Harris' history on law and order is more than "complicated"

Harris' history on law and order is more than "complicated"

Before getting to the meat of the subject at hand, I just wanted to take a moment and make one observation that’s been tugging at the back of my mind since last night. It was really brought into focus by a tweet from one of NBC’s reporters this morning, showing the headline in Harris’ hometown paper.

“Harris Makes History as Biden’s Pick for VP”

At the risk of picking nits here, is it really Kamala Harris who “made history” yesterday or Joe Biden? (Assuming that we’re seeing history in the making, of course.) If it’s the former, what did Harris actually, you know… do to “make history?” In reality, she ran a simply awful primary campaign that never gained any serious, lasting momentum and wound up quitting before the voting even started. And then, in this historic moment, she had to be plucked back out of the crowd by the same elderly, white, straight, Christian cisgender male who thoroughly trounced her in the race. Hey, I’m just saying…

Moving on. In the hours following Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate (and likely replacement if the beliefs of a majority of the country prove prescient) there were immediate questions popping up as to how she would define herself for her latest political incarnation. Is she still the “law and order” candidate that locked up tens of thousands of persons of color in California as Attorney General? Or will she now bill herself as a soft-on-crime friend to the lawless masses taking to the streets to demand reform, defunding and/or abolishment of the police? Hey… why not both?

As far as her tough-on-crime reputation goes, the LA TImes explored her history last October when she was still running for the nomination. Her time as a prosecutor during California’s “lock ’em up era” is well documented. She remained a proponent of the death penalty throughout her law enforcement career despite the fact, as the Times points out, that it’s disproportionately used on persons of color. She was part of the team supporting Republican Governor Pete Wilson in 1994 when he famously declared, “We’re going to start turning career criminals into career inmates.” (At least until she took a leave of absence to serve on some choice board positions that her boyfriend, California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, lined up for her.)

But more recently, Harris has shown signs of having an entirely new attitude. As Fox News has already pointed out, while Minneapolis was going up in flames, Harris broadcast her support for a group providing bail money for “protesters.” But the group was bailing out far more than just demonstrators, including people accused of murder, rape and any number of other violent crimes.

A new FOX 9 report shows that among the people helped by the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) – which received donations from a number of Joe Biden campaign staffers as it saw a $35 million fundraising windfall in the weeks after Floyd’s death – are Darnika Floyd, who was charged with second-degree murder after allegedly stabbing a friend to death, and Christopher Boswell, who is facing charges of sexual assault and kidnapping.”

“FOX 9 also reported that Jaleel Stallings, who is accused of shooting at police during the May riots, was bailed out by MFF for $75,000. Donovan Boone, who was charged with invading the home of his ex and choking her, was bailed out for $3,000.”

This is the dilemma that Biden faces after naming Harris as his running mate. Much of the country is very nervous about the rise of violence and unrest in the cities, particularly as it threatens to move into the suburbs. But the progressive base uncle Joe needs to turn out in huge numbers if he hopes to win want to see support for the riots and a leash put on the police. So who is Kamala Harris this month? Who will she be in November and over the next four years?

I suppose the shortest and easiest answer is that she’s a politician. So she’ll be whoever you want her to be so long as you vote for Joe. But if she winds up being sworn in as the Veep and possibly the President after that, we’ll learn once and for all what she really stands for.

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