Critical policy: misunderstood, set up to stumble – or neither? Making sense of Kamala Harris’ position

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This is the July 7, 2021 edition of the Essential Politics newsletter. Do you like what you read ? Sign up to receive it in your inbox three times a week.

Is the Biden administration vice president Kamala harris ready to fail? Is she a historical figure but “not so interesting” as a politician? Are white liberals, despite their rhetoric, “shy” when it comes to raising women and women of color?

As Harris enters what could be a turbulent period of his vice-presidency, we begin to see thoughtful and quite provocative analyzes of both her record and her position as the first black and Asian woman and person to hold office.

“Fairly traditional” politician

Hello and welcome to Essential Politics: Kamala Harris Edition. Today I want to review two of the articles that I found particularly stimulating: a Washington Post column by Perry Bacon Jr. titled “We Should Rethink The Way We Think About Vice President Harris” and a New York Times op-ed by a political scientist Christina greer with the title “Dear Kamala Harris: it’s a trap!

Whatever your take on Harris, I recommend you read both.

As the title of his column suggests, Bacon maintains that Harris is misunderstood. He writes that while she may have a “very interesting” biography and streak of crossing borders, she has had a “fairly traditional” political career, climbing the ranks from local to state to national office.

Her second point is that Harris is a better politician than you might think, a perception gap created by her poor performance in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

Bacon would find much agreement from those who have followed Harris’ career over the past two decades. Like many politicians, she benefited from good timing and skill – weaving her way through the delicate mix of more traditional Liberal and Democratic politics from San Francisco, then California, including juggling the demands from activists and the police while winning elections as state attorney and attorney general.

Instinct to please competing political interests arouses mistrust in some quarters. And it ultimately seemed to stumble her in the 2020 primary, when she tried to divide the difference between progressives who supported Medicare for All and more moderate Democrats who believed in Vermont Sen. Bernie sandersThe single-payer health care system was a political loser.

Her flexibility on this issue – and the broader feeling that she was not an ideologue – arguably helped her when she was chosen as President Bidenis running mate. She was able to blur the differences in her record in a way that Sen. Elizabeth warren (D-Mass.) And others may have found it more difficult.

But now that Harris has problems with polls and public perception, as I reported last week, Democrats are increasingly concerned about his political ability. The question many are asking, even if they agree that she is a good politician, is whether she is a great one – able to lead the ticket when Biden leaves the stage. Biden, 78, said he plans to run for re-election, though he hasn’t cracked down on speculation he might decide otherwise.

Speculation on Harris is especially urgent for Democrats who fear the former President Trump will present itself again and further threaten democratic institutions.

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And you democrats?

Some Harris supporters argue, as does Greer, that Harris is crippled by the White House. They point out that its biggest solo missions – to curb immigration from Central America and expand voting rights against restrictive GOP bills and obstructing the US Senate – as impossible to win.

“She was far from a diversity hire for Mr. Biden, and she has clear potential as a national leader, but she needs time, support, and the right mix of goals to learn and grow. “writes Greer.

Greer says that even if Harris wins on immigration by dissuading people from coming, she loses because the party’s base Liberal Democrats will see his efforts as betrayal. And if it doesn’t deter people from coming, others will claim that it is ineffective.

Harris is definitely catching the heat of progressives over his warnings, issued last month from Guatemala, that migrants should stay at home and will be turned away if they complete the dangerous journey to the border. But I’m not sure the left wing heat on this issue is as big a long-term political danger as Greer describes it.

Much of Harris’s effort in Central America has been to initiate economic development and aid, in the hopes of giving people a reason to stay in their country. If these efforts bear fruit, they will garner praise from all wings of the Democratic Party and could undermine Republican attacks on the administration’s performance on the US-Mexico border.

But Greer’s most important point is hard to dispute. The immigration problem is difficult and Harris, who traveled to the border last month under political pressure, is now drawn deeper into other controversies, including the conditions in a tent city for migrant children. installed at the Fort Bliss military base.

