Senator Kamala Harris steps into the Colosseum of US politics

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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Just how far Senator Kamala Harris will go in her bid for the United States presidency is anyone's guess at this moment.

However, like most Jamaicans, we will be paying particular attention to her campaign due to the fact that she has Jamaican heritage and because, as was already reported, if Senator Harris is successful in her bid she would be the first woman and the second African American to be elected to the high office of US president.

That the first-term California senator raised US$1.5 million within 24 hours of announcing her intention to run for the office on Monday suggests that she has a support base that, we expect, will grow after she officially launches her campaign in Oakland, California, on January 27.

Already, media reports out of the US are telling us that Senator Harris is being referred to, by some supporters, as “the female Barack Obama” because of her mixed heritage — her father a Jamaican and mother being Indian — and the fact that Mr Obama, the former Democratic president, also launched his presidential campaign two years after joining the Senate.

In addition, like Mr Obama did in 2008, Senator Harris is developing a small-dollar donor network. In fact, an Associated Press story on Monday reports her staff as saying that she plans to reject the assistance of a super political action committee (PAC), as well as corporate PAC money.

We recall very well that in the 2016 presidential campaign Senator Bernie Sanders' renouncement of super PAC assistance won him support from the Democratic party's grass roots who have been urging the party to curtail the political influence of the rich.

By adopting that stance against super PACs Senator Harris, we believe, is signalling her intention to campaign on transparency and accountability in governance to complement her declared focus on speaking truth, “especially,” as she said, “when there has been so much that is contrary to truth”.

That declaration, though, is not surprising as she recently completed a tour to promote her latest book, The Truths We Hold, widely regarded as a stage-setter for her presidential bid.

Indeed, that point was a highlight of a review of the book done by National Public Radio political reporter Ms Danielle Kurtzleben earlier this month.

“In The Truths We Hold, Harris presents herself as a potentially formidable presidential candidate. Which is to say: She efficiently makes her case, like the prosecutor she is,” Ms Kurtzleben wrote.

“Harris ticks through her résumé and her policy positions. And this is where one of Harris's biggest strengths becomes clear: anticipating critiques and batting them down,” Ms Kurtzleben added.

Based on her track record of public service — district attorney in San Francisco, then attorney general, and now senator since 2016 — we expect that Senator Harris will make a formidable candidate.

That she earned a reputation in the Senate for sharp questioning and a sceptical approach to officials of the Donald Trump Administration will most likely contribute to her performance in the Democratic party debates that will help sift the field of candidates expected to offer themselves for the party's nomination.

The next 23 months will prove most interesting and hectic for Senator Harris. We wish her well as she steps into the Colosseum of American politics.

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