As Democratic presidential wannabes began the quest for this year’s Democratic nomination, many believed that California’s Kamala Harris was in a better position to win than the others. She was a popular and well-connected Californian who had won three statewide races and enjoyed access to the left-wing funders and political professionals that make the state so important to national Democrats. Just as important was the decision to move the California primary, which most assumed she would win, up on the calendar.
It didn’t happen. Senator Harris had bet that the nomination would go to the most liberal candidate other than Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders and apparently decided early on to move as far to the left as possible to pick up Sanders voters looking for a winner rather than to just make a statement. It turned out, of course, that she, her advisors and most analysts underestimated the degree to which Sanders voters would stick by their candidate or the waves of fear the possibility that he might be nominated generated among “establishment “party leaders more interested in defeating Donald Trump than the purity of their nominee. The result was that Senator Harris was appealing to an audience that wasn’t interested.
There was another reason for the early demise of the Harris campaign. A great candidate on paper, the Senator turned out to be far less attractive to voters in person. She had to end her campaign before the first votes were even cast after failing to raise much money or support. When she dropped out in December, the Washington Post rather described her as “an uneven campaigner.” Other post-mortems dwelt on her flip-flopping, apparent inability to articulate her own policies described her campaign as an organizational and visionless disaster.
Her attempts to get to the left of the competition were seen as inadequate by the voters she was trying to attract and turned off many who believed the party needed to nominate not a radical but someone who would be seen as a safe, stable and even moderate alternative to Donald Trump. That candidate was, of course, good old Joe Biden who she had viciously attacked during the primary debates, but whose advisors ultimately concluded that of the available potential running mates he could team up with given his commitment to picking a “Black Woman,” she might be the safest.
Usually, Vice-Presidential candidates don’t make that much difference to voters, but this year could be different since many voters including a majority of Democrats are convinced that a clearly slipping Joe Biden isn’t likely to complete his first term if he wins in November. These voters are likely to look more closely at the former Vice President’s running-mate than would otherwise be the case because they believe in voting for Joe Biden for President, they will also have to vote for Senator Harris as President.
That simple fact makes her issues positions and character far more important than usual because while most running-mate’s previous records can be largely ignored as they will be serving their President and can be expected to adopt whatever positions he or she takes and fight for them. In Harris’ case, however, voters believe she will soon be in the driver’s seat herself free to implement her agenda rather than Biden’s.
This makes her views vitally important and while some are excusing her move to the left during her quest for the presidency, others claim she is the real deal. There is no question that she has a record of saying what she needs to say to win elections, but she also has a record as a sitting United States Senator and can be looked at alongside some of her colleagues. The American Conservative Union has been rating Senators and Congressmen since the seventies on a liberal to conservative scale of 0 to 100 and their ratings suggest that based on her record, Senator Harris qualifies as a consistent left-winger.
In the last couple of years, she has earned the same ratings as New York’s Chuck Schumer, Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren and Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders, but her lifetime rating of 3.03 is actually to the left of all three. This record along with her promise that as President she would by Executive Order revoke the licenses of all the country’s gun dealers, enact AOC’s Green New Deal, and Elizabeth Warren’s Medicare for All means that voters who might trust Joe Biden to leave the rhetoric behind if elected and govern as a liberal, but not as a radical might have second thoughts about a vote that could a true radical in the Oval Office.