Throughout the summer, as Joe Biden became the apparent Democratic nominee, rumors surrounding his vice-presidential pick were prevalent throughout the media’s coverage. Joe Biden’s old age was a point of scrutiny, as he could hypothetically be leading the country while being older than 94 percent of its population. (1) Biden’s old age is atypical for a presidential candidate, as Politico reports, “On Aug. 20, the day Biden will accept the Democratic nomination in his bid to become the oldest occupant of the White House.… ” (2) Biden’s old age has put a significant spotlight on his vice-presidential pick. His eventual choice for running mate was the United States senator for the state of California, Kamala Harris. Her record as a prosecutor, combined with her debate-stage attack on Biden’s senatorial work with segregationist senators and his 1970s opposition to busing, made her an unlikely pick for Vice President. However, given that she may be elected vice president in November, it is important to understand her past, and how she might lead the nation moving forward.
Kamala Harris is a longtime political figure in the state of California. As the New York Times reports, “Ms. Harris’s record as a prosecutor—she was the San Francisco district attorney from 2004 to 2011, and the California attorney general from 2011 to 2017—will almost certainly be discussed in the general election....” (3) Her prosecutorial history should be a red flag (pun intended) for anyone who plans to vote blue this upcoming November. The New York Times continues in the report, saying, “Ms. Harris has described herself as a “progressive prosecutor” and argued that it is possible to be tough on crime while also confronting the deep inequities of the criminal justice system...a message that became a key part of her pitch as a presidential candidate...because she knew it “from the inside out.” Harris’s history in criminal justice presents a predicament for liberal Americans in the fall election. How can we call to “abolish the police” while also voting for Biden and Harris? Biden, who, might I add, helped write the 1994 Crime Bill. (4)
Harris’s poor criminal justice record stands in stark opposition to the cries for police reform heard around the United States and the world. The New York Times writes, “As attorney general, she rarely prosecuted police officers who killed civilians, though, by the time she left that office, she had opened some reviews of police departments.” (5) Although Harris claims to be a progressive warrior, advocating for the rights of the working class and families of color, her history as a corrupt prosecutor says otherwise. It is clear that through her political instinct, she understood that in order to be accepted by a new progressive America, she must change her political philosophy.
The Joe Biden and Kamala Harris bid for president represents a Democratic Party that maintains the status quo. Meanwhile, the young base of the Democratic Party represents strong and informed progressive individuals who advocate for sweeping legislation that fundamentally changes the core of the United States, from upending capitalistic tendencies within healthcare to defunding the corrupt state of police work in the United States. Their beliefs don’t seem to align with the Biden-Harris campaign. German Lopez, writing for Vox, gives an example of Biden’s “tough on crime” past: the “Comprehensive Control Act: This 1984 law, spearheaded by Biden and Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-SC), expanded federal drug trafficking penalties and civil asset forfeiture, which allows police to seize and absorb someone’s property...without proving the person is guilty of a crime.”(6) Biden’s history of being tough on crime cannot be ignored. This, coupled with Harris’s past as a corrupt prosecutor, defines the Democratic Party’s future: to uphold the politically corrupt, status quo neoliberal contenders.