Kamala Harris is already being described as the most progressive vice presidential nominee in American history. Technically, it’s true. Joe Biden is running on the most progressive major party campaign platform ever, after all, and Harris is far more progressive than he is. Neither of those statements signal any real accomplishment, however—the Democratic Party has crept steadily leftward for years.
Harris’ nomination is representationally enormous. Early criticisms of Harris have been met with disdain; many Democrats simply want to celebrate the significance of nominating a Black woman for the second highest position in the land. Biden and Harris are vastly superior alternatives to Trump and Pence. Plus, Harris provides the energy and youth Biden sorely lacks—anyone criticizing the California senator will be met with accusations of trying to re-elect Trump.
Presidential politics isn’t a zero-sum game, though. Just because the current president is uniquely bad doesn’t absolve his challenger from criticism. Voters may be more willing to vote for a less-than-ideal candidate in order to oust possibly the worst president ever. However, when that less-than-ideal candidate has an ugly record and represents a return to the status quo, he deserves to be challenged and pushed to offer more.
Like Biden, Harris’ record is littered with red flags that raise concerns. A Twitter thread by @M_C_Yates does a great job breaking it all down. Harris remains opposed to marijuana legalization and has a long history of locking up nonviolent cannabis users in California. She’s fought to criminalize school truancy, supported a law that would force schools to report undocumented students to ICE, “stopped cooperating with victims of Catholic Church child abuse” as San Francisco District Attorney, and habitually opposed significant criminal justice reforms. As a senator, Harris has voted to increase Trump’s military budgets, supported his escalation in Syria, and accepted thousands of campaign dollars from the Trump family and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, whose bank she declined to prosecute for fraudulent lending practices.
None of the above means Harris and Biden aren’t preferable the Trump administration. Still, even a quick glance at Harris’ record should give pause to Resistance liberals lauding her as a progressive darling or conservative hacks demonizing her as some Antifa-supporting radical. She’s about as moderate and corporate as moderate corporate Democrats get with a punitive criminal justice background to boot. By accepting Biden’s vice presidential nomination, Harris has been catapulted into Democratic power broker status. Criticizing and questioning her past is the only way to hold her accountable for the future.