With the Supreme Court hearing the DACA appeal in the fall, Trump’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals will surely a campaign issue going forward. Same with the Census citizenship question that was blocked for now but thrown back to the lower court. And then there’s the 5-4 SCOTUS decision that says partisan gerrymandering that rigs the political system is A-OK.
This is how important the presidency is. The power to pick the Supreme Court justices becomes more important than practically anything else.
But the big news was still the Democratic presidential debates, and the takeaway is now clear for us—Could Kamala Harris become the first Asian American president?
MY KAMALA STORY
Before my column voice was here, I wrote the “Emil Amok” column in Asian Week based in San Francisco, at one point the largest English-language Asian American publication in the nation. One of my columns focused on a San Francisco story in which young Asian Americans were being beaten up by white hooligans in the traditionally white Sunset district. The District Attorney chose not to prosecute.
The DA was Kamala Harris. Half-African American on her father’s side. Half-Asian Indian on her mother’s side.
It was a story made for Asian America and diversity.
I talked with her office a few times about the incident. The DA’s office was adamant. There would be no prosecution of the white bullies.
I talked to Harris in person about it, and later I bumped into her at an event. Our eyes met. Briefly, she turned white. She recognized me from my column photo, and then walked away cordially.
She was just a young DA then, not even Attorney General of the entire state. But now she’s running for president.
I think of that story when I see her recreate herself in 2019.
It especially hit me during her Biden moment, the hit of the second debate.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris said, and then she launched into the recent story of Biden’s past support of segregationist U.S. senators. You may recall Biden said the senators were at least “civil.”
Harris was civil here, too. But she slammed Biden: “It was actually very hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two U.S. senators who built their reputations and careers on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that but you also worked with them to oppose busing,” she said.
Then Harris talked about a little girl waiting for a bus to integrate the public schools in Berkeley, California.
“That little girl was me.”
It was the mic drop moment at the two-hour debate.
Harris has lived the African American experience. She identifies as black, but it’s only part of her story.
I asked my Gen Z daughter, who watched the debates from Washington, D.C., what she thought of Harris.
“She boohoos about being black and oppressed, but she put all the black people in jail that she could,” my daughter said. Harsh.
It was a reference to when Harris touted her “progressive” record as a prosecutor, which got the attention of people like University of San Francisco associate law professor Lara Bazelon.
“Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent,” said Bazelon, the former director of Loyola Law School’s Project for the Innocent in reports about Harris’ story. “Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.”
That was in January, and now we’re into the summer, when the reinvention is in high gear.
When I told my daughter Harris was half-Indian, I got a strange reaction.
“She’s half Asian?” she said in disbelief. “Very good at code switching.”
My daughter, half-Filipino, half-Caucasian, knows a little about that herself. She’s like Harris. Diversity’s blend, the best of America. A multiracial American.
I wonder when on the national stage Harris will acknowledge that fully.
In Miami, Harris was a black woman. She even took a stab at speaking Spanish.
A ball of diversity, and there’s even some Asian in there.
She just doesn’t say it much when everyone is watching.
With 21 million of us, most of us immigrants, it is still an ongoing Asian American dream—that one day, there will be an Asian American president. Norm Mineta was close, as a former member of Congress and a cabinet secretary twice. There’s Elaine Chao now. And even Gary Locke. All stuck in the cabinet.
This go round, could it be Tulsi Gabbard? Judging from Debate No. 1, no.
Will it be outsider tech-dude Andrew Yang, the so-called “Casual Rich Asian,” the no-tie guy with the “$1,000 dollars for your thoughts/Universal Income idea”?
Judging from Debate No. 2, probably not him either.
But Harris does have a chance, as she deftly creates a story to endear herself to the country.
Her story is black. But it’s also Asian. And everyone needs to know, because people start leaving it out of the bio. And then it’s a surprise, and people like my daughter say, “She’s half-Asian?”
I just want to know: when will she see and recognize us–her fellow Asian Americans–on the national stage?
The sooner the better, because otherwise, it looks like she’s taking Asian American support for granted with a manufactured story, buffed for maximum campaign advantage. How authentic!.
But maybe this is the way of modern diversity. Things are so diverse, your race really doesn’t matter.
Unless, as Harris did on debate night, you want it to.
THE REST OF THEM
After these first two debates, I’d say Castro, Booker, and Warren topped the first one. Harris, Sanders, Buttigieg the second. Biden? I think he was exposed. He’s ready to be the statesman, not president. I liked Marianne Williamson too. She’s the real anti-Trump, the true outsider. And what a fight. Williamson’s love vs. Trump’s hate and divisiveness. My Reikiness felt Williamson’s energy. But not for president. The wonks would rebel. They already think she’s an alien. Like space alien.
So the sooner we get to the six I mentioned, we’ll get to candidates that can appeal to both the wonks and the casual voters who will decide this election. And to more thoughtful debates.
The six are pretty solid. Diverse across age, race, gender. Booker’s a vegan too. There’s even some Asianness in there, somewhere.
More importantly, any of the six would represent a desperately needed upgrade from where we are today.