Posted on January 21, 2019

Kamala Harris’ Presidential Run Will Force Democrats to Decide Where They Really Stand on Criminal Justice

Jamilah King, MotherJones, January 21, 2019

It’s finally official: Kamala Harris is running for president.

She made the announcement on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, meaning that the biracial junior senator from California is only the third black woman (after Shirley Chisholm and Carol Moseley-Braun) and second Indian-American (after Bobby Jindal) to make a major party run for the presidency. {snip}

Harris will hold a formal campaign rally in her hometown of Oakland on Sunday, January 27, 2019. Before that, she’ll make a campaign stop in South Carolina to headline a gathering of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the influential black sorority she joined while studying at Howard University in the early 1980’s.

The announcement caps off nearly two full years of speculation about Harris’ political future. She was elected to the Senate in 2016 after winning two terms as California’s attorney general, and serving seven years as district attorney of San Francisco. Almost immediately after she was sworn into federal office in 2017, Harris was branded by pundits, observers, and supporters as a hero and foil to the newly elected President Donald Trump. That positioning had as much to do with her identity — a black woman raised by an Indian immigrant mother and Jamaican-born father, who met while attending civil rights protests in Berkeley in the 1960s — as it did with the promise she made on election night to fight against Trump’s policies.


{snip} She’s also staked her flag on a host of progressive policy issues, including backing Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All, teaming up with Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for a bail reform bill, and sponsoring a historic proposal that would make lynching a federal crime.

But the presidential run will certainly invite the most unfriendly fire of Harris’ career. And it won’t just come from conservatives. {snip} she was a key participant in a system that disproprtionately incarcerates black and Latino men and women.

This criticism was especially pronounced during Harris’ tenure as California attorney general, when she supported laws punishing parents when their children are chronically truant. She was also hammered for prosecuting — some say to the detriment of sex workers — and slammed for being cautious on a host of other matters, including not prosecuting now-Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin for foreclosure violations stemming from his time as CEO of OneWest Bank.


Harris writes that she is fundamentally opposed to “false choices” — including that between being a hard-nosed prosecutor and a black woman whose experiences have taught her about the need for meaningful reform.


For now, supporters are hopeful that Harris can rise to the occasion against Trump, and a host of Democratic challengers, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, and other likely contenders including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, and former Vice President Joe Biden.