To be continued. Image from a film by Miki Katoni.

Sometimes there’s a woman, well, she’s the woman for her time and place. She fits right in there. And that’s Kamala Harris in 2020. … Sometimes there’s a woman, sometimes, there’s a woman. Aw. I lost my train of thought there. 

But, aw, hell. I’ve done introduced her enough. 

Four score and seven years ago — or at least it feels that way now — in January 2019, Sen. Kamala Devi Harris launched her presidential campaign in front of 20,000 purple-and-gold bedecked onlookers packing Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza. 

It was a joyous and ebullient moment — recalling it now induces nostalgia for joy, ebullience, and crowds — and it spurred a flurry of national profiles examining just who this woman was, and what she’d accomplished while advancing along the political Candyland board, wending her way toward the White House. 

The first question is difficult to know, in part because Harris wants it to be difficult to know. Unlike Joe Biden, who last week tapped her as his running mate, Harris is not an effusive talker or an open book. 

But the second question is, rather literally, an open book. The national profiles documenting the slings and arrows of Harris’ tenure as San Francisco’s District Attorney, California’s Attorney General, and her current position as the state’s junior senator were merely compendiums of the exacting and thorough coverage she received in local papers during an era when Bay Area newsrooms were more crowded, robust, and well-stocked with institutional memory. 

Your humble narrator at one point obtained an opposition research report on Harris amassed by one of the (deeply flawed, strategically inept) candidates she has vanquished on her steady ascent. It was — no exaggeration — the size of a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica. But it was not sourced via spelunking expeditions into Harris’ trash bin or covert wire taps. It was, again, largely a compendium of Harris’ daily coverage in the local papers, starting with the 1994 Herb Caen column introducing her as Willie Brown’s “new steady,” and highlighting the well-compensated commissions he placed her on in the 1990s

SEE ALSO : Kamala Harris’ actual record never seemed to matter before. Will it now?

So, in short, any reasonably informed and semi-literate voter had easy access to reams of serious and relevant information regarding Harris’ strikes-and-gutters governing performance and political connections — as did a litany of political opponents, with budgets to spend on lurid mailers and attack ads. 

And she is now the (presumptive) Democratic vice presidential nominee, and those opponents are sloshing about in various political septic tanks. 

So, we may not know Kamala Harris, but we do know what she did or did not do in office (and out of it). Or at least we’ve been given every opportunity to know. The question is: Do we care?

The evidence points to the contrary. 

Harris has succeeded again and again and won higher and higher office regardless of her actual record — and, at times, in spite of it

That may not be a substantive achievement — but it is a useful skill to have. Considering the stakes in November, it may well be the most useful skill of all. 

Kamala Harris Rally — Oakland City Hall 1/27/19 from Mission Local on Vimeo.

Rather obviously, Harris is not at the top of the Democratic ticket. Her campaign for president was not, ultimately, successful — but her position as Biden’s No. 2 indicates it wasn’t entirely unsuccessful either. 

Clearly she walked away from the wreckage of that campaign relatively intact. And, while not enough voters went her way in the primaries, it’d be a stretch to say it was because of dissatisfaction after parsing her record as a mid-sized county prosecutor. Or, as a longtime San Francisco political mover and shaker told us last year, “Does anyone think the No. 1 issue in America right now is how progressive Kamala Harris was 15 years ago? Will it matter … in a caucus in Iowa? I don’t think it’ll be about fact-checking. It’ll be about organizing campaigns.”

The field is far clearer now — Christ, do you remember some of the people running for president back then? Any problems Harris had fighting to garner name recognition and national ID have now been remedied by being named to the ticket.  

Harris’ often contradictory record — her now-archaic earlier views on legalized/decriminalized marijuana, police accountability, and mass incarceration, and unconvincing attempts to conjure those into claims she was a “progressive prosecutor” — certainly turned off critics on both the left and the right.

But November’s election, unlike the primary, is a binary decision, and most voters will likely come to realize this. Besides, it really does feel a bit nonsensical to parse Harris’ decades-old decisions and dalliances considering the increasingly authoritarian and kleptocratic outrages now emanating daily from the Trump administration.

And, for good or ill, someone else figures to be organizing the campaign now. 

Photo by Miki Katoni, January 2019.

So, this ought to free up Harris to do what she does best: make a strong impression; impress people with powerful speeches and swashbuckling prosecutorial questions and arguments that take the pants off hapless opponents; tirelessly campaign and fund-raise among her ridiculous Rolodex of billionaires and tech giants and captains of industry and Obama apparatchiks and Indian Americans and African Americans and Democratic power players. 

To, in a nutshell, win against yet another deeply flawed and strategically inept opponent. 

“Has her record ever mattered?” a longtime city political operative with presidential campaign experience mused last year. “Democrats have always had a resume fallacy. They like people with these jam-packed resumes. And our resume candidates get into races against GOP candidates who are good on-message.”

