December 4, 2019

Kamala Harris Drops Out

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Sen. Kamala Harris told supporters on Tuesday that she was ending her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.” AP News

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From the Left

The left regrets Harris’s exit from the primary, and argues that her campaign failed mainly due to the lack of a consistent message.

“She was dazzling in a Senate hearing room — who could forget her blistering interrogation of Attorney General William P. Barr in May… But as a presidential candidate, she was uncertain and clumsy, starting with her fumble on health care. First, she declared that she would eliminate private insurance, then she reversed herself. It revealed how little grounding she had on the issue that Democratic voters say is their top priority…

“Harris also waffled between embracing her record as a prosecutor and downplaying it. She cycled through palate-pleasing slogans — among them, ‘the 3 a.m. agenda’ and ‘justice is on the ballot.’ But they did not add up to a vision. The problem was not that she didn’t have positions on the issues. She had plenty of them, on topics from teacher salaries to equal pay for men and women, gun control, taxes and immigration. But given the choice of going left or going right, Harris too often seemed to be trying to choose both.”
Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

“Harris is used to making history. As a biracial black woman of Jamaican and Indian descent, she ticked off a list of firsts as she climbed the ranks of national politics. She was the first woman, at the age of 38, to lead San Francisco’s district attorney’s office. She was the first black woman and first Asian American woman to serve as California attorney general and US senator from the state…

But in the end, it was Harris’ own history that worked against her. As district attorney, she pioneered an innovative program that kept nonviolent first-time offenders out of jail. But she also boasted a tough-on-crime approach, including truancy programs that sent a handful of parents to jail. Harris, still in her first term in the Senate, ultimately could not reconcile the nearly two decades she spent in law enforcement with a rapidly changing political landscape on criminal justice issues that’s driven by the progressive base’s desire for systemic change.”
Jamilah King, Mother Jones

“As appealing as she may have been in many ways, Harris was never able to explain why she was running for president. It’s an answer you’d expect every candidate to know long before they make their announcement speech, but a surprising number of them don’t. The winner, though, almost always does…

“Joe Biden is running to reset the clock to four years ago and restore civility and reason to our politics, his own version of ‘Make America Great Again.’ Warren is running to end corruption and take power away from the plutocrats warping the system for their own ends. But why was Harris running? She never told us, at least not in a way that was clear and concise enough for voters to grasp.”
Paul Waldman, Washington Post

“Harris had been touted as the ‘female Obama’ for years… But Harris is not Obama, and 2019 is not 2007. The rise of Trump and his brand of identity politics have probably made Democrats more wary of a female or minority presidential candidate. Obama is the defining figure of the party — multiple candidates, such as Biden and Buttigieg, are casting themselves as his logical heir, even if they aren’t black. And Harris, unlike Obama, was not the leading alternative to an establishment-backed candidate (Hillary Clinton) who had been wrong on the central issue of the day (the Iraq War).”
Perry Bacon Jr., FiveThirtyEight

“Even if you take a skeptical view of Harris and think her campaign was badly run, there are people who deserve to be in the race even less than she does but are propped up by huge quantities of cash. Namely there's Tom Steyer, a billionaire who has never held public office but who has spent millions on ads… Steyer doesn't have a particularly unique message, and yet he can hang around the 2020 field until he gets bored thanks to his billions…

“At a time when progressives are trying to emphasize diversity and historically marginalized voices, the next Democratic debate might be all white—Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, and Tulsi Gabbard, the most prominent candidates of color remaining, have yet to qualify. That would mean there would be more billionaires than minorities represented on stage, sending a bleak message: It's hard to build a viable presidential campaign, but relatively easy to buy one.”
Harry Cheadle, Vice

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is critical of Harris, and argues that her campaign failed because of policy choices that were both bad and inconsistent.

From the Right

The right is critical of Harris, and argues that her campaign failed because of policy choices that were both bad and inconsistent.

“Given that she was widely cracked up to be someone who could potentially unite all wings of the party and soar to the nomination, I’d call it the most shocking underperformance in a primary in modern presidential history. Even more so than Scott Walker in 2016, since Walker at least had to contend with a crazy political curveball in the form of Donald Trump. Harris didn’t have to beat Oprah or Michelle Obama for the nomination, she had to beat Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg…

“I think maybe Harris took her ‘all things to all Democratic voters’ potential too much to heart. She thought she could compete with Biden for black voters as someone who understood their concerns better than he ever could because she’s lived them. So she tacked left on policy, believing that she could also start pulling progressives from Bernie and Warren by pandering on Medicare for All. If it had worked, she’d be leading the polls. But both bases of voters were more loyal to their first choices than she expected. At the end, she had no constituency.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“A more confident and targeted Harris campaign would have closed the lane Michael Bloomberg and Deval Patrick are exploring by eagerly being the candidate with progressive credibility who leveraged it to speak to the cultural frustrations of older Democrats… a better campaign would have recognized the scope of the appetite for Biden’s Obama-style progressivism coupled with an anti-identity streak, and adjusted accordingly, resisting the urge to make so many overtures to the far left…

“The task would not have been easy, which certainly speaks to the difficult balancing act confronting Democrats stuck between the demands of purists on the far left and older, less progressive voters. But Harris was actually well-positioned to thread that needle. In retrospect it seems the distorted picture of the Democratic electorate shared by those in the Twitter-media bubble prompted her campaign to swerve into the median and out of a better lane.”
Emily Jashinsky, The Federalist

“In January, Harris said she wanted to eliminate private health insurance, then backed away from that position. In August, she said she wasn’t comfortable with Bernie Sanders’ legislation creating Medicare for All, but people pointed out she cosponsored that bill. Harris said the country should consider allowing convicted felons to vote from prison, then said she opposed the idea…

“Most of Harris’s reversals suggest a campaigner who wanted to be the woke dream candidate, but then belatedly recognized that woke positions might not be as popular or workable as she initially believed them to be. She was asking people to have faith in her judgment, while she herself appeared to not trust her own judgment.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“Instead of trying to reverse-engineer the type of candidate she thought would appeal to a plurality of voters, Harris just should have run on who she is, which probably would have put her somewhere in the traditional incrementalist liberal camp, perhaps slightly to the left of Biden. In the end, there was clearly much more room for her to compete in that space, and it would have saved her a lot of the flip flops and pandering that came to undermine her candidacy.”
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

“Harris was a typical unethical prosecutor, and she continues to be unconstrained by the truth. She defended prosecutorial misconduct in California. She used her power to keep wrongfully convicted defendants behind bars. She advocated jailing the parents of truant children. She opposed criminal justice reform…

“Harris supported California’s law forcing crisis pregnancy centers to refer patients for abortion, which the Supreme Court has since struck down as an unconstitutional abridgment of the freedom of speech. During her campaign, she promised to impose new gun controls by executive order. The common thread running through her background is that Harris consistently opposes the constitutional rights of individuals — to free speech, to bear arms, to fair trials, and more.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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