The president of the United States spent weeks recruiting then inciting a mob to invade Congress and prevent the certification of his opponent’s victory. The intruders killed one police officer and injured more than a dozen, pummeling them with everything from flagstaffs to fire extinguishers.
Democratic House members talked openly about feeling threatened in the presence of newly-elected white supremacist, QAnon-friendly colleagues across the aisle, as evidence grew that several such gun-toting Republicans may have directly collaborated with the lovely people who tried to destroy their workspace.
All this after the president issued waves of pardons for war criminals and stock manipulators – and, perhaps, just before a new wave of pardons for himself, his family and everyone he incited to destroy the Capitol.
After being assaulted for four long years with so much evidence of American venality, now more than ever we need to remind ourselves that a new and hopeful era will begin just three days from now – thanks to the extraordinary hard work of a majority of decent, voting Americans.
Yes, 74 million inexplicably voted to re-elect the most corrupt and incompetent president in American history. But surely this is the more important fact: 81 million chose Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, thereby giving us the first woman, the first African American and the first Indian American ever to serve as vice-president.
She’s prepared, she’s focused, she’s smart, she’s effective, she does her homework. And that’s the coin of the realm
The good news from the author of this new biography of Harris is that even a former editorial writer who endorsed Harris’ opponent when she ran for California attorney general now recognizes she is supremely qualified to be Biden’s governing partner.
“Kamala Harris comes to play … every single day,” said her Senate colleague Ron Wyden, from Oregon. “She’s prepared, she’s focused, she’s smart, she’s effective, she does her homework. And that’s really the coin of the realm of the Senate: who’s doing their homework and who’s just throwing press releases out for a 10-second sizzle.”
In this case, heritage is almost as important as talent. The daughter of a Jamaican-born economist and Indian-born cancer researcher, Harris embodies the American immigrant dream – and everything Donald Trump and his disgusting minions have spent four years seeking to destroy.
Dan Morain is a former state political reporter for the Los Angeles Times and former editorial page editor of the Sacramento Bee but he doesn’t have any scoops in Kamala’s Way. He has done a workmanlike job of assessing her passions and her accomplishments. But often his best details are lifted directly from her own autobiography, including this description of her life as an undergraduate at Howard University, America’s premier black college in Washington DC:
“You could stand in the middle of the Yard and see, on your right, young dancers practicing their steps or musicians playing instruments. Look to your left and there were briefcase-toting students strolling out of the business school, and medical students in their white coats … That was the beauty of Howard. Every signal told students that we could be anything – that we were young, gifted and black, and we shouldn’t let anything get in the way of our success.”
One thing Harris doesn’t describe in her autobiography is the jump start her career got from a romance with Willie Brown, the grand old man of California politics, a long-time speaker of the state assembly who became mayor of San Francisco. Harris was just 30 when she was outed as Brown’s girlfriend at his 60th birthday party. The legendary San Francisco columnist, Herb Caen, reported that Clint Eastwood spilled champagne “on the Speaker’s new steady, Kamala Harris”.
The political education she received from Brown undoubtedly contributed to her rapid rise, from San Francisco district attorney to California attorney general to United States senator. But even as she enjoyed the usual perks of a California politician, crossing paths with everyone from Elton John to George Lucas and Sharon Stone, Harris was always impressing colleagues with her seriousness – from early advocacy for marriage equality to determination to get $20bn out of the nation’s largest banks as punishment for their abuses of the foreclosure process after the collapse of the housing bubble.
She was also an enthusiastic enforcer of a California law that takes guns out of the hands of convicted felons.
By the time she ran her first campaign for DA, eight years after her romance with Brown was over, she didn’t hesitate to call him her “albatross”. In a clever bit of political jiujitsu, she told SF Weekly: “I refuse to design my campaign around criticizing Willie Brown for the sake of appearing to be independent when I have no doubt that I am independent of him – and that he would probably right now express some fright about the fact that he cannot control me. His career is over; I will be alive and kicking for the next 40 years.”
From the beginning she was a superb networker, becoming one of Barack Obama’s earliest supporters when he ran for president, befriending Joe Biden’s son Beau when both were state attorneys general. In the Senate, she was appropriately abrasive when she interrogated Trump’s cabinet nominees. But she was also careful to be much more respectful of Senate staffers than many other senators.
All her life, Harris has made a habit of exceeding expectations. This book suggests she will do that again as vice-president – and that one day she might also excel as America’s first woman, first Indian and second Black president.
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