Book Review: Kamala Harris Reveals the Woman Behind the Dais

While it is no secret that Kamala Harris wrote her newest book, The Truths We Hold, to lay out the case for a presidential campaign, there was no guarantee it would be a success. In fact, I read Julián Castro’s An Unlikely Journey immediately before reading Harris’ memoir. It was fine. It had cute anecdotes about his childhood and some inspiring ones about his time on the city council. It painted the odds that Castro overcame to become a credible presidential candidate just two generations after his grandmother immigrated to Texas, but it failed to craft a cohesive narrative about who Castro is.

The Truths We Hold, however, is a far more successful work of political memoir. It may not be on the level of Michelle Obama’s Becoming, but Kamala Harris does a masterful job of weaving her personal narrative into a story that emphasizes key American values and the issues facing a divided nation today. Her work as a prosecutor, a district attorney, and as California Attorney General spills off the page as she describes the issues she worked on, the challenges she faced, and the questions facing the United States in the coming years.

The book gave Harris the chance to answer questions on voters’ minds on her own terms. Doubts exist among those on the left about whether or not Harris’ career as a prosecutor is acceptable in the age of Black Lives Matter. Harris describes her decision to go into law as a prosecutor, calling on the memories of civil rights lawyers who prosecuted KKK members and the nation’s most famous attorney general, Robert Kennedy. In fact, her chapter about her time as a prosecutor is now her presidential campaign slogan: For the People. The chapter seeks to dispel the left’s criticism. She meets her critics by sharing her history of reforming the system from within.

In page after page, the real Kamala Harris emerges. Those who know her as a political figure are likely familiar with her surgical questioning of Brett Kavanaugh. The Truths We Hold goes deeper than a C-SPAN camera can in demonstrating the motivational forces that stir within this leading presidential contender. She is a daughter with a deep reverence for her mom and the wisdom she imparted. She is a stepmom – Momala – to two children that she came to through marriage but loves as her own. She has many fundamental beliefs – Medicare for All, a gentler immigration system, a fairer criminal justice system – but perhaps none are so important as her belief in Sunday family dinner, which she often prepares for her family.

Beyond the prosecutorial style of this larger-than-life politician is a deeply passionate and caring advocate on behalf of those she has been chosen to serve. Many people have long noticed Harris’ expertise as a politician, but I was among those who, at times, questioned her sincerity. Did she really believe the progressive politics she espoused? Or was it theater designed to prepare for a presidential run? It is impossible to read The Truths We Hold without seeing the sincerity with which Harris approaches this endeavor.

Whether or not Kamala Harris becomes the 46th President of the United States, her book is a must-read for any person who is intending to vote in the 2020 election.

Cover photograph by J. Scott Applewhite, AP

A Year Out, 2020 Campaign Takes Shape

The first votes of the 2020 Presidential Election are going to be cast a little over a year from now, on February 3, in Iowa. New Hampshire will vote about a week later, and then the party really starts. A number of states have taken steps to front-load the primary calendar, giving their state, and its delegates, more sway in selecting the nominee. In 2020, it is possible that the Democratic nominee could surpass the delegate threshold by the end of March. The 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton, did not do so until June 6.

There are currently four declared major candidates for President running as members of the Democratic Party.

The first to announce, in July of 2017, was former Maryland Congressman John K. Delaney. Delaney, a former business owner, has very low name recognition but, as he said at an event in the Dana Center last year, his hope is that running for so long will give him the opportunity to meet as many voters as possible in as intimate venues as possible in order to push up his name recognition. Congressman Delaney’s platform is broadly centrist, promoting a jobs training program, a shift to clean energy, and a reform to America’s public education program.

Hawaii Congresswoman and former Army National Guard medic Tulsi Gabbard was the second Democrat to throw her hat into the ring. She first rose to prominence in the national dialogue in 2016, when she resigned as a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee in support of Senator Bernie Sanders’ upstart presidential campaign.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders wave to supporters during a campaign event in Miami. (Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/TNS via Getty Images)

Congresswoman Gabbard, in her fourth term as a member of Congress, is having trouble getting her campaign off the ground as she is dogged by several controversies from her past. In 2017, she took part in a Congressional fact-finding mission to the warzone in Syria and met with Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad, who has been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people and has a long and bloody track record of suppressing dissent in the country. Congresswoman Gabbard has said that she supported al-Assad’s rule and opposed U.S.-led “regime-change.” She has a mixed record on social issues such as abortion and has drawn ire over her archaic positions on same-sex marriage. She once led the campaign in Hawaii for a “Traditional Marriage” constitutional amendment.

