January 9, 2018

IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENS:

The Secret to Understanding Kamala Harris : And why it's making her a flash point in the Democratic Party. (JAMILAH KING, JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2018, Mother Jones)

Harris has long tried to bridge the tricky divide between social progressivism and the work required as a prosecutor--sometimes more successfully than others. As San Francisco's district attorney, for instance, she steadfastly refused to seek the death penalty against a man accused of killing a police officer, but later, as California's attorney general, she defended the state's right to use capital punishment. In 2012, she helped win a massive, $25 billion settlement with Wells Fargo and other financial institutions for foreclosure abuses, but a year later she declined to prosecute Steven Mnuchin's OneWest Bank for foreclosure violations. In 2014, she co-sponsored a bill to outlaw the so-called gay-panic defense in California, a legal strategy that often shielded perpetrators of violent crimes against LGBT people from serious punishment, but a year later she sought to block gender reassignment surgery for a transgender prison inmate.

As a woman of color, she embodies two key Democratic constituencies, and she is beloved by the wing of the party that broke for Hillary Clinton. But among those on the far left, including many die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters, she's an object of disdain, a Hillary-bot with weak progressive credentials. While that segment of the left might oppose anyone who isn't one particular septuagenarian, the Week summed up this critique when it slammed Harris for her "rather Hillary Clinton-esque tendency to say the right thing but not follow through."

The contradiction boils down to this: Harris is not interested in crusading from the outside; her mission is to reform the system from within. And no chapter of her life better reveals this dynamic than her days as a newly elected district attorney in San Francisco, working to get one radical program off the ground. [...]

In 2004, after Harris defeated two-term incumbent Terence Hallinan to become San Francisco's district attorney--the first woman and the first person of color to hold the position--she approached Simon about joining that office.

"I never wanted to work for The Man," Simon says. "And she was like, 'You'd be working for this black woman.'" When Simon demurred, Harris made her case more plainly: "You can bring your advocacy into the office, but do you forever want to be on the stairs yelling and begging for people to support you, your cause? Why can't you fix it from the inside?"

It's a Democratic party where she lacks Bernie's street cred.

Posted by at January 9, 2018 4:20 PM

  

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