The administration also faces complaints from the left over its use of a public health law to turn back migrants and from the right over the sharp increase in the number of children and families arriving at the border, among others. challenges.

Biden’s aides say they are not setting a trap for Harris, pointing out that he had a similar mission when he was Vice President of President Obama.

But the stakes were different. Biden got the post at the back of the administration, after decades of defining himself on the national stage. And, as we now know, Biden’s efforts have not yielded long-term results.

Greer’s second major point runs deeper for many in his party. She writes that even though “Republicans tend to say the quiet part out loud,” many Democrats “could never vote for a black woman at the top of the list, regardless of her qualification.”

In the polls, Democrats tend to rate Biden higher than Harris, although the difference is quite small. Many of Harris’s allies, while agreeing that race and gender affect her poll count, also say they think she’s doing worse than Biden simply because she’s vice president – the same which is why many of its predecessors have done worse in public opinion polls.

“You can’t try to beat # 1 when you’re # 2” Donna Brazila friend of Harris’s who led the unsuccessful presidential campaign of former Vice President Al Gore told me.

The sounder Cornell belcher agree with Brazile. And while he thinks it’s too early to look too closely at the polls, he points to some positives for Harris, including the strong endorsement of black voters.

The electorate who will decide the Democratic primary and general elections in 2024 and 2028 – when Harris could run for the top job – will be more diverse than whoever elected Donald Trump in 2016 or whoever elected Biden in 2020. And , at least for now, South Carolina – where African-American voters play a decisive role in the Democratic primary, including reviving Biden’s waning candidacy last year – is arguably the state the most important in the process of selecting a candidate.

“Be careful not to try to read too far into this distance,” said Belcher, who polled for Obama.

But it all depends on Harris’ ability to grow in his position, how he performs in his current and future assignments, and how the Biden administration as a whole is viewed. And one thing is almost certain at this point: She’s unlikely to win a Democratic nomination contest without a fight.

The view from Washington

– Biden on Tuesday announced new measures designed to inoculate other Americans as the most contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus spreads and his administration struggles to persuade refractories to get vaccinated, Megerian reports.

–While Biden proposes a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a broad set of progressive policies, it’s hard to imagine a Democrat better able to walk a political tightrope. But the required maneuvers will test not only Biden’s legislative agility, but also a central premise of his presidency, write Janet Hook and Eli Stokols.

– The United States Capitol Police will open regional offices in California and Florida to investigate threats against members of Congress following the January 6 attack on the Capitol, reports Sarah D. Wire.

– The short Supreme finished his term last week as scheduled, with his six Conservatives making rulings favorable to claims for religious freedom, property rights and Republican-sponsored election laws. But in between, the judges made reasonable decisions that did not break new ground, writes David G. Savage.

Ammon Bundy builds his name as an anti-government activist. Now he wants to be governor of Idaho, pledging to seize federal land ownership for state control, report Anita Chabria and Hailey Branson-Potts.

The view from California

Heather holt had been in charge of the City of Los Angeles Ethics Board for nearly a decade, but was struggling to get a raise approved. It’s an episode that highlights an uncomfortable reality: the agency operates at the mercy of the officials it is tasked with overseeing, write Emily Alpert Reyes and David Zahniser.

– Academic Lanhee Chen, a GOP political adviser to recent presidential candidates, on Tuesday announced he was running for state comptroller in a bid to break the Republican Party’s losing streak over office space in the statewide, writes Seema Mehta.

– As California faces the governor’s recall election. Gavin Newsom, columnist Mark Z. Barabak reflects on an effort to oust the senator. Diane Feinstein as the mayor of San Francisco has turned on him. It made her a star.

– Rep. Mike garcia (R-Santa Clarita) won their seat by 333 votes, Mehta writes. He’s set to be re-elected next year in what is set to be one of the most contested congressional races in the country, but will his voting record help or hurt his chances?


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