Who Is Kamala Harris? Pt 3 of Series

Jordan Meadows, Staff Writer

Harris’s journey to the Senate began with a resounding victory in the November 2016 election, where she captured over 60% of the vote, carrying all but four counties in California – becoming the second Black woman and the first South Asian American to hold the position.

Her campaign, endorsed by President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, promised to protect immigrants from the divisive policies of the incoming administration led by President-elect Donald Trump. Vice President Biden administered her Senate oath.

One of Harris’s earliest stands was against the controversial Muslim ban proposed by the Trump administration. She vocally opposed this policy, highlighting the discriminatory nature of targeting individuals based on their religion, race, or ethnicity.

Harris’s prosecutorial background came to the forefront during her tenure in the Senate, particularly in her rigorous questioning of administration officials. From Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Harris’s inquiries were marked by their incisiveness.

Harris gained much of her notability by her questioning of Supreme Court nominees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

At that time, Kamala Harris was still fairly fresh in the political arena, contemplating a potential presidential bid. Her interrogation of Kavanaugh on issues such as abortion and his alleged discussions regarding the Mueller investigation with President Trump’s attorney resonated strongly with progressives and Democratic supporters both online and in mainstream culture. This move bolstered her standing just months ahead of the primary campaign for president.

One of the most impassioned and viral moments came during her questioning of Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen regarding the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

Harris’s role in the Senate extended beyond domestic issues to encompass global human rights concerns. Teaming up with Senators Marco Rubio and Kirsten Gillibrand, she urged the Trump administration to investigate the persecution of Uyghur Muslims in China by the Chinese Communist Party.

Harris spearheaded legislation such as the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act, which aimed to address historical injustices and make lynching a federal hate crime. Harris’s pointed questioning regarding U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr’s handling of the Mueller report exemplified a commitment to ensuring government accountability – especially when given political incentive.

Harris’s tenure in the Senate was not without challenges, including being targeted in mail bombing attempts. She also faced criticism, with some attributing it to sexism, racism, and unfair media coverage, about her tendency to laugh during tense moments and evade direct questions with lengthy responses.

During her time in the Senate, as well as when she kicked off her bid for the presidential nominee, Harris’s positions often leaned further left than President Biden’s. Harris was an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion, predating the formal recognition of these principles in more recent times.

“First and foremost, we need every medical school in the country to require implicit bias training for their students...We also need medical schools to focus proactively on bringing more diversity into the field,” Harris said.

Additionally, Harris foresaw the impending challenges posed by automation on the job market, warning of an imminent crisis with millions of jobs at stake due to the rise of artificial intelligence.

“With the rise of artificial intelligence, we are likely to face an automation crisis in this country, with millions of jobs on the line,” Harris said.

Addressing the threat of cyber warfare, Harris emphasized its insidious nature and the challenges of anticipating its consequences before they unfold. Drawing parallels to the 2016 election interference, where Russia masqueraded as American entities to sway the election, Harris stressed the need for vigilance. In 2017, she collaborated with fellow senators to introduce the Secure Elections Act.

Within the initial 24 hours of announcing her candidacy for president in January 2019, she matched a fundraising record previously set by Bernie Sanders in 2016.

During the inaugural Democratic presidential debate, Harris confronted former Vice President Joe Biden for his “hurtful” remarks, particularly his nostalgic comments about senators who opposed integration efforts in the 1970s and his collaboration with them to counter mandatory school busing. Following this exchange, Harris experienced a notable surge in support, with polls indicating an increase of between six and nine points.

However, amid growing concerns among progressives regarding the criminal justice system, Harris faced scrutiny for her past tough-on-crime policies while serving as California’s attorney general. During the presidential primary debates, Tulsi Gabbard and Kamala Harris clashed over allegations regarding Harris’s handling of prisoner releases.

Gabbard accused Harris of keeping prisoners incarcerated beyond their sentences, prompting Harris to clarify that while lawyers in her attorney general office did argue against the early release of prisoners, citing the necessity of inmate firefighting labor, she claimed to have been unaware of these actions and publicly criticized the statement when it came to light.

Criticism intensified for her office’s failure to disclose crucial information in about 1,000 drug cases in 2010 when she was the DA of San Francisco. Harris’s office even accused the judge of bias due to her marriage to a defense attorney. However, Harris later assumed responsibility, acknowledging in an interview with the Washington Post that “the buck stops with me.”

Despite fundraising and polling struggles in her bid for the presidential nomination, Harris continued to attract broad support by obtaining the endorsement of labor union United Farm Workers, the Congressional Black Caucus, and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

By the end of 2019, Harris had officially ended her campaign for president, after stating she did not have enough funding to continue. And by mid-March 2020, Harris would endorse the newly emerged leader in the primary, Joe Biden. Harris, along with former national security advisor Susan Rice, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, were on Biden’s final shortlist for Vice President. 

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