Kamala Harris — pragmatic moderate or radical leftist?

Examining what we currently know about the vice-presidential nominee, who may potentially be a heartbeat away from the presidency. Op-ed.

Michael Taube ,

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris
Reuters

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected Kamala Harris, the California Senator, as his running mate on Tuesday. Party loyalists were largely euphoric, and many political progressives enthusiastically pointed out this year’s Democratic ticket included the first African-American and Asian-American vice-presidential running mate.

Yes, this pick was unquestionably historic and, at the same time, unusually important. The vice-presidential nominee is rarely a deciding factor in the minds of most American voters. However, Biden’s age (77) and the suggestion that he might only serve one term if elected in November means Harris could become a potential presidential candidate herself in four years’ time.

What do we really know about the junior California Senator? Is Harris a pragmatic moderate, as some Democratic strategists have been suggesting? Or is she a radical leftist hell-bent on turning America on its proverbial head? Let’s examine what we currently know about the presumptive vice-presidential nominee.

Govtrack.us, which has been examining the voting records of US politicians for more than fifteen years, declared Harris the most liberal Senator in 2019. Even Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a two-time former Democratic presidential candidate and the only self-declared “Democratic socialist” in Congress, was ranked slightly ahead of her.

The independent, non-partisan website’s score is primarily constructed by determining senatorial legislative behaviour with respect to bills and resolutions. If a Senator co-sponsors legislation that’s similar or different to other congressional members, his or her score will move to either the conservative or liberal side.

The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips wrote recently that this data, “while useful, is not a complete look at how liberal or conservative a politician is or would govern.” The same thing was echoed by Govtrack.us’s founder and CEO, Joshua Tauberer. “All these data points don’t add up to just a simple picture of Harris being extremely liberal,” he told Phillips.

Fair enough. Maybe if we look more closely at her ideas and policies, we’ll get a clearer picture.

Harris has received ratings of 100 per cent in her career from many left-leaning American groups and organisations. In contrast, the Club for Growth, the right wing group, gave her a 4 per cent rating (keeping taxes low), the National Rifle Association ranked her at 7 per cent, or an “F” rating (defending gun rights) and the US Chamber of Commerce placed her at 30 per cent when it came to supporting the rights of businesses and business owners.

This isn’t surprising. Harris is pro-choice on abortion, opposes affirmative action and capital punishment and wants to legalise recreational marijuana. She supports the concept of Obamacare, sanctuary cities, the DREAM Act to grant temporary conditional residency to immigrants, gun control, increased funding for food stamps, and wants to begin the process of “reimagining public safety”, which may or may not ultimately include defunding the police.

Many of these left-wing policies were evident during her short-lived Democratic presidential campaign, which was an abysmal failure and only received about 2 per cent of total grassroots support. Alas, people have short memories.


She remains supportive of the controversial Iran nuclear deal that Donald Trump, to his credit, scrapped in 2018.
As for foreign policy, Harris doesn’t have a lot of international experience. A junior Senator from California obviously wouldn’t be travelling the world and meeting powerful leaders and important dignitaries. Still, a few of her positions have been perfectly fine. She’s on the record opposing China’s restrictions of free speech in Hong Kong and the Communist nation’s persecution of Uighur Muslims. But when it comes to most pertinent foreign policy matters, Harris is firmly entrenched on the left.

She remains supportive of the controversial Iran nuclear deal that Donald Trump, to his credit, scrapped in 2018. She’s expressed her opposition to Saudi Arabia’s war against Iranian-backed troops in Yemen, and opposed the sale of US military weapons and equipment to this nation.

She’s spent far more time in her career discussing domestic terrorism (which is obviously a relevant issue) than the long-standing war on terrorism. She disagreed with various aspects of the US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement.

Her support for Israel has been lukewarm at best, and she was firmly against the country’s strategy with the 'West Bank.'

Harris’s official position on this week’s historic Israel-UAE agreement hasn’t been announced at the time of writing. One assumes it’s in line with Biden’s statement that the agreement is “a historic step to bridge the deep divides of the Middle East,” and creates an imaginary tie-in to “the efforts of the Obama-Biden administration to build on the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Meanwhile, Harris wants her country to rejoin the Paris climate agreement that has accomplished little on the environment. She’s also taken a distinctly Sanders-esque position on defense spending, stating on July 22, “I unequivocally agree with the goal of reducing the defense budget and redirecting funding to communities in need, but it must be done strategically.” What this means for the safety and security of her nation is anyone’s guess.

When you put everything together, Harris’s political, economic and foreign policy record is much closer to that of a radical leftist than pragmatic moderate.

The fact that someone like this could potentially be a heartbeat away from the US presidency should be enough to give even an objective thinker plenty of pause.

Michael Taube is a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor and was a speechwriter for Stephen Harper, the former prime minister of Canada. Michael holds a Master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics



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