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Democrats Are Already Fighting About Kamala Harris, and They Need to Stop

We’re only eight months into Donald Trump’s presidency, and the left is already fighting over who will run against him in 2020. While no official candidates have been announced, there’s speculation that Senator Kamala Harris (D-C.A.) is an early frontrunner. One faction cheers her on as a vocal opponent of the Trump administration, who asked some tough questions during confirmation hearings earlier this year—and was repeatedly silenced by her white, male colleagues. Another faction sees her as too moderate, with the kiss of death “ties to Wall Street” and a not-progressive-enough record as a prosecutor.

So far, the conversation around Harris has played out, over and over, something like this: A progressive digs up an unsavory detail of Harris’ record, and questions whether she’s the best person to lead the Democrats against Trump. A more mainstream Democrat calls that progressive racist and/or sexist, saying that Harris wouldn’t face the same scrutiny if she weren’t a black woman. Another progressive chimes in to point out that it’s not just so-called “Bernie Bros” who have a problem with Harris, and that the criticism of her has nothing to do with her demographics and everything to do with her record. Another mainstream Democrat accuses the progressives of divisiveness and declares that the left will lose in 2020 if we don’t unite behind a candidate. Everyone walks away feeling that they’ve made their point, and no progress is made.

The thing is, all four of these perspectives is a little bit right.

First of all, no, it’s not racist or sexist to dig through the political record of a potential presidential nominee. Anyone who’s being considered for the country’s highest office, and to represent the Democratic party’s opposition to Trump, will be—and should be—subject to scrutiny. And there are things in Harris’ record that are worth examining closely. For example, as a prosecutor, she conspicuously declined to prosecute Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s old company OneWest for what The Week called “numerous instances of almost certain illegal foreclosure,” and then got a donation from Mnuchin in 2016. She defended the death penalty, and California’s extremely punitive three-strikes law, which imposes life sentences for repeated offenses, even if they’re all minor. She also led the charge against Backpage, the online classifieds site used by sex workers to make their jobs safer. It makes sense that the left, for which criminal justice reform is a major issue, would be skeptical of Harris.

But the resistance to the resistance to Harris isn’t about whether it’s racist or sexist to raise any concerns. It’s a reaction to what looks like early warning signs that the far left will do to Harris what it did to Hillary Clinton; dig their heels in and refuse to accept a standard bearer that’s less than perfect. It looks like the beginning of the kind of infighting and division that lost us the last election, and could lose us the next one, too, if we’re not careful. It’s less about not wanting her to be criticized at all, and more about pleading with the divided left to agree on someone so that we don’t have to live through seven-and-a-half more years of Trump. And yes, the fact that Clinton and Harris are women, and that Harris is black, are undeniable factors in just how much scrutiny they’re subject to—that can be true without it being racist or sexist to ever criticize either of them at all. But anyone who still believes that sexism had nothing to do with Clinton’s loss, and even the hatred for her within her own party, is deluded.

So the real question is, can we vet Harris (or any other non-white-male candidate), examining her record and raising legitimate concerns, without Clinton-ing her? That is, without getting so caught up in demanding perfection from our own candidate that we self-immolate and leave ourselves stuck with Trump? A perfect candidate would be great, but there’s no such thing. Also apparently in the running are Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, neither of which is any better suited than Harris to pass the progressive purity test. We could always run Bernie Sanders again and prove once and for all whether he “would have won,” but even Saint Sanders is not without his flaws.

The criticism of Clinton was warranted, just as the criticism of Harris is. And during the primary process (or in this case, before it even starts), it makes sense to poke holes in any candidate’s carefully focus-grouped façade, to demand the best and ferret out any potential shortcomings. We should be doing all of that with Harris, just like we should have done it with Clinton. But once Clinton was the candidate, the more progressive wing of the party, who wanted Sanders, didn’t stop that primary-phase nit picking. We should be critical of Harris now, but if she does turn out to be the best candidate (or, truly, if she ends up the nominee, regardless of whether a more progressive favorite loses out) we desperately, crucially, need to stop fighting amongst ourselves about what exactly a progressive utopian reimagining of the United States would look like, and what kind of Platonic ideal leader we’d like to see at the helm.

Let’s do our due diligence, vet the candidates and pick one to rally behind. Let’s not destroy each other before the election even starts.

Article source: https://www.glamour.com/story/democrats-fighting-kamala-harris-2020

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