Kamala Harris’ most moxie moment may have come in April 2004.
Harris was San Francisco’s novice district attorney. She’d run on opposition to the death penalty, and she’d won.
Then Isaac Espinoza, a San Francisco police officer, was gunned down by David Hill.
From the pulpit at Espinoza’s funeral, Senator Diane Feinstein looked down at Kamala Harris, who was seated in the front row, and called for the death penalty for Hill.
Despite enormous pressure from Feinstein, police officers, and others, Harris remained firm in her convictions. Her office won its prosecution of Hill, and he was sentenced to life without parole.
Thirteen years later, Harris joined Feinstein in the Senate. With less than a year under her belt on the national stage, there’s already talk of Harris making a presidential run in 2020.
Sound like anyone else you know?
Former president Barak Obama was barely into his term as a U.S. Senator from Illinois when he launched his successful presidential bid. Harris has frequently been compared to Obama, for a variety of reasons.
The most obvious reason is heritage. Obama is son of a white American mother and a Kenyan father who met in college. Harris is the daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father who met in college.
Obama has supported Harris’ political ambitions, lending fundraising support to her campaigns, and in turn she lent her endorsement to him. They share in investment in social justice issues.
Harris is often mentioned as picking up the mantle of Obama’s leadership, a possible way to move beyond the Democratic party establishment support of Hillary Clinton and the progressive support of Senator Bernie Sanders and unite the party.
Does Harris have the moxie to make that move? Maybe. Some things to know about Harris:
She’s measured. As she made her political moves in California – from San Francisco D.A. to Attorney General and finally to U.S. Senate – she has been circumspect about how she approaches certain issues, and the perception is that she is always keeping her eye on the next political goal. Is she staying in her lane and avoiding distractions, or is she ducking tough issues? In a political season where the president himself shooting from the hip and crossing boundaries daily, moderation may be a bit of a relief. While some are demanding that leaders “shake things up,” it may actually take moxie to be the calm voice of reason.
She’s decisive. It took her just eight days to decide to run for attorney general, and a similarly short period of time to decide to make a play for the seat left vacant by Barbara Boxer’s retirement.
Again, in a season of chaos and uncertainty, with positions evolving and devolving rapidly and players entering and exiting the stage with sometimes alarming regularity, it might take moxie to simply stake out a claim and stick with it.
She remembers her roots. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her Indian mother raised her in a working class black neighborhood. That experience has shaped her as a prosecutor and a legislator. As DA, her office increased its conviction rate for violent crimes, yet also tackled recidivism with smart new approaches.
But she also has a reputation for preferring luxury, and for having a taste for the finer things. She can be an exacting boss, and has been known to dress down subordinates with prosecutorial sharpness. That might not play so well with her base. People tend to like their moxie with and side of humility.
Who do you think has the moxie to run for president in 2020?