The American presidential election looms ever closer. 4 years into a Trump presidency the country is in disarray, with over 150,000 people dead from Coronavirus - the world’s highest death toll - and major cities are approaching their third month of daily protests. The economy is in shock - in some states upwards of 59% of people will be unable to pay their rent this month, millions are unemployed - and for those who have kept their jobs, they very often have to work in unsafe conditions. Schools have been opened prematurely, and in just two weeks America has reported over 97,000 infections in children. The Trump presidency has quickly turned from farce to tragedy. Polling suggests that Joe Biden, despite his many blunders over the past few months is potentially going to steamroll his way into the White House come November. Confidence in Democratic Party HQ appears to be high, some officials even going as far as to advise against debating Donald Trump at all. Enter Kamala.
Kamala Harris, National Forum on Wages and Working People 2019
Kamala Harris, daughter of Tamil-born scientist Shyamala Gopalan and the Jamaican Marxist Economist Donald Harris, if elected Vice President will not only be the first female Vice-President in American history but also the first Asian-American and Black-American VP also. In a country where thousands are out on the streets fighting for racial justice and an end to police, Joe Biden’s pick may signal to many well-meaning liberals that Biden’s campaign team have listened carefully. The problem is, however, they haven’t. Harris and Biden’s combined record on policing is, by all accounts, ghastly. Kamala got her start in politics as the District Attorney for San Francisco, and made her name as California’s Attorney General before her eventual success as Senator for California where she served on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Harris has built a personal brand around her time as a public prosecutor, touting herself as a “progressive prosecutor”. Her record suggests anything but. Not only did she fail to embrace criminal justice reforms pushed by her fellow progressives in the Democratic Party, but she actually fought to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct (which encapsulates everything from false testimony to evidence tampering). Harris championed legislation that would criminalise the parents of children who were found to be frequently truant, legislation that has been strongly criticised for being extremely discriminatory, disproportionately targeting low-income communities of colour. In 2015, Harris opposed a bill that would mandate her office to investigate shootings by Police Officers under her jurisdiction, and despite frequently presenting herself as an LGBTQ+ ally she also has a history of denying gender affirming surgery to trans and nonbinary inmates. This isn’t just a fringe hard left purist critique. In fact, Harris’ record on criminal justice is so toxic that it was touted as one of the many reasons for her presidential run’s catastrophic flop, dropping out and receiving no delegates.
Why is this important? Well, it’s no secret that the United States has a problem with its criminal justice system. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, with the most prisoners of any country in history. Despite making up a mere 5% of the global population, the U.S. has nearly 25% of the world's prisoners, many of them serving for nonviolent offenses. That number continues to grow, and the people who suffer the most are disproportionately poor and disproportionately non-white. Police violence has been escalating, and the militarised response to Black Lives Matter has shocked the world. America has serious problems and deep systemic divides on race, class and gender lines and the Democratic Party does not appear to be serious about dealing with them. It’s all very well having leaders wearing kente cloth in Washington taking a knee, but in a country so deeply scarred by racism and class society, so-called progressives need to go way beyond symbolic representation and start offering tangible, radical solutions. And with a ticket like this, the Democrats need to be wary of the hubris that possessed them in 2016. Donald Trump is dangerous and his popularity is waning - but the presidency could very well still be his if the Dems fail to capture the imagination and the hearts of people desperate for real justice and security.
Regardless of who wins the presidency, the left will have a fight on its hands. Coronavirus has shone like a spotlight on the ghastly inequality that fuels the United States’ economic machinery, and people are very unlikely to forget about the racial injustices that propelled them into the streets after the murder of George Floyd. Though the Democratic Party and its presidential ticket are a disappointment, a new generation of radicals inspired by Black Lives Matter have emerged readily equipped with the tools and the knowledge to begin pushing for real racial, economic and climate justice. A Biden-Harris presidency will not fix the crisis in racial capitalism - real transformation can only come from below - but thankfully the seeds have already been sown.