Harris Leans Into Prosecutor Past at Vice Presidential Debate
Separated by sheets of plexiglass, the 2020 vice presidential nominees engaged in a debate that otherwise felt normal—so normal that it was disorienting. For a moment, we all remembered what politics was like in the pre-Trump era. There was much less shouting, that’s for sure. The whole tone was a lot more dignified, just dripping with civility and old-school talking points. Most people seem to think that’s a good thing (though I’m not entirely convinced).
Vice President Mike Pence did the best he could with what he had to work with, giving well-worn Trumpian spin a calm and reassuring facade while hearkening back to an earlier Republican era. Pence is AM talk radio, the Bush years, and think-tank staff in bowties, not memes and Twitter trends and cultural grievances. He’s soothing—and it scares me, in the same way that Sen. Kamala Harris scares me.
Pence is a good window into how Trumpism would sound if you divorced it from onlineness
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) October 8, 2020
Both Harris and Pence serve as a reminder of how potent bad ideas and policy can be when they come in a competent and relatively uncontroversial package. For all of Pence’s dignity and calm, he still was up there defending the actions of President Donald Trump and promising more of the same. Meanwhile, Harris leaned into the tough-but-progressive-on-crime look that she has spent her career cultivating—and enacting in ways not noticeably different from plain old tough-on-crime policies.
Last night, Harris again tried to have it both ways on criminal justice. She promised to decriminalize marijuana and made other nods to policing and prison reforms. But at the same time, she talked up her (highly destructive) past in law enforcement.
“I think Joe asked me to serve with him because I have a career that included being elected the first woman district attorney of San Francisco, where I created models of innovation for law enforcement, in terms of reform of the criminal justice system,” she said near the beginning, adding that she was the first “black woman to be elected attorney general of the state of California, where I ran the second largest department of justice in the United States.”
Harris promised that a Biden-Harris administration would offer more of the same.
“Having served as the attorney general of the state of California, the work that I did is a model of what our nation needs to do and we will be able to do under a Joe Biden presidency,” said Harris.
As attorney general, Harris tried to keep people locked up in overcrowded prisons after a court said they should be released, fought against a ruling that the state’s death penalty was unconstitutional, opposed making police wear body cameras statewide, refused to endorse sentencing reform measures, argued for the destruction of the online-speech-protecting law known as Section 230, refused to intervene in a case where myriad cops and prosecutors in her old district were accused of child exploitation, posed for photo ops with the Border Patrol, chased publicity with unconstitutional prosecutions, and made it a major initiative to punish parents whose kids missed school.
Harris bragged twice last night about having “prosecuted the big banks for taking advantage of America’s homeowners.” But the money she won in that cas
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