Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is vehemently against the War on Drugs — and she would like for you to forget her own record on the subject, thank you very much.
On July 23, Harris announced that she was teaming up with New York Rep. Jerry Nadler to promote a marijuana legislation reform bill in an effort to help communities of color disproportionately affected by harsh drug policies. Of course, it’s only the latest in Harris’ pro-pot public messaging campaign. Earlier this year, Harris said she wanted to see all marijuana-related crimes expunged from offenders’ criminal records. She has taken, of her own accord, the heavy mantle required of the nonviolent drug offender’s champion.
This all sounds noble. Yet, when it comes to this very issue, a slightly deeper dig reveals Harris’ sordid past.
Harris’ history as a prosecutor, district attorney and the California attorney general is no secret. What falls to the wayside, however, is the running tally on the lives she ruined by systematically locking up nonviolent drug offenders. As attorney general, she was vehemently anti-marijuana, refusing to consider reform to pot policy. Back then, she vowed to tackle drug crimes, believing that they were a key factor in the high murder rates in black communities. Of course, she was wrong about that.
In fact, she was one of the most hawkish AGs in the state. According to Tim Hettrich, now retired but formerly of the California Narcotics and Vice units, she was obsessive about increasing her conviction rates. “What this is all about, with her, is conviction — the percentage of convictions compared to other district attorneys in the state of California,” he told the San Francisco Chronicle.
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In just three years as attorney general, Harris increased convictions of drug dealers from 56% to 74%. That factoid is conspicuously absent from her website.
Of course, when she decided to try securing the Democratic Party presidential nomination, Harris had to change tracks. It’s why she declared the war on drugs to be “a failure,” while forgetting she was once one of its most ardent supporters. She’s ignoring the time she heartily opposed legislation that would have legalized marijuana in California. She’s failing to recall when she openly laughed at a reporter who asked, years later, if she would change her mind on the issue. And it seems to have slipped her mind that she waged war on San Francisco’s drug courts, which allow nonviolent drug offenders to attend addiction programs in lieu of incarceration.
Back then, unequivocal conviction and strictly enforcing misguided drug policies were more important to her than actually helping communities affected by drug-related crime. Harris would have done some good if she had simply worked toward marijuana legalization, which has been proven to lead to a decrease in violent crime. Instead, she elected to abstain from other states’ efforts to remove marijuana from the DEA’s most-dangerous substance list, and remained woefully silent.
The problem with dishonesty is that it always comes to light in one way or another, but apparently Harris disagrees. It’s why she’s working feverishly to reshape her history to fit her present political demands. During the second Democratic debate, candidate Tulsi Gabbard brought Harris’ dictatorial record into the limelight, demanding that Harris apologize to those who “suffered under (her) reign.” Just this year, Harris released her memoir “The Truths We Hold,” openly claiming that she acted as a “progressive prosecutor,” noting (correctly) that “not everyone needs punishment, that what many need, quite plainly, is help.”
She’s right about that, but she spent years being horribly wrong. As Gabbard argued on the debate stage, “There’s no excuse for that.” But Harris has yet to outright apologize for or try to rectify her deeds, even when her record was presented for all of America to see — after all, she mustn’t reveal any cracks in her image as the progressive movement’s Joan of Arc.
But it’s all just a front, because Harris built her career out of delivering tragic legal blows to nonviolent offenders. Indeed, she was elevated to the top of the California prosecution system by playing the role of bad cop. It’s only just now that she’s vying for the most powerful political office in the country that she’s taking a step back from her tyrannical tenure. But there’s as much real evidence that she has truly reformed her own views as there is that she reformed the California criminal justice system (read: zero).
Ever the politician’s politician, Harris is willing to do whatever she needs to — as long as it proves politically advantageous. For the sake of those needlessly sitting in California prisons, let’s not give her that option again.
Fiona Harrigan is a contributor for Young Voices (www.young-voices.com) and has worked for think-tanks such as Strata Policy and the Foundation for Economic Education. She wrote this for InsideSources.com.