At the moment Kamala Harris is being greatly celebrated in the media for identity politics reasons. That is, the big deal about Kamala is not anything she’s achieved but the fact that her mother is Indian and her father Jamaican, so she is that wondrous thing, the first Vice President who is a woman, black and Asian. Uniquely, this is already referred to not as the Biden Administration but the Biden-Harris Administration. Given that Joe Biden will be almost 82 by the time of the next presidential election, it is already assumed that Harris will be the Democratic candidate in 2024.
This merely illustrates what a trap identity politics is. Harris was no shooting star. At age 36* she had climbed only to the position of deputy district attorney of Alameda county, California. Her real ascent began only in 1994 when she was appointed to lucrative positions on two government commissions by the powerful Speaker of the California Assembly, Willie Brown, later mayor of San Francisco and the most powerful black politician in the state.
Brown was known for his flamboyant lifestyle - $6,000 suits, sports cars, night-clubbing - and the press noted, it was not unusual for Brown to arrive at a night club with his wife on one arm and a girlfriend on the other. Brown was the subject of a five-year FBI investigation for his extensive use of patronage and contracts apparently to buy off opponents and reward friends, including a girlfriend whom he put on the city payroll.
At the time that Brown started Harris’s rise to prominence, Harris was his girlfriend. Later, in 2004, Harris made the big jump to become the District Attorney of San Francisco – despite being the least known candidate – largely because of Brown’s public support. By 2016 she had become a Senator for California. In 2019 she announced her presidential candidacy, which triggered a good deal of media attention about her relationship with Brown.
Harris attracted attention by attacking Biden over his record on race in their first TV debate. Biden had talked of how he had, over time, built relationships with senators on the other side of the aisle, even including two Southern segregationists. Harris denounced this as “very hurtful” and talked about how she had been bussed to a formerly white school as a little girl. Biden, whose record on civil rights is exemplary, dismissed the attack as “a mis-characterization of my position across the board”.
This playing of the race card was, however, Harris’s high point. The next month in a TV debate with the no-hoper candidate Tulsi Gabbard, Harris boasted of her record as a prosecutor and said she would be a “prosecutor President”.