrored that of current Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, she would have been a political magnet for black voters. Mosby, an African American, is undertaking a massive reform of the Baltimore criminal justice system. She just announced an indictment of some Baltimore corrections officers on charges related to excessive force and intimidating detainees. Prior to that, she said she was going to ask for 800 criminal cases involving 25 police officers to be thrown out because of a corruption investigation.
But status quo Democrats and their black counterparts prefer politicians like Harris because she fits their own narrow definition of a safe candidate who is a product of the system.
She isn’t going to veer off the white liberal lane and raise enough hell to shock the system that would lead to some groundbreaking changes.
What was most ridiculous about Harris’ campaign is that when she announced her candidacy, some of her surrogates were casting her as a modern-day Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, who was fiercely independent and courageous. I chuckled because some of her supporters either were not good students of history to decipher that she does not come close to Chisholm in terms of political courage, or were simply trying to gaslight us.
Perhaps they failed to grasp the thrust of Chisholm’s 1970 memoir “Unbought and Unbossed,” in which she laid out her political convictions and what must be done to grant relief to millions of people ignored by Washington.
“Our representative democracy is not working because the Congress that is supposed to represent the voters does not respond to their needs,” she wrote in her book.
Chisholm railed against the system. Harris did not.
“My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn’t always discuss for reasons of political expediency,” Chisholm once told supporters.
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