Well, Kamala Harris has certainly had a great week. She was the talk of the first round of presidential candidate debates. In fact, according to polling data from fivethirtyeight.com, Harris was only outperformed on the debate stage by Elizabeth Warren, and they weren’t even on the debate stage on the same night. Polling data also shows that Warren has seen an almost ten percent boost in cable news coverage as well as an 11 percent bump in online media attention. And, in what seems to be the best measure of support these days, Harris picked up close to 60,000 Twitter followers, more than any of her competitors.
But it’s important to understand just what it was that got Harris this boost. For those who labored through the debates, you probably know. For those who checked out the clips online the next day, you probably understand even better. Kamala Harris got her boost for her performance at the debates. Specifically, the attention came from two individual moments. The first was during a spat between seemingly every candidate on stage talking over each other, at which point Harris waited for a lull in the clamor, and then stated, “America does not want to witness a food fight; they want to know how we’re gonna put food on their table.” This predictably received a rousing applause from the audience in attendance. The second moment came when she hammered Joe Biden on his record of working with segregationists and his stance on forced busing. This week, I’d like to look into Senator Harris’ comments, what she actually said, and why she is so dangerous.
First, let’s look at the “food on the table” comment. This was obviously a canned response she had waiting in the wings for a time when it would be used most effectively. I’m not going to blame her for that. Every debater should have a few of those lines in his or her pocket to break out for the best reaction, and sometimes those lines fall hard. Just look at Hillary Clinton’s “trumped up trickle-down economics” line or whatever Jeb Bush said when he followed it up with “please clap.” Those lines don’t always hit home as intended; a lot depends on who says them, when they are said, and how they come across. Harris nailed all three on this occasion.
However, there are two glaring issues with her statement. The first is that the implication of her message is that it’s the government’s job to put food on the table of the American people. Scratch that. This was not an implication. She stated it outright. Kamala Harris believes that it is the government’s job to feed Americans. And judging by the reaction of the crowd, and the smiling faces of her opponents, that’s what the Democratic Party believes as well. In fact, Joe Biden even applauded this line. If this is the way the Democratic Party is leaning, then the very idea of America being the nation where you are in control of your own destiny is rapidly disintegrating. America has never been the place where the government pays for dinner for your family.
Slowly but surely, progressives have been grabbing an increasingly growing number of personal responsibilities for the Federal Government. Over the years, the government has introduced many welfare programs such as Food Stamps, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well as co-opting a variety of areas that used to be the responsibility of the individual, like housing, and the primary and secondary educational systems. Under President Obama, people were able to get taxpayer-funded smartphones. This election cycle, the Democrats are looking to co-opt even more areas of life previously thought to be the responsibility of the individual. Many are looking to eliminate student debt, make colleges and universities free, expand Medicare, and eliminate personal responsibility by abolishing private insurance. Now, the cat is out of the bag with this statement from Kamala Harris. The Democrats want to take over paying for food.
The bigger issue that comes from this statement is what followed it. Harris, having seized control of the floor at that point, did not then proceed to tell the American people how she planned to put food on the table, as one would have assumed she would do, given her introduction. She used this spotlight to highlight how well the economy is doing for wealthy people. She highlighted the low unemployment rates under President Trump, and then she said that this was all a bad thing. This was the theme of Kamala Harris throughout the evening. She called out for policies that would help people, and then proceeded to give precisely zero policies to fix the issues she brought up. Basically, “people want to hear how we’re going to put food on their table.” “Okay,” the people responded. “How are you going to do that?” “President Trump isn’t doing it.” That’s the whole policy.
Let’s move onto the other standout moment for Harris: the complete verbal destruction of Joe Biden. As I mentioned last week, Harris misrepresented Biden’s remarks as well as his record when he voted against busing. However, once again, we must discuss how it was that Harris was able to seize the floor to make this point. The remarks came following questions of South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and the way he dealt with policing the black community. After a response from human meme generator Marianne Williamson, Harris played the race card. “As the only black person on this stage,” Harris said. “I would like to speak.” Chuck Todd, who was trying to move on with his questions, stammered before allowing Harris the floor. It was then that Harris decided to not remark on the question of policing in the black community, but on the completely unrelated issue of Joe Biden’s 1980s relationship with segregationists.
It was at this time that she mischaracterized what Biden’s stance was. She claimed that “it was hurtful to hear [Biden] talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.” The implication (this time it is, in fact, only an implication) is that Biden spoke highly about these individuals. He did not. He just mentioned that he had a working relationship with them. In fact, he even called one of them “one of the meanest guys I ever knew.” There were no ringing endorsements of their character. Additionally, the opposition to busing was inaccurate, and Biden said as much during his response. Oh, and once again, Harris made no attempt at actual policy. The platform was used to tear down Biden. No solutions. No substance. So to recap, Harris used the race card to get the stage, ignored the topic at hand, mischaracterized her opponent, and said nothing of substance.
And this is why Harris is the biggest danger to President Trump’s reelection. Like Trump, she uses sure-fire buzz words and catchphrases, offers very little in the way of policy, and knows how to tear down her opponents, even if it means misrepresenting their views. But perhaps I have been unfair to Harris. Maybe she did make some significant policy proposals. Like when the whole stage was asked if they would eliminate private health insurance. Only she and Bernie Sanders raised their hands. This was a bit of a shock, since Harris had wavered about this issue before. Back in January, when Harris first launched her campaign, she was asked the same question, to which she responded that she would indeed eliminate private health insurance, only to walk it back the very next day. So now, in front of the whole country, she made the statement that she would, in fact, eliminate private health insurance, only to once again walk it back the very next day, claiming to have misunderstood the question. That excuse is highly questionable, considering it had been asked the exact same way the night before, and she was definitely prepped to answer it. So now we are faced with two times in six months that Harris has flipped within 24 hours on the same issue. Harris is smart here. She clearly doesn’t want to answer this question, and is pushing off having to answer it as long as possible. I don’t know how much longer she can get away with it, but it shows that she is very good at politics, but not so good at policy. And that makes her the Democrats’ ideal opponent for President Trump, who has proven to be a political master, but a policy novice.
Izzo Zwiren works in healthcare administration, constantly concerning himself with the state of healthcare politics. The topic of healthcare has led Izzo to become passionate about a variety of political issues affecting our country today. Aside from politics, Izzo is a fan of trivia, stand-up comedy, and the New York Giants. Izzo lives on Long Island with his wife and two adorable, hilarious daughters.