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Biden/Harris Ticket Draws Criticism from Progressives

BY: Nicole Donelan

After months of speculation, the news of Joe Biden’s appointment of Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential pick sent shockwaves through the Democratic Party this week. A former presidential hopeful herself, Harris also boasts some high profile experience. She served as a San Francisco District Attorney, California Attorney General, and U.S Senator. Should Biden win the election, Harris would be the first woman of color appointed to the office of VP. 

Biden’s decision was celebrated by the “Khive” - vocal Harris supporters online - and warmly received in early polls. However, many progressives have criticized his choice, and even cautiously supportive activists have pointed out Harris’ questionable record on a variety of issues. But just what are those issues?

Many people point first to Harris’ history as the “top cop” of California. During the Democratic presidential primaries, she came under fire from Tulsi Gabbard for having over 1,500 marijuana-related convictions occur during her time as Attorney General, despite having playfully admitted to smoking weed herself. She has also been criticized for her policy of criminalizing truancy, an issue which disproportionately impacts poor, Black, and Indigenous Americans -- three groups that already face disproportionate rates of incarceration. Additionally, Harris’ Attorney General office argued against releasing some inmates to lose out on cheap labor; Harris publicly distanced herself from this argument made on her behalf. And while serving as District Attorney of San Francisco, she supported a policy that began reporting arrested undocumented juveniles to ICE who were suspected of committing a felony, regardless of whether they were actually found guilty, and then lied about it, saying that the arrest of undocumented juveniles was an “unintended consequence” rather than a deliberate decision. 

Harris has also been accused of transphobia while serving as Attorney General. During this time, she appealed a decision made by a federal judge to grant Michelle-Lael Norsworthy, a transgender inmate gender reassignment surgery. She signed off on a brief stating the procedure was “not medically necessary” and that Norsworthy’s gender dysphoria was already being treated adequately with hormone replacement therapy. During Harris’ time as Attorney General, female transgender inmates were placed in male prisons, including Candice Crowder, who “filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court alleging that she spent nine months in solitary confinement after she reported that she was raped by a cellmate while in the custody of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).”

Several other controversies have led some progressives to accuse Harris of being corrupt and ingenuine. In 2013, Harris declined to prosecute Steve Mnuchin -- now the Secretary of the Treasury -- for foreclosure violations during his time as CEO of OneWest Bank. Later, it was found that Mnuchin donated $2,000 to her Senate campaign in 2016. Additionally, in a recent interview with Stephen Colbert for The Late Show, she brushed off her criticisms of Biden during the Democratic primary debates by responding in laughter: “It was a debate!” 

These criticisms of Harris’ record are not just baseless mud-slinging by disaffected “B*rnie Br*s.” The resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has brought policies like defunding the police to the forefront of progressive politics, and progressive political content has flooded social media. Scrutinizing Harris’ record is not a sexist or racist slight against her -- it is a demand for accountability that is a natural result of the current political climate.

Even before Harris’ VP appointment, the moderate, liberal, and progressive wings of the Democratic party struggled to unite as one. Biden’s decision addressed the last unanswered questions of voters leading up to the election in November. Now, it is up to progressive voters to decide whether they will settle for Biden and Harris or remain steadfast in their rejection of both Trump and Biden.

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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