Indian-Origin Senator Kamala Harris Could Be US Prez – Who Is She?
Most people know US Senator Kamala Harris as the first person of colour and the first woman to hold post of Attorney-General of California, the first south Asian and second black woman to be elected to the US Senate – but she’s stamped her ambition on another first, by joining the race to be the next president of the United States.
Harris declared her candidacy for the elections in 2020, on Monday, 21 January – Martin Luther King day, in what many say is a nod to her Jamaican heritage.
The news of Harris’ candidacy comes amid an unusually woman-heavy Democratic field of candidates, with biggies like US Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, and Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii also having tossed their hats into the ring.
According to CNN’s power rankings, Kamala ranks number one in the Democratic field for 2020.
So here’s what you need to know about Kamala Harris.
First, the Bad
Despite Harris’ selection as Presidential candidate, many – even in her own party – had criticised her for being weak on the criminal justice reform system and been accused of not being the “progressive prosecutor” she presents herself to be.
In a scathing New York Times op-ed, Harris was chastised for a number of issues that the author said proved she was hardly progressive. Some of these include appealing a county ruling that the death penalty was unconstitutional, championing legislation that would punish parents of ‘habitually truant’ children despite concerns this would disproportionately affect low-income families, opposing a bill that would require her to investigate all shootings involving officers, and refusing to support standards to regulate use of body-cameras worn by police officers – all positions she was criticised from the Left for.
Harris has offered a defence, saying many of the positions she took were out of obligation towards her clients who she ‘couldn’t fire’, but critics maintain that this is insufficient to explain away many of her illiberal positions.
Harris also faced criticism for defending misconduct by prosecutors and sheriff's deputies. Her refusal to prosecute Steve Mnuchin, then the head of California's OneWest Bank, who had been accused of potentially illegal foreclosure practices that led to the financial crisis (where the state faced a shortfall of at least USD 11.2 billion, that was projected to top USD 40 billion between 2009–2010), despite extracting $20 billion from Wall Street to compensate the California homeowners – amid many other instances that worked against her, an article by Business Insider claimed.
Now, the Good
Despite the criticism she has faced during her tenure as Attorney General of California, she has still managed to gain a favourable rating among her party – with 40 percent of Democrats holding a favorable opinion of her, compared to the 4 percent who weren’t in her favour, The New York Times quoting a a Quinnipiac University poll conducted in mid-December, reported.
Harris’ strong support for the legalisation of gay marriage, as well as her speeches regarding the importance of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, gained her a massive base of support among Democrats.
One of the most powerful statements she had made on gay marriage, which won her great favour among the community, was:
Harris proclaims to favour the ‘left’ ideology as per her presidential campaign, and has now been an active supporter of measures such as providing basic monthly incomes to low-income families, “Medicare for All”, and legalisation of recreational marijuana.
She spoke about changing the education system to lessen the debt on those seeking a college degree, allowing tax-breaks to middle-class and working families, promoting environmental sustainability, and equal rights for all American citizens. Speaking of her vision for the future, she said:
A Fiery Liberal Voice
While interrogating Brett Kavanaugh, former Supreme Court Justice who was accused of multiple cases of harassment, Harris delivered a moving speech on how important it is to have the right people on a seat as important as a Supreme Court Justice.
In the same hearing, she also had a tense interaction with Kavanaugh that was lauded by Democrats.
Or when she schooled Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of Homeland Security for saying that she ‘didn’t know’ if Norway was ‘predominantly white’ when asked, during the furore over Trump’s infamous “sh*thole countries” comment. Harris lashed out at Nielsen, saying that her selective ignorance of an issue as important as this caused her concern about Nielsen’s job, and whether she was fit for carrying out the duties of Secretary of Homeland Security at all.
In another hard-hitting speech about women, Harris had said, “When you lift up women, you life up families, you lift up communities and you lift up economies and you life up America.”
In 1998, after graduating from Brown University and getting her law degree from the University of California, Harris joined the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office, where she was made in-charge of the Career Criminal Unit.
In 2003, she was selected as the District Attorney of the City and County of San Francisco.
She held the post till 2011, until she assumed a greater role in 2017 as the junior United States Senator for California.
Harris, 54, was born in Oakland in 1964 to an Indian mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer scientist and a Jamaican father, Donald Harris, an economics professor at Stanford University. Her sister, Maya Harris, was one of three senior policy advisers who were appointed to lead the development of an agenda for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.
What Will a Kamala Presidency Look Like?
In her article published on Medium, Harris lashed out current President Donald Trump’s policies regarding immigration, and his propagating an America filled with “white supremacists”.
However, she emphasised that her campaign was not directed against Trump and his policies, but rather a focus on bringing about a better country for its people.
Going by her popularity among all age groups of Democrat voters, women of colour and her status as a LGBTQ favourite, as well as the fact that a good 40 percent of her party greatly welcomes her policies and her candidacy, Harris is considered one of the frontrunners for the presidential race.
Will this be enough to get her to win the seat of 46th President of the United States? Time will tell!
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