Election day is Nov. 3, and Harris’ resume is what it is — but she promises to be on-message. 

In an exhausting political landscape in which substantive and major scandals and disasters drift out of the news cycle in days if not hours, a smart, strong, enthralling, biracial woman with a proven ability to elicit “a very vague, broad positive feeling” could be a more formidable asset for the Democratic ticket than a sheaf of plans or white papers. 

Voters who are uncommitted or undecided at this point aren’t exactly looking for that. Clearly they need to be reached some other way. 

This could well be the role of a lifetime for Kamala Devi Harris, regardless of her actual record.

Or in spite of it. 

Because sometimes there’s a woman, well, she’s the woman for her time and place. She fits right in there. 

But, aw, hell. I’ve done introduced her enough. 

Don’t mark it zero, Dude. Support us here.

Joe Eskenazi

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior...

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15 Comments

  1. Only Mission Local has a clip from “The Big Lebowski” in a news article. My kind of story!

  2. Campers,

    I sometimes listen to people smarter than me.
    S
    Especially, when they’re named Noam Chomsky.

    Chomsky says this is the most important election in human history.

    Because Trump is much more likely to get us into a nuclear war.

    So, he says vote for Biden/Harris and I will.

    Also be voting for …

    Vilaska Nguyen in D-7!

    John Avalos in D-11!

    Dean Preston back in D-5!!!

    Chan in D-1!

    Jackie Fielder for State Senate!

    Shahid Buttar for Congress!

    Peskin in D-3!

    Ronen for Mayor!!

    Donate to Mission Local!!!!

    I have a recurring $21.17 monthly donation and it really feels good to look at my monthly bank statement to make certain Wells Fargo is doing their part so I can strut.

    C’mon, you’re worth more than me and you’ll feel as good as any billionaire giving a million to Trump.

    Giants are lucky the fans are only cardboard cut-outs.

    Otherwise they might charge the field.

    lol

    h.

  3. The ‘Arc of History’ runs right through Candidate Kamala Harris, we are looking at our first female President.

    Considering who resides at the White House right now, it will be a blessing

    She will be Candiate Joe Bidens legacy to America

  4. Harris should have been thrown off of the ballot right then and there after she busted through the voluntary spending cap in 2003 while running from the right against Terence Hallinan

    Hiring right wing Republican campaign attorney/fixer Jim Sutton to bail her out should have drawn a recall.

    But allowing Willie Brown to get his corrupt tentacles anywhere near the federal budget could be the best argument for Trump’s reelection. Were that to happen, the US might find itself looking like the paradise that 2020 San Francisco is, as SF basks in the glow of abundant political power given the celebrated fact that the Speaker of the House, Governor and both CA US Senators are SF residents.

    1. How do you really feel?

      4 more years of Donald on your plate, think you can swallow that? Good luck!

      Hard to say where your from, internet travels far & wide. Texas maybe?

    2. Marcos,

      Jim Sutton!!

      Put a tail on this guy until after the election.

      He’s been fixer for elections, not just the Library’s scams and Hellman’s GG Parking lots.

      And, every election for last 20 years.

      Every time I’ve entered a meeting from Ethics and on and on when Sutton was in the
      room already?

      He immediately gave me a look and got up and left.

      Even if the meeting had not yet begun.

      David Anderson may have given us a break for an honest election in November.

      He’s the ‘new’ U.S. Attorney for Northern California.

      Doesn’t seem to be afraid of the Willie Brown Machine.

      Go Giants!

      h.

    1. Sir or madam —

      We don’t do endorsements. But I think that I have made pretty clear where I stand on national politics in my reported column.

      There is a difference between explanations and analysis of political events and decisions and partisan advocacy. So it is possible to simultaneously question the efficacy of a politician’s record yet understand why that politician would be beneficial to a campaign hoping to win an election.

      In an increasingly media illiterate environment, sadly, more and more people have trouble discerning this.

      Yours,

      JE

      1. Michael,

        I’m voting for Biden cause Noam Chomsky said we all should to save the world.

        I voted for Hillary for same reason in the end plus my promise to Becky Cohen.

        I don’t have to praise a basket of rattlesnakes tho.

        h.

  5. Marcos,

    Jim Sutton!!

    Put a tail on this guy until after the election.

    He’s been fixer for elections, not just the Library’s scams and Hellman’s GG Parking lots.

    And, every election for last 20 years.

    Every time I’ve entered a meeting from Ethics and on and on when Sutton was in the
    room already?

    He immediately gave me a look and got up and left.

    Even if the meeting had not yet begun.

    David Anderson may have given us a break for an honest election in November.

    He’s the ‘new’ U.S. Attorney for Northern California.

    Doesn’t seem to be afraid of the Willie Brown Machine.

    Go Giants!

    h.

  6. Thanks for the humor & good writing Joe (and “the dude.” ) Most definitive Kamala piece I have seen!

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