Everyone knows all is fair in love and war. It goes for politics, too. Just consider Kamala Harris.
First there was Kamala Harris, the San Francisco district attorney, who oversaw more than 1,900 marijuana-related convictions, though she now says pot should be decriminalized.
Next there was Kamala Harris, the California attorney general, who opposed a bill that would have required the attorney general’s office to investigate police shootings or issue statewide standards for police body cameras—both seen by some in the African American community as missed opportunities to improve justice for minorities.
She was followed by Kamala Harris, the most liberal of all senators, according to GovTrack, a nonpartisan organization that tracks bills in Congress.
Then came presidential candidate Harris, viewed so skeptically by her fellow Democrats, partly because of her record as a district attorney and attorney general, that she quit the race early.
That move led to nominee Harris, running mate to a guy she attacked during an early primary debate as a racist, whose name, should you need reminding, is Joe Biden. Which helps explain why now, there’s yet another Harris, Biden’s ambassador to activists.
During a virtual appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” recorded in June but now, not coincidentally, in viral circulation, Harris sounded like the tribune of the street.
When Colbert asked about slackening media coverage of the Black Lives Matter protests, Harris said: “But they’re not gonna stop. They’re not gonna stop. And that’s—they’re not—this is a movement, I’m telling you. They’re not gonna stop. And everyone beware, because they’re not gonna stop ... They’re not gonna stop before Election Day in November, and they’re not gonna stop after Election Day.”
Did she say “beware”? As in, “Beware, Dorothy?” What does that even mean? And how does she walk back her pro-protest attitude to those who want to deal with just one massive crisis at a time?
Of course, Biden tapped Harris, in part, to fill the racial gap that she herself created during the debates last year. Part of her job is to convince the Black community that Biden, who served for eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president, is worth turning out for in strength at the ballot box. If he has a problem with Black voters, it is a problem she helped to create.
When Colbert asked Harris how she managed to transform herself into a Biden supporter after she had left his teeth on the debate floor, she laughed and said: “It was a debate. It was a debate.”
“So, you don’t mean it?” queried Colbert, with the gleeful guile of a 10-year-old poking a cocoon to see what might emerge. Or, in this case, who.
“It was a debate,” she said again, laughing again. “It was called a debate ... There were journalists there covering the debate.”
Meaning, apparently, that in politics, anything goes. Nothing is real. Whatever works.
This is one political lesson that President Trump never had to be taught. And Democrats are right to kick him for it. But they have their own version of it, too. Harris saw her opportunities and took them—even if it meant attacking the one man on the debate stage who perhaps among the entire field has worked longest and hardest for minority and women’s rights.
In fairness, perhaps Harris and Biden now consider themselves even: He did oppose a policy of forced busing in his home state, a tool for integrating public schools that Harris herself said she benefited from while growing up in California. Making him pay for that opposition years later now looks like the shrewdest political maneuver ever.
Biden may be the candidate, but if he wins, Harris will have leap-frogged over more than a dozen others to become heiress apparent to the Oval Office.
In politics, however, one problem solved is often another problem created. Harris and Biden represent a very big coalition—one that is perhaps too large to maintain as the Black Lives Matter protests of summer give way to an uncertain fall. Biden’s perfunctory speech last week condemning the violence at some of the protests tried to thread a needle between his coalition’s liberal and centrist wings but wound up feeling late and subdued. His rebuke of violent actors might not be enough to quell unease among moderate voters who have witnessed their fill of disruption and destruction.
Which suggests that if the job is to guarantee the Black vote for a candidate who has his eye on the center, even someone as versatile as Kamala Harris might have her work cut out for her.