Amid a pandemic, presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA. as his running mate Aug. 11 sparked a wide array of polarizing opinions among American voters. Harris, who served as California’s attorney general for six years, is the third female vice presidential candidate on a major party ticket.
Despite her groundbreaking position in Biden’s campaign, not everyone is satisfied with Biden’s choice. As a registered Democrat, I am not completely convinced Harris will attract voters from all spectrums of the Democratic Party.
Harris has proven herself to be a trailblazer in the civil rights movement. Additionally, she is a strong supporter of affordable higher education for all students. Nonetheless, her history as California’s 32nd attorney general is bound to raise some eyebrows, along with her tendency to oscillate her positions on various policies such as the legalization of marijuana.
Inarguably, the role of the vice president is limited compared to the president. Yet, the news about Harris may have caused Joe Biden’s candidacy to be overshadowed in his own campaign.
Initially, I was excited about Harris’ position as the Democratic vice presidential nominee. As an Indian woman, I always look forward to seeing South Asian women represented in office. It was no small deal that Harris, who is the first United States senator of South Asian descent, has also become the first Asian-American to run as vice president. But after looking into her political history, I realized her record is not as clean as she makes it out to be.
Harris’ years as attorney general are, at best, bittersweet. For example, she has claimed to be an advocate for LGBT rights, yet her actions have not always supported this notion. In 2013, Harris refused to support California’s Proposition 8, which essentially banned same-sex marriage in the state and declared it unconstitutional while filing for an amicus curiae brief. Harris’ outspokenness about her disapproval of the marriage ban garnered her support from the LGBT community. She has also spoken at numerous Pride parades.
Unforeseeably, in 2015 Harris defended the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation against Michelle Lael-Norsworthy, an incarcerated transgender woman who filed a federal lawsuit after CDCR refused to grant her sex reassignment surgery.She argued the surgery was not medically necessary, despite the fact that gender affirming care is recognized as necessary healthcare by the American Psychiatric Association. Ultimately, Norsworthy was rightfully granted her request for the surgery.
The most troubling part of Harris’ history as attorney general is wrongful conviction rates. For example, Harris served as the prosecuting attorney in the case of George Gage, a man who was charged with abusing his stepdaughter in 1999. According to the judge, the prosecutor withheld important evidence from the court that could have disproved the stepdaughter’s claims. Gage is currently serving a 70-year sentence in prison.
While a few of her decisions as attorney general are questionable, Harris has accomplished a myriad of achievements in the Senate. In May, she co-sponsored the Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA. With this bill, college students with loan debt would have the opportunity to refinance lower interest rates. As a college student myself, Harris’ support of affordable higher education is crucial to me.
Readers may be wondering why I am completely focusing on Harris instead of Biden. Although in November voters will mostly be thinking about the president and not the vice president, I believe the vice presidential candidate has an influence on the election results, especially a candidate as outspoken and articulate as Harris.
While I maintain my nuanced opinion on Harris, I encourage voters, especially first time voters entering college, to look past the flawed histories of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. As college students, it can be difficult for us to vote for candidates that may not satisfy all of our expectations. But voting is the fundamental basis for change, and we must vote for a president that can take us closer to change — not one that will continue to lead us to repeat wrongful history.
Rama Sardar (she/her) is a freshman studying journalism and filmmaking. She plans on entering the field of investigative journalism and film direction.