Kamala Harris’ Missed Opportunity
Since the death of George Floyd, more than 140 U.S. cities have seen riots and protests, including Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. At least 40 of these cities were forced to impose curfews. In places like Portland, Seattle, and Chicago, these riots are still going on. More than three dozen American cities are now seeing double-digit increases in homicides, not to mention residents and business owners who are reeling from hundreds of millions in property damage.
If anyone could have addressed the growing violence at last week’s Democrat National Convention, it was Senator Kamala Harris. As California’s Attorney General, she was the state’s top cop. As San Francisco’s District Attorney, she had the street cred. But with a speech that was likely “written by committee,” as my colleague Tim Anaya said on this week’s Next Round podcast on the Democrat National Convention, Harris missed an opportunity to give the nation a memorable speech.
In her home state, $2 million of taxpayer dollars have been spent repairing state buildings, including boarding up windows and removing graffiti. More than $38 million has been spent on California Highway Patrol overtime, and $25 million for deploying the National Guard.
In Los Angeles, where police cars cost $80,000 each, eight were totaled and 148 others were vandalized, with broken windows, slashed tires and graffiti on the cars saying “murderers,” and “kill all cops.”
To placate the violent mobs, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted to slash $145 million from the Sheriff Department’s budget. San Francisco also made cuts of $120 million and even Oakland passed cuts of $14.6 million. Elsewhere, Austin, whose unofficial moto is “Keeping it weird,” defunded its police force by $150 million; New York City a whopping $1 billion; Philadelphia, $33 million; and Baltimore at $22 million.
For her part, vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris in her acceptance speech highlighted the “excessive use of force by police” and the “injustice” of the “broader criminal justice system.” But it’s doubtful that Attorney General Harris would have said those words.
As California’s AG, she dodged taking a position on a 2015 bill calling for a special prosecutor to investigate deadly police shootings, according to the Sacramento Bee. Also during her tenure, at least 1,500 people were put behind bars for marijuana-related offenses wrote the Washington Free Beacon, yet she joked about her own use of marijuana. As San Francisco’s DA, she was criticized for prosecuting the parents of truant students, calling the issue of students skipping school “tantamount to a crime” — even as the policy disproportionately affected low-income minorities, reported the Los Angeles Times.
In a post-convention interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, Roberts asked her “The book that you wrote ten years, Smart on Crime . . . you conclude by saying that you wanted to see more police on the street, do you still feel that way?” Harris tap dances through the question: “First of all, when I wrote that book . . . Black Lives Matter did not exist and I give full credit to the brilliance of that movement, in terms of what it has done to advance a conversation that needed to happen a long time ago. What Black Lives Matter has done as a movement has been to be a counterforce against a very entrenched status quo around the criminal justice system in America….” Isn’t she referring to herself?
Harris could have courageously condemned the violence, denounced the defunding of police departments (which Biden already opposes), or told rioters “enough!”, as in Rodney King’s now immortalized words: “Can we all just get along?”
Instead, her acceptance speech has been all but forgotten.
Rowena Itchon is Senior Vice President of the Pacific Research Institute.