2016 New York Times profile of Harris that found her leadership skills lacking. Mary Ratcliff edits and publishes San Francisco Bay View , the “National Black Newspaper.” Ratcliff told me there is strong support in the black community for Harris’ bill to study reforming the cash bail system that penalizes poor people. But she took Harris to task for rejecting local demands to examine unprovoked police killings, including the slayings of Oscar Grant in Oakland, 13-year-old Andy Lopez in Santa Rosa, and Alejandro Nieto in San Francisco – all of whom were unarmed and nonthreatening. Ratcliff fears that Harris is tone-deaf to the needs of the urban poor. “Here in Bayview Hunters Point, we have a wait and see attitude toward Kamala on issues of social and economic justice. Obama was a disappointment. We hope she is not also a leopard who changes her spots.” Hames was more upbeat, “People in the black community generally like Kamala; there is not a great deal of distrust. She is seen as a smooth operator, like in the song.” As a career prosecutor, Harris has consistently declined to ask for the death penalty, but she has gone to court to defend the practice of capital punishment against lawsuits calling for its abolition as cruel and unusual punishment. Conversely, Harris used her prosecutorial discretion to not defend the state against lawsuits calling for gay and lesbian marriage equality, which then became state law because she did not defend the statutes outlawing it.
The town hall was not attended by Beebe’s congregation, nor, obviously, by neighborhood folks. There were no hecklers, no MAGA hats, no Tea Party or Black Lives Matter or Code Pink protestors. During a short question and answer period after Harris’ speech, the softball, non- confrontational questions were asked by self- identified Indivisible members. Harris’ show was stage-managed, politically sterilized, and almost cultish.
Why were there practically no black people? Hames told me that he did not announce the meeting to his congregation and the event was held during working hours. The town hall was not advertised, except through social media to the press and Indivisible supporters.
The main goal of campaigning in the age of social media tagging is to be perceived by emotionally labile voters as the lesser evil.
Also to the point, Harris is not exactly a working-class hero. As a career prosecutor, she was the gatekeeper to a prison system that is disproportionality composed of people of color. Prosecutors are not generally beloved of the poor and disenfranchised. For example, California’s Legislative Black Caucus has criticized Harris for failing to investigate police shootings and prosecutor misconduct. Judges have slammed Harris for “defending convictions obtained by local prosecutors who inserted a false confession into the transcript of a police interrogation, lied under oath and withheld crucial evidence from the defense,” according to a
56 | October 2017
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