Julián Castro, a former Mayor and Housing and Urban Development Secretary, become the third major candidate to announce he was running for President. Secretary Castro has a record as a strong progressive, being an early supporter of same-sex marriage and promoting a Medicare-for-All proposal. At a recent visit to the Hilltop, he put an emphasis on pre-K education and his immigration story. Secretary Castro’s largest base of support comes from the shifting demographics of the United States, as he represents a younger, more progressive, and more inclusive picture of the future.

The only other major Presidential to declare that they are running is California Senator Kamala Harris. A first-term Senator, Harris is the child of immigrants and spent much of her early years in Quebec, where her mother moved after divorcing her father. Senator Harris has made a fast rise through the California political ranks, serving as San Francisco’s District Attorney and California’s Attorney General before being elected to the Senate in 2016. She is the first Senator from Jamaican or Indian heritage and has staked herself out as a progressive voice in Washington, leading the opposition to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, pushing for passage of the DREAM Act, and authoring criminal justice reform legislation.

While only four candidates have formally announced their Democratic campaigns for President, a number have launched Exploratory Committees, a coy political tool enabling someone to look into running for President while fundraising a significant amount of money without having to follow the normal FEC disclosure rules.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a campaign rally for Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in front of Alumni Hall in 2016. (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, an outspoken Progressive, was the first to do so, followed by New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Senator Gillibrand reached national prominence in 2017, after being appointed to the Senate when Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State in 2009, for her stiff opposition to many Trump Administration nominees as well as leading the campaign to oust Senator Al Franken of Minnesota as his sexual misconduct scandal became public.

Pete Buttigieg, the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has made history as the first openly gay person to form an exploratory bid for a major party’s nomination. Before jumping into the presidential race, he conducted an unsuccessful long-shot bid for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2017.

It is likely that several more candidates will join the Democratic field before the end of 2019. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has floated the idea of a self-funded campaign and some expect him to use his event at Saint Anselm College’s New Hampshire Institute of Politics next week to launch his campaign.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee has announced he is running for President on the sole issues of addressing climate change but has yet to file with the FEC. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to launch his second campaign for the Presidency sometime next week.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Colorado Senator Michael Bennett, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke have all been speculated to be interested in running in 2020, although none have formed exploratory committees or launched campaigns.

Fmr. Ohio Governor John Kasich visiting NHIOP in 2017. He is rumored to be considering a 2020 presidential campaign. (Photo from Saint Anselm College)

As for the Republican side, it is unlikely that a serious, viable challenge to President Trump will emerge. Former Ohio Governor John Kasich and Former Arizona Senator Jeff Flake have been frequently talked about as a potential “Anyone But Trump” candidate, but President Trump’s support among Republicans is very strong, nearly 90%. At the Republican National Committee’s annual winter meetings, held this weekend in New Mexico, the party passed a resolution declaring their support for President Trump’s reelection, essentially giving a stiff finger to any potential challengers.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a popular Governor in a blue state, has recently been floated as a potential candidate, with reports indicating he is in talks to headline a Politics & Eggs at Saint Anselm College in the coming weeks and is planning a trip to Iowa with Never Trump leader Bill Kristol. It is not obvious what potential base of support Governor Hogan has other than the Never Trumpers.

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who most recently was the Libertarian Party’s Vice Presidential nominee in 2016, has also held talks with potential staff about a Republican campaign in 2020. Governor Weld has not held office since the Saint Anselm College Class of 2019 was born, leaving the corner office on Beacon Hill in 1997. He will be headlining a Politics & Eggs event in February at the Bedford Village Inn.

Howard Schultz resigned his position as CEO of Starbucks last year to look into running for President. In an interview that will air on Sunday night’s 60 Minutes, Schultz says that he is close to announcing an independent and self-funded campaign for President as the anti-Trump. This has worried many Democrats, including former Senior Advisor to President Obama Dan Pfeifer, who said “[Schultz] will pose an existential threat to a Democrat in what will likely be 2020 race decided by a few votes in a handful of states.”

