A few months back, most of the coverage surrounding Kamala Harris (D-Ca.) was centered around her failure to prosecute known foreclosure king and current secretary of the treasury Steve Mnuchin, her meeting with Clinton donors and her repeated silencing by the GOP during Senate hearings. By all accounts, Harris seemed to be following the neoliberal trajectory of Hillary Clinton and many before her. She still may be, but she’s begun to stray from the path a bit. While both of the aforementioned actions (the largely indefensible Mnuchin decision more prominently) will, and should remain stories of note, it seems as though Harris has begun to recognize how fractured her party is, and acknowledge the power of the Sanders/Warren/Ellison wings therein.
Late last month, Harris announced she would co-sponsor Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for All” bill. It’s a big deal. Even if it’s merely a symbolic, political maneuver designed to win over Sanders’ supporters, many of whom have been very skeptical about Harris as a presidential candidate, or if it’s just recognition of the populous shift regarding universal health care, it will still go a long way. As Andrew Joyce noted in Mic, it has already. Furthermore, the bail reform bill Harris is working on with Rand Paul (R-Ky.) will receive significant support from progressive Dems, many of whom think criminal justice reform is paramount.
These two moves on their own won’t suddenly transform Kamala Harris into the savior of the anti-corporatist progressives by any stretch, but implementing a single-payer health care system has become a primary concern for many on the left. It has been brought up as a litmus test of purity for potential democratic presidential candidates so her endorsement is certainly noteworthy.
At this point, it’s essentially irrelevant whether or not this move was strategic or genuine, it shows that Harris is willing to evolve or placate, both of which will benefit her moving forward. It’s entirely possible this is just one, rather safe aberration in what will inevitably end up being a predictable, donor-funded, centrist campaign.
(Campaign? But it’s so early and she hasn’t said anything about running for president.)
(Oh, she’s running.)
Supporting single-payer will not hurt Harris with the main contingent of centrist Democrats; she’ll pick up more from the progressive wing then she’ll lose from the center. Moreover, her endorsement may help slide single-payer even further into the mainstream.
Harris still has a lot to prove if she plans to get the progressive wing of the Democratic party behind her, but this is a good start.
Written by Jesse Mechanic
Jesse Mechanic is the editor in chief of The Overgrown.