Kamala Harris’ candidacy – A much-needed bridge to replace the wall America has become!


Clyde Ramalaine

On Martin Luther King Jnr day, January 21, 2019, which would have been his 90th birthday, Howard University trained, former attorney general for the state, and Democrat junior senator of California Kamala Harris announced her candidacy for the 46th presidency of the USA.

Harris is one of 18 possible contenders if not pretenders in as usual an overcrowded traffic jam of Democrats seeking to make it to the White House come 2020. Yes, you heard right a traffic jam because these include octogenarians like former Vice president Joe Biden and socialist Bernie Sanders who gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money in the last primaries and a few others.

In a season when the House of Representatives depicts an ever-changing environment where more women across all ages, creeds and histories emerged you can’t but sense something is in the air. America may just finally be ready for its inaugural woman president.

Granted we are a long shot from having a final candidacy on the part of the Democrats, yet I will as early as now venture to say, Kamala Harris has my backing and support and is the one to watch as the proverbial bus in the road race clears up and leaders are determined. Harris in my assessment fits the bill for obvious and not so obvious reasons.

Before we attempt making the case for why Kamala Devi Harris, the attorney turned state attorney General for California and subsequently since 2017 Senator fits the bill for the 46th president of the USA, let us first caution to say, Democrats in finding an early candidate and wholly backing such will upset all and any hopes for a Republican-sponsored Trump second term. We know that Trump is on literal life support if his self-inflicted woes that threaten criminal prosecution registers the baseline. He needs the created wall to deflect this bumbling foolishness in the claim of stopping a caravan of criminals notoriously armed and in an aim of attacking Americans, a fallacy he and his hard-line constituency strive hard to make gospel.

Perhaps it is good to first make the point that the 46th president of the USA in all probability will be a woman. Making this point here is not a glib armchair deduction but informed by the fact that we can conclude America was readier to have a black male president in Obama than a female white woman. The statistics on senators in the history of the almost 250-year-old democracy confirms the undeniable and sustained rule of patriarchy and male dominance.

You will recall it was Bobby Kennedy who in 1963 told us America will have a black president 40 years later. Obama’s emergence was, therefore, more than a confluence of time but in a sense also meticulous in orchestration as anticipated by Kennedy.

America stands again faced by such a moment of historical compunction. After Obama, it contracted back into its conservative, white male doctrine when a Republican political constituency determined to make Donald J. Trump it’s the 45th president. As things stand the Democrats have the House in the majority while the Republicans have the Senate by a couple of votes.

In conversation with Don Bowdoin, reminded us again that, “the Democrats are famous for bringing knives to a gunfight.” This he says as I began to make the point why Harris is the best candidate so far seen among the Democrats. Bowdoin’s point is the Democrats regardless of how salient their overall reasoning on necessary policy position seldom early on close ranks on an issue or a candidate when Republicans may not have it together in policy articulation but when the call comes to unite behind an issue regardless of how poorly constructed or bereft of depth in common visionary outlook easily close ranks.

Kamala Devi Harris for those who do not know her just like they didn’t know Barack Hussein Obama, who should be 56 years old come 2020, was born on October 20, 1964. She is a member of the Democratic Party, she previously served as the 32nd Attorney General of California from 2011 to 2017, and as District Attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2010. On January 21, 2019, Harris officially announced her campaign to run for the presidency on a historic MLK day. As was expected her name does not roll easily of the traditional American tongue hence, she at first had to educate those who interview her on her name as her memoirs also explain.

It is always good to hear someone introduce themselves because that is more authentic and the evidence of self-definition. Harris introduces herself as a “candidate of nuance, a child of immigrants, a woman of colour, capable of bridging the cracks in the country’s foundation because she has seen their effects first-hand”.

With this her choice of King’s day, she consciously underscores two critical things. Firstly, she underlines her connectedness to King’s civil rights justice diaphragm on the one side and his egalitarian dream of the United States where all are welcome and equal in the opportunity of a pursuit of happiness. Undeniably interspersed with this is the unequivocal double-edged message of her identity at two levels her Jamaican born father and Indian mother as the evidence of who America really is an increasingly become, a society of interwoven cultures and persuasions where the central focus remains common humanity.

An America that evidence a burgeoning community of former foreigners that came swayed, to invest, learn and teach and to build a future and provide an opportunity for other foreigners to equally share in what they have built as part of that American dream. This Didache is the opposite of what the 45th President and the Republican conservatives in this epoch lead on the USA.

She self-identifies as black and may, for some, become the first Asian American president if she succeeds in the primaries and later in the elections race.

On another score her identity as a professional where she never was far from the pursuit of justice, the obligation of equality and the intention of fairness. All these intrinsically and fundamentally fuses her to the iconic life spaces of Martin Luther King Jnr, in a unique yet meaningful and not easily challenged way. She is correct to capitalise on the nuances that she presents.

When I make the point of a female 46th  president some may retort, well, there is a slew of women who lifted their hands in this race. Who then are the more obvious ones? Democrat women in the race have at least five candidates yet none is more pronounced or have been more vocal than Elizabeth Ann Warren, a politician and academic specializing in bankruptcy law, who serves as a senator from Massachusetts since 2013. If Nancy Pelosi is the doyen of Democrat politics and the current speaker again, a tough nut to crack as Trump found out, Warren has to be up there as one of the more seasoned women. Hence my deduction that Kamala Harris from a gendered space, has to hurdle Warren as co- contender.

