Democrats are panicking. In the wake of his many gaffes and shaky debate performances, many view front-runner Joe Biden as unable to go the distance, and unlikely to beat Donald Trump if he succeeds in winning the Democratic nomination. Which of the more than 20 other candidates in the race would be a better bet, they wonder?
This is where the angst sets in. Elizabeth Warren is too radical, Bernie Sanders too angry, Beto too absurd, Mayor Pete too young, Cory Booker too annoying, which leaves….Kamala Harris. She’s tough, she can debate, as a woman of color she checks numerous boxes, and she is whispered to be the pick of Barack Obama.
But -- and it is a big but – Harris used to work in law enforcement. By definition, that makes her suspect.
Just as President Trump has been called a racist by some, in part because he wants to check the flow of illegal immigrants into the country, Harris is under scrutiny for her work as a district attorney and then-attorney general in California.
In the second round of debates, Tulsi Gabbard took on Harris for her past career as a prosecutor. The representative from Hawaii said that Harris “put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana.”
Gabbard went on to cite other misdeeds allegedly perpetrated by Harris, including blocking “evidence that would have freed an innocent man from death row until the courts forced her to do so.”
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Gabbard did not directly accuse Harris of racism, but she didn’t need to. For today’s Democrats, who seem to throw around the “r” word like confetti, enforcing the law is viewed as racist. For that we can thank Barack Obama, who, in the wake of some highly publicized deaths of black men at the hands of police, convinced the country that our justice system was inherently biased.
In 2016, he said, “These are not isolated incidents. They are symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system.”
That claim, according to his FBI Chief James Comey, was not backed up by evidence. As Comey told a gathering of police officials in 2016, “It is a narrative that has formed, in the absence of good information and in the absence of actual data, and it is this: Biased police are killing black men at epidemic rates.” Comey added that Americans “actually have no idea whether the number of black people or brown people or white people being shot by police” is rising or declining.
The narrative that the police and our Justice Department are guilty of bias has taken hold, undermining confidence in our law enforcement agencies. That is a problem for Harris, and it is also a problem for former vice president Joe Biden.
No matter. The narrative that the police and our Justice Department are guilty of bias has taken hold, undermining confidence in our law enforcement agencies. That is a problem for Harris, and it is also a problem for former vice president Joe Biden.
Cory Booker, during the second Democratic debate, assailed Biden for his past support of the 1994 crime bill which was signed into law by Bill Clinton. Booker, who was mayor of the mainly black city of Newark, claimed the bill’s tough-on-crime provisions “destroyed communities like mine”.
The reality is the 1994 bill was passed at a time when, as the BBC reported, “violent crime was seen as out of control in the US. Starting in 1987, the homicide rate in the US was increasing by 5% each year... Robbery and assault rates had exploded beginning in the late 1960s, and the crack cocaine epidemic was devastating the nation's urban centres.”
The 1994 bill, which enjoyed widespread bipartisan support, helped lower crime rates, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, but also did put a great many black men in prison.
Facts are immaterial. As far as today’s progressives are concerned, law enforcement agencies and the people who have worked with them to rein in crime, like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, are racist.
In fact, Biden threw Booker’s accusations back at him, charging him with presiding over a police department that used “stop-and-frisk,” an effective but now controversial tactic that some see as racial profiling.
Charging Harris with racism would seem absurd on its face, but in politics, anything goes and the scramble to win black votes is intense.
The California senator has been focusing her campaigning in South Carolina, where two thirds of primary voters are black. Given her Jamaican father, she had hoped the third primary state to vote would provide her a launchpad. But according to RealClearPolitcs, she is stuck at 11 percent in the Palmetto state, way behind Biden at 37 percent. Her standing has barely budged in the past six months and having to defend her law enforcement record in the debates did not help.
Nationally, Biden also has a whopping lead with black voters, according to a Quinnipiac poll, claiming 53 percent of their vote compared to only 8 percent for Bernie Sanders and 7 percent for Kamala Harris. Helping former Veep Biden overcome his association with the crime bill is his time in the White House with Barack Obama, who remains popular with African-Americans.
The polling will surely change in coming months, but, meanwhile, Democrats’ portraying our justice system as biased is damaging not only to Harris’ chances but also to our safety and our country.
Videos of cops being doused with buckets of water on the streets of New York City should send a chill, reminding us that today’s skepticism about policing has consequences; a lack of respect for law enforcement could quickly see crime increase.
The law-and-order pendulum may have swung too far in the past, which provided the impetus for recent criminal justice reform. But Democrats need to think twice about undermining the credibility and work of first responders.
And, about undermining Kamala Harris, who may well be the best candidate Democrats have.