Kamala Harris Is Slowly Ruining Her Own Chances
Kamala Harris has a branding problem. In a unique turn of events for a politician of late, though, the problem is not that she has taken a line too hard left or too hard right, but that she is wildly unclear about whether she has taken either.
Harris’ campaign has thus far cast the candidate as a hardline progressive and civil rights leader. She seems to settle far on the left of the Overton window regarding issues such as criminal justice reform, the environment, and the minimum wage. In the same political breath, though, she has been slammed time and time again for her track record as a district attorney in California and as a Senator. While serving in the latter position, Harris issued some notably conservative policy priorities that have caused many to question what her values are. What particularly stings, though, is that when confronted with the hard questions about her actions in the past and vision for the future, Harris often refuses to declare a conviction one way or another, either rejecting the premise of the questions or changing the topic to her more progressive accomplishments.
So at the same time that moderate Republicans recoil from her face-value progressivism, the new Democratic left recoil from her deep-rooted conservatism. But those respective reactions are to be expected from either contingent. She doesn’t need both factions to win a primary or a general election, but she will most likely need one. Kamala Harris’s problem isn’t the lane she has chosen — it’s the fact that she hasn’t yet picked one to stand by.
Kamala Harris is a long-tenured public servant with a track record of experience in both law and governance. It should not be this difficult for any candidate, let alone one with such an establishment-friendly background, to find a base of support among Democratic or independent voters. After all, the race is heating up to replace a president touting, at best, teetering approval. The harsh reaction to Harris’s candidacy rings of a new and non-negotiable demand among the public: authenticity.
Sure, politicians have paid lip service to honesty and integrity since the birth of politics. But now more than ever, the voter base is holding feet to the fire and demanding it. Among the seemingly ever-increasing conversations of leaders and constituents through media platforms, and the meteoric rise of Twitter as an interactive space, authenticity is no longer an ask — it is a must. Constituents and other politicians alike are quicker than ever to fact-check a claim or force a public figure to reckon with their past actions when staking a claim. That means that fence-sitting is no longer an option, and whether a politician likes it or not, they will have to wade their way through their words and actions of the past to prove they are authentic to what they say. This doesn’t mean that one can’t change. To prove oneself can be to apologize and to reconcile, or to revert back to the reputation established in the past. But refusing to do either is exactly what has marred Harris in the rock-and-hard-place zugzwang she currently falls in.
As the Democrats struggle internally to find a face for challenging President Trump in 2020, the best thing Kamala Harris can do is to pick a lane and stick to it. With a Democratic field saturated by left-wingers such as Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke (should he officially declare) who will surely steal the most zealous progressives, and attractive centrists such as Corey Booker and Amy Klobuchar, the middle ground finds itself shockingly empty for the time being. If Harris — or any candidate — refuses to take sides, they will be caught between the sticks without a strong base to speak for.