Why then Harris and not Elizabeth Warren you may ask? Warren in many senses carry the wounds of  Trumpism known in skirmishes and brawls that came to inadvertently define her candidacy. Her candidacy also appears in a solitary sense as reactionary to Trump, premised as oxygenated and dependent on his pollution. Warren ensembles a fight with Trump, the accidental unorthodox and perhaps indolent businessman turned politician who has scant regard for conventional politics as a science. Sometimes maintaining a critical distance of reflection from your worst enemy is useful in making you not fused to him/her so that when people seek to understand you, they are not compelled to decipher you through your nemesis.

Two years of Trump has drained many, by the time he is shown the door be it by an anticipated damning Special counsel, Robert Mueller report or the people’s vote, America will have no need to be reminded of Trump and his antics soon again. Unfortunately, Warren’s candidacy will indirectly remind Americans of Trump when they want to forget him.

Harris has remained true to her self-identified bridge-builder status, firm, moderate yet consistent in her pronouncements on the 45th president and his policy direction. She evidences a balanced yet seasoned jurisprudence that made the core issues of policy and praxis central with her incisive questioning of Supreme Court nominees. We saw this when she distinguished herself in being sober in her engaging in justice Kavanaugh interviews. That context easily can intoxicate politicians and ordinary people to confuse chaff and wheat. Harris’s aptitude and temperament as a seasoned jurist afforded her to be sober and yet very scathing backed by content and less emotion. It is perhaps here that her astuteness for high office for me first became visible.

She didn’t allow herself into the brawl of politics with Kavanaugh she handled him professionally as democracy and civility demands while she did not fear to challenge and point out her wrestling’s with his candidacy. She wholly identifies with the post-modern Global society ethos where increasingly old orders are questioned and new paradigms find life.

Harris has something else counting for her, she inadvertently affords America a second bite at a historical Obama presidency era. This is not stated in the shallowness of rendering her the second coming of Obama but in depth of visionary intellectual astuteness and outlook. She in candidacy embodies the ideals of that wide-arch vision that enables many to associate with and resonate at more than a skin-deep level. In her, America is given another chance to practice politics in an orderly, structured and meaningful gracious sense.

Where the vulgarised state of politics and less thoroughly thought through emotional rants of twitter–diplomacy has eternalised and defined the 45th president in an unprecedented and predictable sense, we know the dignity of the office will be restored with her candidacy. My unsolicited advice to her is not to get offended with a perpetual association with the last Democrat President Obama because she can only use that to her advantage.

Harris also just may represent another opportunity for USA presidential leadership that is generally clean and scandal-free at a personal level. While the birther-crowd concocted all sophisms on Obama’s birthplace – they had to concede the 44th President of the USA was clean and remained clean for his two-term stay in the White House. America needs this for its world image, it needs to evidence it is striving to be clean and not corrupt, albeit it at an artificial but significant in face value level. Harris appears also cut from that same cloth of imbibing the qualities of a history of self-watch. This augurs well for her candidacy to make it to the proverbial summit where no woman yet planted her flag and permanently broke the glass ceiling.

She will have to go beyond where Hillary Rodham-Clinton reached with her first nomination from a party. That was the glass ceiling than, the new and next frontier if not only one is the ultimate – becoming the 46th president of the world’s oldest democracy.

On a lighter note, in a world where younger people participate in a changed context in democracy, other things matter too as we saw with Obama. Among these things, is beauty, lol. Throughout time the subject of beauty mattered if we remember John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama. The handsome lanky aesthetic appearances of Obama drew a contingency of audiences across the divides. Harris is an attractive and consuming personality all round and she easily presents something palatable for those who want to hear her speak.

What then counts against her candidacy? Harris is relatively unknown she may be known in California but she will have to work to be understood recognized and backed in some entrenched East Coast and Midwest states like Iowa, Virginia etc. She also will have to work hard in the older Bible-Belt often evangelical spaces where her beliefs on same-sex-marriages may still be frowned upon.

Crafting a lasting consistent message in manifesto sense will be an important and worthwhile exercise for her. Developing the right and attuned messaging for her male-driven and race-laced negative audiences will be another challenge she will have to overcome.

She can take a leaf from Obama’s book not to be overly black, while Obama could claim a white Irish mother who really shaped him along with the grandparents on her side and an absent African Kenyan-born father, Harris’ rich roots that courses the fusing of Jamaican – Island fatherhood and Asian – Indian motherhood presents the unique dynamism of common people who despite geography found love and let lived in many ways chronicles the story of America. She must find a means to let this count in her Town-hall, private and public meetings as the common humanity America stands for.

An America that attests a people of undeniable foreigners of which very few can claim an exemption. That common humanity that defies borders, constricts, ethnicities and glaringly detests a dogma of walls as the best means for national interest, but a persuasion that emphasizes the building of bridges of interaction, undeniable necessary intersections that details a mosaic America was from the start and continues to be.

Her candidacy if shaped properly can be the antidote of all the constipated 45th Presidential messaging without over-emphasizing Trumpism. She may opt to instead underscore the ideals as captured by the founding fathers and re-designed by the lived experiences of many millions who have always known to respect one another and a world of alliance partners and those who do not agree with you.

In her, America has the hope of someone who can rebuild the relationships at two levels both internally and externally. One who can work for the reclaim of an America where identity politics is not conscripted but increasingly understood in self-define and not binaries of questionable unscientific race-based essences of “black” and “white”.

That future must let the idea of race for the totality of common humanity die to cite Nina Jablonski, “We are in the middle of a huge new experiment in human evolution.”

Harris stands in that space again to assist America and its people finds its true north away from the shallow insults, makeshift walls, and the rhetoric of fear that has come to define a backwards America. Yet Harris will not have it easy, she has many mountains to climb but I dare assert Democrats and America needs her candidacy.

Clyde N. S. Ramalaine
Political Commentator & Writer Chairperson of TMoSA Foundation