If Kamala Harris, who announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Day, wins the presidency, she would not only be the first black woman to ascend to the Oval Office but also the first Democrat from California to accomplish that feat. The last two politicians to emerge from the Golden State and prove that they had the right stuff were both Republicans, Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon. Reagan personified the optimism of California Dreamin’; Nixon, a kind of grapes of wrath resentment that he reverse engineered to condemn liberal elites.
Like Nixon, a red hunter par excellence, Harris has tried to play the Russia card to rise to prominence. Today it is Democrats who decry Moscow gold, while Republicans play kissy face with the Kremlin. When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017, he visibly quailed before her aggressive questioning, stating that she was making him nervous. Sessions was no Alger Hiss but Harris, a former California district attorney and state prosecutor, showed that she had real moxie.
The 54-year-old, whom President Obama lauded in April 2013 for her attractiveness — ‘the best-looking attorney general in the country’ — before a storm of political correctness rained down upon him (the polite word to use these days is ‘telegenic’), has produced a new autobiography called The Truths We Hold. It’s a carefully crafted tale of an immigrant success story, centered around her Indian mother and Jamaican father. One photo shows Harris wearing a white sweater and sitting in the middle of her first grade class, the first to be integrated in the school’s history. She doesn’t belong to the generation that was on the barricades fighting for civil rights in the 1960s. Instead, she recounts that she attended Howard University in Washington, DC and spent weekends protesting the apartheid regime of South Africa.
Her book doesn’t pack the wallop of Michelle Obama’s new autobiography Becoming but it is a serviceable tract attesting to the ambition, grit and sheer cunning of its author. Whether she is a true progressive is a matter being hotly debated on the left, with many complaining about her avidity for locking ’em up during her tenure as a prosecutor in California. This ideological ambidextrousness, however, could serve her well as a presidential candidate. Barack Obama pulled off the same trick. With Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard to her left and God knows who else running for the nomination, she may be in a good position to paint herself as a moderate. The size of the Democratic field may be immoderate but Harris has a potent weapon in her favor. California, eager to find its voice in the primary season, has moved its up to March. Perhaps Harris can steal a march, as it were, on her rivals.