Brick by brick, Kamala Harris has methodically built a staircase to success, and on Tuesday she strutted to the top of it, as Joe Biden tapped her as his running mate.
Harris is the first woman of color to be nominated for this position in either of the two major parties’ histories. I would love it if I could follow that sentence up with a rah-rah-woman chant, I really would. Harris is clearly sharp as a tack, driven, and a hard worker — all traits that I admire. But those attributes can only be applauded when they are used for good. With Harris, I am sorry to tell you that is not the case.
Kamala Harris’s career ascension was built with the bricks of injustice, misfortune, and the corruption of the prison industrial complex.
Many people know Harris began her career as a prosecutor. For those who spend their days doing better things than slugging around state capitols, you might not know that prosecutors are among the only consistent, organized opposition to criminal justice reform in this country. From there, Harris followed a typical career path for ambitious prosecutors: assistant district attorney, district attorney, state attorney general, senator, and now vice-presidential nominee. At every step along the way, she has used her positions of power to work against the individual and to entrench the power of the state.
Harris initially ran as a progressive prosecutor, even promising to never seek the death penalty. But once in office, she governed quite differently. She challenged the ruling of a judge who found the state’s death penalty unconstitutional (while she declined to defend other statutes). She advocated for harsher penalties and sought aggressive sentences.
She didn’t just proceed over violent cases with an iron fist. After she was elected, reviews of drug cases jumped 25%. She worked to block some drug offenders from successful diversion programs, forcing excessively punitive responses. In later years, she was caught publicly laughing about her own prior marijuana usage.
In between advocating for harsher penalties (including some truly bonkers repercussions for truancy), privacy violations like familial DNA searches, and civil asset forfeiture, Harris even found time to block new DNA evidence from being tested for a potentially innocent death-row inmate, Kevin Cooper.
It should not go without comment that California’s justice system is one of the biggest hot messes in the country, highlighting the fact that Harris’s policies were both punitive and unsuccessful at producing better public safety outcomes. They also greatly harmed communities of color.
Systemic racism courses throughout our justice system, and the cracks in the foundations have never been more visible than this summer. We need new architects, new designs, new visionaries. Instead, Joe Biden’s running mate is one of the builders of the original flawed construction.
Hannah Cox (@HannahCox7) is a libertarian-conservative activist and a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog.