Before 2019 the only serious US presidential hopefuls of Indian ancestry in history were unimpressive politicians whose main purpose in life was to hope and pray that you forget that they are even Indian-Americans: Bobby Jindal and Nikki Haley. You can read my fascinating opinions about these drawlin’ Dixieland Republicans Bobby here and Nikki here. Those brown folk failed pretty miserably and unceremoniously on the national stage and deservedly so.
Along comes California Senator Kamala Harris, the next viable candidate for President of the United States. Half-Indian and half-black- a cocktail I like to call “Blindian”- Kamala is largely considered by the mainstream media to be black, like Barack Obama, despite an Indian mom who carried her in the womb for 9 months and seems to have instilled many values in her daughter. Kamala has decided to join the oppressively crowded 2020 race, which promises to feature the most Democratic primary candidates in history. No clear frontrunner has emerged so far, and numerous others expect to throw their hats into the already crowded ring soon.
She certainly isn’t the only minority in the field- we have heard announcements from Joaquin Castro and Corey Booker. Kamala isn’t the only woman either, as Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand and more are in the game. She also isn’t the best known, or the most liberal- Bernie and Elizabeth got her beat on both those counts. She’s youngish, but not the youngest or most youthful. Like many Democrats, usindiamonitor is struggling to decide who to root for this time around- an unprecedented personal phenomenon. I’ve ALWAYS known who I wanted to win in any given presidential race since 1988. Perhaps one factor matters more than any other in 2020 for me and millions of other voters: can the candidate knock Trump far, far out of the White House if he’s still eating cheeseburgers and tweeting in it? We just may need to wait until the debates begin to suss out the question of electability- and hope the left coalesces in unity around the brawler who emerges from the primary alive.
It’s very early, but Kamala just may be that person who survives the gauntlet. I am not firmly on the Kamala Harris Express, but I’m hanging onto the side out the door, like so many commuter train passengers in India. That’s more than I can say for any other candidate. Here’s why.
Electability. At this time it’s a most dangerous game to guess at how voters will act in 2020. In fact, I often lament the sheer length of presidential campaigns that waste our time, money, and attention for over 2 years each cycle- a truly barbarian practice for both candidates and citizenry, when just 3 months would suffice as in most civilized nations. But Americans live (and die) for the horse race, hardly caring to learn about which candidate favors what policies. Many a meal ticket are stamped over these months too in the nests of political operatives, pollsters, journalists like yours truly, hookers, and event managers to name a few. To this atmosphere of Idiocracy reality, Kamala brings a strong combination of intelligence, calm demeanor, attractiveness, elocution skills, optimism, energy, and charisma to excite voters. We have already established she isn’t the candidate who stands out for her race, youth, leftist credentials, name recognition, or gender. She isn’t the frontrunner for big money donors or establishment Democrat support. She isn’t the Senator who has been on the forefront or spotlight in the vanguards of battle. I also believe that she truly fumbled during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, inflicting no lasting damage on the drunken brute. But if you line her up on each criteria and add up the scores, she would do rather well indeed.
Policy. The first Indian-American Senator in US history grew up in the prosecutorial ranks, eventually climbing up to the role of San Francisco Attorney General and California Attorney General. It’s appropriate that the liberal bastion state and HQ of the Resistance produced Kamala Harris.
The chief criticisms of her record on the left come from her tough reputation for putting criminals away for long periods of time- or “jamming them up” in prosecutors’ parlance. As per the Kamala Harris official website:
Over the course of her nearly two terms in office, Kamala won a $25-billion settlement for California homeowners hit by the foreclosure crisis, defended California’s landmark climate change law, protected the Affordable Care Act, helped win marriage equality for all Californians, and prosecuted transnational gangs that trafficked in guns, drugs, and human beings.
We can add voting rights, childcare expansion, and raising wages to the progressive list of her priorities. As far as bona fides go, that’s pretty good. She is strong on climate change, the existential threat of our time, and healthcare expansion. We have yet to see how well this will all play beyond California though.
Personal History. Like Obama in the 2008 election cycle, Harris is a first-term Senator with a thin record. This has its advantages and disadvantages. A light Senate resume makes it harder for opponents to pin her down and label her for positions taken, while policy wonks like Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown will rightly point to the national battles they have fought that Kamala hasn’t. Kamala doesn’t have as many scars, for better or worse.
Meanwhile, we will find out if Kamala’s status as a married woman will help her or even matter in the modern age. Corey Booker’s distinction as an unmarried bachelor would certainly have damaged his candidacy in any race up till 2016 under endless discussions of “family values,” whatever that means. Not having a spouse or kids should not disqualify a candidate, but voters seem to connect better with those who have an active family life that they can flaunt in magazine features.
In conclusion, the field is crowded and growing. Usindiamonitor does not claim unbridled excitement about any of the candidates yet. But if the election were held today, I’d pull the lever for Kamala Harris. She would make for a good president- measured, calm, capable, and progressive. Kamala represents the future, while many candidates are dug deep in their past. She’ll certainly be better than the current occupier of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and just maybe the campaign will prove her to be the best of the 2020 parade.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor