It looks like Kirsten Gillibrand may have some competition in the 2020 primary in terms of who can flip-flop the most on their positions. California Senator Kamala Harris recently came out in favor of the legalization of prostitution. That’s fine, and certainly not an outlier position in the Democratic Party. But she clearly didn’t always feel that way. The Free Beacon digs up some old video of her on CNN explaining why decriminalization would be a bad move, leaving some of the most vulnerable open to exploitation. And to add spice to this stew, she was set up to debate a sex worker with a rather interesting moniker.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) went on with CNN host Mike Galanos to argue against a proposal to decriminalize prostitution in San Francisco in 2008, when she was the city’s attorney general. (The presidential candidate came out last week in favor of legalizing prostitution.)
Harris was pitted during the July 2008 segment against a bisexual sex worker named Starchild, an advocate for the legislative proposal to decriminalize prostitution, which Harris opposed. Harris was clear in her remarks, captured by a local blog, that legalizing prostitution could have a negative impact on the San Francisco community.
“We want to have a society that protects the vulnerable and does not allow people to be exploited,” Harris said. “Decriminalizing prostitution is simply not going to achieve that.”
Here’s the video of the exchange with a male sex worker that went by the name of “Starchild.” Let’s just say it’s a bit awkward in the context of 2019 politics.
Keep in mind that we’re not talking about ancient history here. This was all unfolding in 2008, when Harris was 44 years old and had been serving in various district attorney roles since 1990, almost two decades earlier. These weren’t youthful positions she took fresh out of college and went on to later reconsider. Also, she didn’t really show any signs of backing down on her prostitution stance until quite recently.
So is this some type of moment of revelation where Harris is reevaluating her old positions in light of new information she’s received? Or is she just pulling a Gillibrand and adopting what’s popular with the party’s base at the moment? Lacking the requisite mind-reading skills I can’t say for sure, but it’s certainly a conveniently timed move.
In some ways, I can have a bit more sympathy for Harris than I do for Gillibrand. As a District Attorney or Attorney General, she was tasked with enforcing the laws as they are written, whether she personally agreed with them or not. And that might even involve going out and defending those laws in public. But in the video clip above, she certainly at least seems to be sincere in her belief that decriminalization could lead to more abuse.
The entire prostitution question is one where I personally tend to veer off the beaten path taken by many conservatives. It’s pretty much a given that the government is never going to be successful when it comes to enforcing morality through legislative means. As long as the person in question is an adult making their own choice about it, the world’s oldest profession appears largely to be a victimless crime, and people should be allowed to decide what they do with their own bodies if they aren’t harming anyone else, whether society frowns on their morals or not.
When girls and women are being trafficked into the trade, however, either through force or coercion, there’s definitely a crime taking place. But it’s the pimps and the traffickers who need to be held to account. I’m not going to spend all day harping on this well-worn topic, however. The question before the Democratic base is whether or not Kamala Harris is sincere in this new position or simply saying what she thinks they want to hear. In this case, truth, like beauty, will remain in the eye of the beholder.