Early on in the 2020 media cycle, there was a lot of talk of a potential “Unity Party” bid, reminiscent of when Republican President Abraham Lincoln chose Democratic Senator Andrew Johnson as his running mate to unite the country in 1864 during the throes of the Civil War, with Republican Governor Kasich and Democratic Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. This talk has, largely, died down since the fall, when Governor Hickenlooper told reporters in Colorado that Kasich “didn’t even send me a text” when Governor Kasich formed a new PAC to look into running for President.

Regardless of how big or how crazy the 2020 primary fields are, or even the general election, the Hilltop with surely be at the center of it all.

Julián Castro Outlines Vision at Politics & Eggs Event

Julián Castro (D-TX) spoke at the Politics & Eggs event on campus Wednesday. (Photo by Mary Schwalm of the Associated Press)

Former Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julián Castro was on campus Wednesday to outline his vision if he wins the presidency. Castro is the most prominent announced candidate for the Democratic nomination, but the field is quickly growing. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has also announced she is running while Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) formally explore potential candidacies. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is also scheduled to announce her entry into the race on or around MLK Day. Speculation continues to swirl around former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX).

Castro is the former Mayor of San Antonio, Texas. In his speech Wednesday, Castro talked about the experience of his grandmother’s immigration to the United States and the opportunities she built for her daughter and grandsons. He has tied this personal narrative into the issues he cares most about.

Castro speaks with a Saint Anselm student while signing eggs. (Photo by Nick Fulchino ’19)

In addition to his personal narrative, Castro spoke about a variety of issues he hopes to address as president. He called for universal pre-kindergarten and talked about when he passed the program in San Antonio, asking his constituents to agree to a sales tax increase to pay for it. His emphasis on early childhood education earned applause from the room.

Castro also spoke about criminal justice reform, climate change, and affordable housing. Questions in the audience centered on how Castro plans to pay for his ambitious agenda, mental health, and veterans’ affairs.

Julianne Plourde ’20, who is a New Hampshire primary voter, reacted positively to most of Castro’s remarks. “It was promising to hear a candidate want to talk about problems that are often ignored, such as our affordable housing issues,” she said before continuing, “He’s definitely someone I want to learn more about after his speech.”

Politics & Eggs is as much a New Hampshire tradition as it is a Saint Anselm one. It is hosted at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics on campus in conjunction with the New England Council. It frequently features top political minds and nearly, if not all, presidential candidates.

Castro Announces Bid, Will Visit Hilltop

Former Sec. of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro (D-TX) announces his campaign in San Antonio, TX. (Photo from ABC News)

The parade of potential 2020 Presidential candidates continues next week with another stop at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Julián Castro, who most recently served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Barack Obama, will keynote the next Politics and Eggs of the New England Council. Castro’s Politics and Eggs visit will be days a rally, on January 12, in his native San Antonio, Texas where Castro formally announced his campaign.

The rally in San Antonio comes after a barnstorming tour of Iowa, which began today, the first state of hold an electoral contest, a few weeks before New Hampshire’s own 2020 Primary.

Before serving in President Obama’s second term cabinet, Castro was the Mayor of San Antonio for three terms and served on the San Antonio City Council before that. Castro was frequently linked to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vice presidential search before the job was offered to Virginia’s Tim Kaine.

Much of Castro’s appeal centers around his youth and his representation of the growing Hispanic population across the United States, as well as his liberal positions on issues, including a recent pledge of support for the “Medicare for All” proposal. In his announcement speech, Castro affirmed his support for universal healthcare coverage and announced plans for ending cash bail, universal Pre-K, and re-entering the Paris Climate Accord. As Mayor, Castro was a major supporter of same-sex marriage, despite the fact same-sex marriage was illegal in the State of Texas at the time.

Castro has a twin brother name Joaquín, who has been a member of Congress since 2013. Both Castro brothers have hinted at running for higher office but, it seems, they’ve decided that 2020 is Julian’s time. Regardless of which Castro brother is running, it seems that there is a new Kennedy family coming up through the Lone Star State – one more reflective of the shifting demographics and social trends in the country.

