If identity politics continues to define the Democratic Party, as it has in recent years, then the latest candidate to announce her candidacy for president might well be sitting in the catbird seat.
Unlike previously announced candidates (e.g., Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro, Elizabeth Warren) who check a few boxes in the preferred leftist candidate profile, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who officially announced her decision to run on Martin Luther King Day, can proudly boast of a clean sweep. She is a woman of color, child of immigrants (Tamil Indian mother, Jamaican father), untarnished by white privilege or toxic masculinity, young enough at 54 to attract millennial support, and likely to present as an unabashed advocate for the entire progressive agenda — from open borders to Medicare-for-all to some sort of “green new deal.”
And in a crowded — or overcrowded — primary race likely to be defined by which candidate can most effectively satisfy the party’s far-left base and generate the most appealing level of vitriol for President Trump, Harris is well positioned as a full-strength neo-socialist from the state that defines the brand.
Her inevitable candidacy was the worst-kept secret in Washington, evident from the moment she interrupted Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) during the first sentence of his introductory remarks in the confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. Three times, she attempted to short-circuit the proceedings before they even started, pouncing on a golden opportunity to raise her national profile and demonstrate her progressive bona fides.
Harris made her presidential announcement in conjunction with the release of a campaign video on Twitter: “Truth. Justice. Decency. Equality. Freedom. Democracy. These aren’t just words. They’re the values we as Americans cherish. And they’re all on the line now …. The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values …. That’s why I’m running for president of the United States.”
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 21, 2019
Though it seems she has been in the spotlight for longer, Harris is just a freshman senator elected to the upper chamber two years ago. But that is not necessarily a barrier to success; Barack Obama was a first-term senator when he was elected president.
But Harris’s record is not without controversy within her own party. Before her election to the Senate, Harris served as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general, and she has been criticized by some leftists as insufficiently committed to progressive ideals, particularly related to criminal justice reform. She will undoubtedly begin her campaign by shoring up her leftist credentials and emphasizing the many demographic attributes that should place her in the top tier of a field that already includes seven candidates and could ultimately dwarf even the 17-candidate cattle call seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
The big difference between the Republican field in ‘16 and the Democratic field in ‘20 is experience. While most of the GOP candidates — Trump, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, and Scott Walker — had held positions of prominence and already had made names for themselves, most of the Democratic hopefuls this time around are relatively unknown. Only Joe Biden, who crested in single digits and failed to win a single primary in two previous presidential runs, and Warren, the erstwhile faux Indian who embarrassed herself with a widely ridiculed DNA test, could be considered familiar to the broad American electorate.
And so, the Democratic Party adds another new voice to its leftward stampede. And with 22 months before the 2020 election and as many as two dozen additional candidates waiting in the wings, the race to unseat Donald Trump is just getting started.