Political Copaganda & The General Elections

Earlier this week, after months of viral pleas and open letters and less than 100 days from the general election, Joe Biden finally announced his Vice Presidential running- mate would be Senator Kamala Harris. 

With a political career predicated on the criminalization of poor working-class Black people in the Bay Area of California, it came as no surprise to many that Harris would have been chosen. However, what is surprising is the inability of many of us to recognize counter-insurgency and neo-colonialism when directly facing it. 

Harris was both a chief legal advisor and chief law officer to the California state government, with responsibilities that included leading the California Department of Justice, enforcing state laws, supporting local law enforcement, overseeing law enforcement agencies, and even assisting as the chief legal counsel in state litigation cases. 

By her own admission, Harris is a “top cop”. Her role as prosecutor of a major city in the largest state has been establishing a law and order agenda. Prosecutors are a driving force of mass criminalization and incarceration, as well. Wielding unprecedented and unparalleled discretion and power, prosecutors are not interested in justice, but instead winning cases.

However, rightfully acknowledging Harris as a cop, in a moment of nationwide calls to defund the police, has not penetrated middle-class colonized people in America who are oftentimes not directly affected by criminalization at the hands of the state and who also feel that poor working-class Black people, in most instances, deserve to be jailed. 

Many of her ‘blind’ loyal supporters, that have leaned heavily into identity reductionism to harp on Harris being the “first” (she isn’t), want others to believe that the awful and sadistic record Harris holds in her “carrot and stick” approach to law and order is not of her own doing. They instead argue that her hands were tied because, as a Black woman, she did not have the luxury of being lenient towards Black people. 

While attempting to victimize Harris with the burden of identity, these same supporters also revel in her identity by choosing to emphasize that over any of her actual harmful policies.  All across social media platforms, people are attempting to curtail criticisms by dwelling on what it means for their individual selves to now be represented in the highest office.  It’s already been decided, in more ways than one, that the actual goal of the elections is not to enforce policies beneficial to the most marginalized of us but to get Trump out of office by any means necessary, singling out his administration as uniquely evil. Any questioning of those “means” is met with a complete denial of both her and Biden’s actual record. 

Noting how people abuse identity for personal gains isn’t identity politics. Instead, what we are witnessing is liberal identity reductionism. We are socially conditioned, even as working-class people, to invest in and sustain existing oppressive systems we’ve come to see as “progress” so long as we have a shared identity. This is not liberating, but instead violent towards the most marginalized that is always directly affected. It’s counterrevolutionary. 

Last year before her failed presidential campaign came to a close, Harris received much of these same criticisms about her time as a DA, to which she has stated she’s “made mistakes” in her political career. This implies that she unintentionally destroyed lives, but her RECORD (which is publicly available)  shows that she has argued for extensive punishment through laws for the poor working-class Black communities she represented. 

Harris’ supporters would love to evoke nuance behind her decision making, believing she unfairly faced tough decisions. However, there can be no nuance on Harris’ record that includes self-righteous glee in the criminalization of poor parents over truancy, an increase in Black incarceration, support of the death penalty, endangerment of sex workers, the praise of prison labor, fighting to keep non- violent offenders in prison, and a blockade to the rights of the incarcerated Trans community, and much more. 

Nothing about Harris has ever been a “mistake” and everything about this woman has been calculated. To ignore this for the sake of identity is dangerous. To allow her grace to change void of challenging lip service in a political campaign is foolish. As a former prosecutor, she prides herself on her “law and order” background. It is, in fact, that background that is beneficial to her because she presents herself as “tough” in regards to handling the Trump administration during formal proceedings. But it should be clear that Harris is no friend to the poor and working-class of this country.

Her language around “fair housing” that insists full-time workers don’t deserve to be houseless, despite being told how dangerous that distinction is for her constituents in a state with the highest houseless population per capita, wasn’t a mistake. It was a window into how she views the poor reiterated in her support in criminalizing them.

Her decision to go after Backpage and co-sponsor the SESTA/ FOSTA bill which overwhelmingly negatively affects cis and Trans Black Women (not just those in the sex industry but those sexualized and criminalized for it) wasn’t a “mistake” but a platform she ran on proudly. 

Her program “Back on Track” that people have been discussing as a ‘plus’ to her record on prison reform or a sign that this “law and order” politician can be shifted focuses on putting “criminals” (oftentimes first-time drug offenders, oftentimes single mothers) back into the workforce. The language of criminality is important here because in order to enter the program they had to plead guilty; forced criminalization of the poor with the options of either taking the job or going back to jail. This also includes deals made with businesses to hire these people thus making their criminalization profitable. 

Harris, like many others, have become accustomed to using poor working class Black people as stepping stones for career aspirations. It is a class contradiction that exposes those seeking to live out their best lives by way of oppressing others and justifying it all by using shared kinship as a weapon, never battling with what that means. This re-brand of “harm reduction”, which is actually nothing short of harm displacement, ultimately minimizes what it actually meant for Harris to have targeted Black men, mothers, and their children which reinforced the invisibility of poor working-class Black communities inevitably making them vulnerable to being disposed of. 

The excuses that fail to hold Harris accountable for the harm she’s directly caused to countless Black people overlook that not only has the last six years revolved around a movement where the central slogan and belief is “Black Lives Matter”, but also the last two months of the country burning from the outrage that resulted from George Floyd’s death and all Black lives under the thumb of systemic oppression.  Yet, in this moment and time, folks have placed an asterisk on the slogan and we are finding ourselves needing to scream out that the lives of poor working class Black people ARE NOT expendable. Especially not for a cop! 

 It is unfortunate that the ADOS and adjacent clubs ‘movements’ do not believe that Harris’ awful record can stand on its own. Instead, they have resorted to fascist race science and centering her white spouse as the focal point of the issues. It isn’t. Nor should it be centered in any way. Not only is it unnecessary, but it’s irrelevant. There have been completely Black (whatever that is supposed to mean) people who have betrayed the poor Black working class. Clarence Thomas sits as a shining example of that fact. And as evidenced in her recent Netflix special and podcast commentary,  Michelle Obama stands as another. 

Harris shouldn’t be attacked because of fascist race science that aligns with MAGA logic, more than anything—- the same MAGA actively and openly attempting to lynch us. And she certainly shouldn’t be attacked because her husband is a white man. We should be aware, historically, that that isn’t a measure of solidarity or consciousness. 

What Harris should be consistently criticized for is being the epitome of a neoliberal politician. She should absolutely be criticized for allegiance to the illegitimate apartheid state of Israel, willingly assisting in the genocide of Palestinians and welcoming that same murderous IDF to train police on constituent tax dollars. She should be attacked for her performance of “Trump is awful and dangerous” while voting yes in increased military budget under his administration to invade Syria under false pretenses. 

More importantly, Harris should be criticized for attempting to wipe her history clean, using “Black Girl Magic” as a cloak and shield against any real accountability for the harm she’s caused. She’s attempting to rewrite her monstrous history in real-time and far too many are allowing it.

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Erica Caines is a poet, writer and organizer in Baltimore and the DMV. She is an organizing committee member of the anti war coalition, the Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black centered Ujima People’s Progress Party. Caines founded Liberation Through Reading in 2017 as a way to provide Black children with books that represent them and created the extension, a book club entitled Liberation Through Reading BC, to strengthen political education online and in our communities.