Castro will be the fifth potential Presidential candidate to visit the Hilltop in the 2020 Cycle, joining Republicans Jeff Flake and John Kasich and Democrats John Delaney and Andrew Yang.

Warren Addresses Ancestry as 2020 Heats Up

Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaking at Saint Anselm College during the U.S. election. (Photo by Andrew Harnik, Associated Press)

For many years, there have been questions over Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) claim of Native American ancestry during her time at Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. In her 2012 Senate race, her opponent, Senator Scott Brown (R-MA), attacked Warren’s honesty over her claims of Native American ancestry.

President Donald Trump has labeled her “Pocahontas,” which has been condemned by many as a racist epithet. At a rally in Montana in July, President Trump offered $1,000,000 to a charity of Senator Warren’s choice if she took a DNA test and proved her Native American roots. This week, Senator Warren took the president up on that offer.

On Monday, Senator Warren released an Ancestry DNA test she had taken, as well as a letter from a geneticist who had analyzed the results. The geneticist, Dr. Carlos D. Bustamante, found that the majority of Senator Warren’s ancestry came from Europe, specifically the United Kingdom, and Utah. There were markers on 5 genetic segments from Senator Warren that matched Native American markers. The Native American markers seem to come to Senator Warren from an ancestor eight generations prior, meaning the closest Native American in her family was a great-great-great-great-great-great-Grandparent.

Although small, Dr. Bustamante noted that this is a higher percentage than a random standard sample DNA set would have. Senator Warren has spoken about family gatherings in Oklahoma, where she was born, where the family spoke about their Cherokee heritage. Although they cannot provide documentation of that heritage and do not appear in any tribal register, experts say that that is not uncommon. As one article explains, “During the late 1800s and early 1900s, many Native Americans did not join tribal rolls for a host of complex reasons, including residency requirements, fear of discrimination, and opposition to land allotment policies.”

The timing of Senator Warren’s decision to take, and release the results of, a DNA test has not gone unnoticed. After being an oft-named potential candidate in 2016, Senator Warren appears to be taking the steps to actually run for President in 2020. As the Washington Post reported on Sunday, Senator Warren has spent the last six months laying the groundwork for a Presidential campaign, speaking with Democratic candidates in this year’s midterm elections across the country, and sending staffers to New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin – all either early primary states or must-win general election states.

Another 2020 potential candidate, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), announced her plans to travel to Iowa, the first state to hold a presidential caucus, at the end of the month. The swing through Iowa will come after a visit to South Carolina and before a trip to Wisconsin. A poll by CNN showed former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE), who has been very active in campaigning for Democratic candidates across the country, leading a slew of candidates with 33%. Senator Harris pulled 9%, while Senator Warren was at 8%. Congressman John K. Delaney (D-MD-6), who visited the Hilltop last month and was in New Hampshire over the weekend, polled at <1% in the CNN poll.

President Trump has been campaigning for re-election through much of his Presidency, holding rallies of various sizes across the country in both swing states and safe Republican states.

First Presidential Candidate Visits the Hilltop

Congressman John Delaney (D-MD) visited Saint Anselm College to outline his vision for “America 2030.” (Photo by Olivia Teixeira ’20)

Over 100 people crowded into room 1D of the Dana Centre Sunday afternoon for the first of what are sure to be many events with 2020 Presidential hopefuls at Saint Anselm College. Congressman John K. Delaney (D-MD-6) is the first individual to officially declare that he is running for President of the United States in 2020, having launched his campaign through The Washington Post on July 28, 2017. This set the record for the earliest a major presidential candidate has announced their campaign.

Delaware Senator Pierre du Pont IV previously held the record at 615 days before the Iowa Caucus of 1988. Du Pont failed to gain any serious consideration in his campaign and received an insignificant amount of votes in the first three primary contests. Delaney is hoping to have a different outcome.

Before Delaney spoke, supporters and attendees were served pizza, soda, and small cups of gummy bears in the Dana Centre lobby while staffers gave out stickers, campaign flyers, t-shirts, and copies of Delaney’s book The Right Answer: How We Can Unify Our Divided Nation.

