January 28, 2019


Kamala Harris's controversial record on criminal justice, explained: As she launches her presidential campaign, Harris is characterizing herself as a reformer. Critics disagree. (German Lopez,  Jan 23, 2019, Vox)

A close examination of Harris's record shows it's filled with contradictions. She pushed for programs that helped people find jobs instead of putting them in prison, but also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proved innocent. She refused to pursue the death penalty against a man who killed a police officer, but also defended California's death penalty system in court. She implemented training programs to address police officers' racial biases, but also resisted calls to get her office to investigate certain police shootings.

But what seem like contradictions may reflect a balancing act. Harris's parents worked on civil rights causes, and she came from a background well aware of the excesses of the criminal justice system -- but in office, she had to play the role of a prosecutor and California's lawyer. She started in an era when "tough on crime" politics were popular across party lines -- but she rose to national prominence as criminal justice reform started to take off nationally. She had an eye on higher political office as support for criminal justice reform became de rigueur for Democrats -- but she still had to work as California's top law enforcement official.

Her race and gender likely made this balancing act even tougher. In the US, studies have found that more than 90 percent of elected prosecutors are white and more than 80 percent are male. As a black woman, Harris stood out -- inviting scrutiny and skepticism, especially by people who may hold racist stereotypes about how black people view law enforcement or sexist views about whether women are "tough" enough for the job.

Still, the result is the same: As she became more nationally visible, Harris was less known as a progressive prosecutor, as she'd been earlier in her career, and more a reform-lite or even anti-reform attorney general. Now critics have labeled her a "cop" -- a sellout for a broken criminal justice system.

In the 2020 elections, she faces a balancing act again: managing constituencies on the left that will push for more radical reforms, particularly in the Democratic primary, and more centrist voters who may like some of her "tougher" roots as a prosecutor and attorney general, especially in the general election.

...is her biggest nomination stumbling block, but her appeal to women, blacks and moderates means she can lose progressives and still win easily.  She's a female UR but  without the initial street cred.

California's big, but South Carolina may be key in Kamala Harris' presidential run (EVAN HALPER and MARK Z. BARABAK, JAN 25, 2019, LA Times)

It was no coincidence Harris chose this state to make her initial appearance. Nor was the locale an accident: the annual bash thrown by Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation's first sorority founded by African Americans, which Harris pledged as a student at Howard University.

Few states are being as closely studied, sized up and sifted through by the senator's campaign as South Carolina, which has a crucial early place on the 2020 calendar.

South Carolina played a vital role propelling Barack Obama to the White House in 2008, boosting him past Hillary Clinton. The state and its large African American population hold similar promise for Harris, whose parents were immigrants: her father from Jamaica, her mother from India.

South Carolina may be a conservative stronghold. But the Democratic primary electorate is mostly black, serving as a political bellwether for much of the South, where Harris' stature as the first viable black female presidential candidate could position her uniquely well. The party is looking for fresh faces, and the turnout of black women has historically been among the highest of any voter group.

Posted by at January 28, 2019 12:05 AM