Guest Columnist

Kamala Harris is pragmatically progressive

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris answers questions from union leaders during the Finkenauer Fish Fry at the Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris answers questions from union leaders during the Finkenauer Fish Fry at the Hawkeye Downs Expo Center in Cedar Rapids on Saturday, Nov. 2, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

The large number of candidates for president has left Democrats with their most difficult choice in caucus history. I’m reminded of the 1965 hit by the Lovin Spoonfuls, “Did you ever have to make up your mind, pick up on one and leave the other behind, it’s not often easy, it’s not often kind, did you ever have to make up your mind?”. I know it’s not easy, but I know it can be done and has to be done, the sooner the better.

When you consider the obvious fact that any one of them is an infinitely more decent human than the current occupant of the White House, you realize if that were the criterion for selecting our candidate and the next president of the United States, we could simply put the names in a hat and draw out the winner. 2016 proved that is not enough or we might be looking at a President Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Martin O’Malley or any one of a number of Republicans or Democrats.

This column is not about the plethora of shortcomings exhibited by our current president including, but not limited to, his moral turpitude, his criminal behavior, his attacks on our democracy, his violations of the Constitution, his damage done to alliances and our trading partners, all of which are becoming more evident daily. This column is about who the Democrats will select to oppose him in 2020.

Americans are beginning to wake up to the damage which can be caused by electing someone to the presidency who proves every day he is unfit. In 2020 it is imperative that the Democrats nominate someone who exhibits the character, intelligence and determination which can “Make America Proud Again.” We must select a candidate that every American can rally behind to repair the damage being done by this administration.

This campaign will not be won by the meek and mild, nor will it be won based on a binder full of policies, many of which will be attacked as extreme, if not painted as the dreaded “Socialism.” I’m afraid the electorate, by and large, is not tuned in enough to comprehend the nuances of detailed policy, let alone begin to understand what socialism really is. The 2020 campaign is underway with ads by the GOP whose game plan is to create fear and paranoia with their huge stash of cash.

Democrats need to nominate someone who presents policies which will help our fellow citizens “pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” someone who will not be a lightning rod for Trump and his right-wing media to attack and someone who will be able stand up to Trump and take the fight to him. This may be our last best hope of saving the America we know and love.

One person is uniquely qualified to fill the bill and that is Sen. Kamala Harris. With her background and experience as a district attorney and as California’s Attorney General, she knows how to prosecute a case. She has already described Donald Trump as a “walking indictment in a red tie.” In case you missed her questioning on the Senate Judiciary Committee, she wastes little time getting anyone sitting before the committee to squirm in their seat. She, more than any other Democrat running, has the ability and the gumption to stand up to Donald Trump and put him in his place.

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Harris has also laid out some comprehensive policy proposals which can be best be described as pragmatically progressive. She is not a flame throwing radical liberal nor is she a milquetoast moderate. Perhaps she can more simply be defined in terms used by Goldilocks in describing the bears’ porridge, not too hot nor too cold, but just right. We must not nominate someone who is an easy target for Trump and the right-wing media nor can we nominate someone who will wither under their relentless attacks.

Coming out of the gate Harris proposed a large increase in teacher pay, recognizing the role of a quality education for all of our children if we are to heal our society’s inequalities and prepare them for the rapidly changing world. She has since put out a comprehensive “Children’s Agenda” which includes a six-month family leave and a child care cap on costs. Her words sum it up best, “If you want a strong America, if you want a competitive America, if you want a healthy America, if you want a safe America — focus on children.”

When I read her “Plan to Partner with Rural America” and heard her speak at a farm east of Tipton on October 17, I became convinced that she had what we were looking for in a candidate. Her rural plan touched on all the challenges small towns are facing which are an agricultural economy facing headwinds made worse by foolish trade wars, the difficulties of small businesses getting started, a shortage of health care facilities and school systems faced with declining enrollment. She would roll back the Trump tax cuts which primarily benefited the wealthy and increase support for the USDA’s rural investment services.

Just like 2007 when Barack Obama was behind in the polls because voters had fallen in line with the better-known candidates, thank goodness this race is not over and there still is time to ask yourself who can cross the finish line in first place on November 3, 2020.

Larry Hodgden is an Iowa Democrat.

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