Once it began, Delaney’s speech was more like the unveiling of the latest Apple product than a traditional campaign rally. He stood in front of his lectern with a PowerPoint presentation behind him filled with videos, pictures, graphics, and transition animations, clicking through the slides with a handheld remote/laser pointer combo. Consistent with the ambiance, the speech was fast paced and data-heavy, with lots of facts, figures, and charts flashing on the screen for moments each before Delaney moved on to the next topic.

The theme of Delaney’s speech was “The cost of doing nothing is not nothing.” He argued that our political system has failed to adapt and address the evolving challenges of the 21st Century and that the inactivity of previous leaders has put us in a precarious situation. His goal is to build a “more prosperous and more just future” for Americans and the rest of the world.

He praised the late Senator John McCain (R-AZ) for striving to bipartisanship and bridge building in a society that is clogged by partisan gridlock and said that politicians should aim to model themselves after Senator McCain’s style.

Delaney’s platform has seven key planks. The first is to push for greater investment in America. Currently, 80% of venture capital funds are spent in Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, and San Francisco. Delaney argued that America needs to reform the tax code to incentivize investment in the heartland and other underdeveloped areas of the country. He also expressed support for the doubling of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which rewards Americans who are working but cannot achieve a sustainable income level.

The second is the development of a National Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which Delaney said many other leading countries, including China and Russia, have developed. Delaney said that the NAIS needs to take into account possible job disruption and probable security concerns, praising a recent set of laws passed in California to limit what companies like Google and Facebook can do with one’s data without one’s direct consent.

The third plank is the reformation of the public education system in the United States. The current system was constructed by The Committee of Ten in 1892, which was when the presidents of the top ten colleges and universities set out to create a public schooling system. Delaney argued that there is a need for a new Committee of Ten to create a new public school system, centered on PreK through 14th-grade education. Delaney argued that spending the money to invest in Pre-Kindergarten programs and public Associate’s Degrees will pay back dividends to the country.

The fourth plank is the introduction of a basic Universal Healthcare plan in the United States. The plan must include a program for the purchasing of supplemental plans, according to Delaney, as well as the protection of Medicare and Medicaid. Delaney said that a major reason why American wages haven’t increased with corporate profits is because healthcare costs for employees is “gobbling up the profits” that could otherwise go towards increased wages.

The fifth plank is investing in infrastructure, which Delaney argued would be critical to creating new middle-class jobs. He introduced a $1 trillion infrastructure bill in Congress, which gained 40 Republican co-sponsors and 40 Democratic co-sponsors, and called for the funding of a national infrastructure bank, the establishment of a 25% corporate tax rate, and increased wealth in the Highway Trust Fund. The plan was never voted on by Republican Leadership under the Obama Administration.

The sixth calls for putting America on track to be 50% reliant on green energy by 2030 through the implementation of a carbon tax. The seventh is to tackle the national debt as a percentage of GDP. Delaney did not speak of how he plans to achieve that goal but directed attendees to read the final chapter of his book, which was available for free in the lobby of the Dana Centre, for his plans on how to fund programs without increasing the national debt as a percentage of the GDP.

Delaney said that the real “villain is partisanship. And it is toxic.” He argued that President Trump has turned back the clock in terms of the progress we’ve made as a country and that “the tone at the top matters,” attacking President Trump for his combative attitude and frequent Twitter feuds.

One of his more bold proposals was that the President should go before the Congress once every three months and deliver a miniature State of the Union address for an hour before having an open Q&A period with the Congress for two more hours. He said that this was a great method to help Americans with their “problem figuring out what is true and what isn’t.”

Delaney filled Dana 1D, but the audience was largely homogeneous. The room was notably lacking in diversity and, other than eight members of the Saint Anselm College Democrats, there were only about 10 people in the room younger than 30 years old.

Although Delaney is the first candidate to officially declare, he is not the first potential candidate to visit the Hilltop. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has made one trip to the NHIOP already and is making a second in October. Governor Martin O’Malley (D-MD) made a visit last year, as have former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander and Attorney General Eric Holder (D-DC).

Since Delaney’s visit, presidential candidate Andrew Yang, seeking the Democratic nomination, has come to visit with Saint Anselm College Democrats and other interested students.