Friday, August 14, 2020

What To Expect From Kamala Harris


On Tuesday, Joe Biden announced his choice of Senator Kamala Harris as his vice-presidential nominee. It was a remarkably formulaic decision: he had said a while ago that he was going to pick a woman; after the George Floyd Riots, everyone started chattering about how he should pick a black woman; Kamala Harris, the Junior Senator from California, was the highest-ranking politician who fit the bill.

People on the right have spent the last few days talking about how Harris will be bad for social conservatives. People on the left have been talking about how she will be good for diversity. Cynics have been talking about how easily she forgot about the groping allegations against Biden which, just one year ago, she was insisting we should all take seriously.

(Perhaps you remember all the headlines about “Handsy Joe” from last spring? Well, they went away pretty quickly once the media realized that, love him or hate him, Biden was going to be the Democratic nominee).

Right now, a lot of of people are talking about how if the Biden-Harris ticket wins, then Harris has a pretty good chance of finishing out Biden’s term because Biden is so old. If he wins, Biden will be 78 when he takes office; Trump will only be 74. Either candidate would break Reagan’s record for oldest president, the difference is that, while Trump would do it in the final year of his term, Biden would do it on inauguration day.

The ironic thing is that Biden began his career in Washington as the sixth youngest Senator ever (he reached the legal age, 30, in between election day and inauguration day). Back when he was still a young man cheating his way through law school, Biden had made up his mind that he was going to become a Senator at 30 and then become President as soon after that as he possibly could. Say what you like about the guy, he’s certainly got patience.

But back to the matter of whether Biden, if he wins, will die in office. A quick glance at the US actuarial table reveals that, on average, a 78-year-old man has a 79 percent chance of still being alive four years later. And I don’t think it really matters that Biden’s mind is nearly gone; old people often keep breathing long past their mental prime.

Now there’s a chance that the “first woman president” buzz will be appealing enough that Biden will resign in favor of Harris in the event that his condition worsens, but I wouldn’t bet on it; if Biden actually thought that lucidity was necessary for the president’s job, he wouldn’t be running in the first place. His ego is just too big to admit what everybody else already knows.

But enough about Biden and his age. I promised you a post about Kamala Harris; well, here it is.

Apart from her friendliness toward corporations, Harris is as far to the left as they get. (And if you’re one of those dowdy old folks who define leftism in terms of principled opposition to the money power, then you have to admit that America doesn’t really have an organized “Left” at all).

To begin with, Harris made a big deal in the primary out of attacking Biden for his (purely ceremonial) opposition to forced bussing in the 1970s. This line of attack was appealing because a big part of being a good Democrat these days consists of straining the facts to paint everyone and everything around you as racist.

Bussing children out of their own neighborhoods for the sake of racial imbalance was very unpopular back when it was a live issue; according to Gallup polls from the 1970s, only 4 percent of whites and 9 percent of blacks approved of it.

The reason that even most blacks, whom the policy was ostensibly helping, disliked it was that, in a lot of the places that ended up having bussing, the courts had already tried to end “de facto segregation” by allowing blacks to send their children to a neighboring district’s mostly-white school if they thought that the white school was better. Most black parents chose not to do this; they deemed it better for a black kid to go to a mostly-black school in his own town than to a mostly-white school further away from home.

So the federal courts ended up deciding that the only way to have true equality was to say that, whether you were black, white, yellow, brown, or whatever, your own opinion about where your children should go to school didn’t matter, hence the “forced” in “forced bussing”. Naturally, a lot of people didn’t take well to this philosophy of government, but the opposition to bussing was a complete failure, because the “silent majority” was largely unable to engage in the same kinds of effective civil disobedience that liberals had recently deployed against segregation and the draft.

Harris, if she becomes President, will probably support an aggressive foreign policy just like what we had under Obama-Biden. She has promised to “stand up to” Russia. Granted, there isn’t much substance behind the “stand up to Russia” shtick; it’s just something that Democrats have to say now that they’ve blamed Vladimir Putin for their loss in the 2016 election. Nevertheless, I expect that Harris will handle the Middle East even less cautiously than Trump has.

Here is another interesting thing about Kamala Harris: she has no children. This is kind of a big deal: in the last eighty years, everybody who has been nominated to run for either President or Vice-President has had at least one child. (That includes all three women: Geraldine Ferraro had three, Sarah Palin has five, and Hillary Clinton has one). And this isn’t just a matter of bad luck on Harris’ part; Harris did not marry until age 49, when she wed the millionaire lawyer Douglas Emhoff. She was a career woman, and only a career woman.

I happen to believe that, until recently, this would have counted against a potential vice-presidential nominee. And even though it isn’t polite to say so anymore, there is a good reason for this. People don’t exist as isolated individuals, and a community can only sustain itself if its members, on average, contribute at least two children to that community. Being a devoted member of your tribe, city, nation, church, or whatever means trying your best to do your share of the work.

Now, obviously not everyone is going to contribute equally.  And I don’t judge people who don’t have children because they can’t, or because they never find the right person to settle down with. I even have a degree of respect for those who choose religious celibacy, though at the same time I am glad that my own religion’s concept of holiness does not involve refusing to perform an act which is necessary to the continuation of the species.

But I digress. As for Biden picking a childless running mate, while it certainly has something to do with the new leftist attitude toward families and procreation, it’s a reflection of changes that are done and over with, not a harbinger of things to come.

The general rule with politicians is that they keep paying lip service to a principle long after they stop believing in it. Perhaps you remember all the kerfuffle about Bernie Sanders being the first candidate to get close to the Democratic nomination while running as a socialist? Well, it isn’t because the Democrats are just now turning against economic freedom, it’s because they stopped caring about economic freedom several decades ago, and are just now flaunting that fact.

So it is with the glorification of the childless career woman. When Biden announced his choice of Harris, Rod Dreher ran an article entitled “Kamala: Woke Capitalism’s Dream Pick.” He never mentions the childlessness, but he talks about all the other traits that make it obvious that Harris is going to cozy up with leftist plutocrats and crack down on social conservatives.

This is hardly surprising. Leftist plutocrats have a lot of power in this country, but social conservatives are a spent force. Mainstream American society has long since abandoned its original ideas about religion, family, sexuality, marriage, divorce, childbearing, etc. Insightful people saw same-sex marriage coming decades away because it was an inevitable consequence of what is, by now, a longstanding consensus that sex and marriage exist mainly to satisfy the emotional appetites of adults.

The opposition to abortion has similarly been a failure, owing largely to the antics of the pro-life movement itself. To begin with, not a single Republican politician has been held accountable by his base for going soft on that issue.

Also, it is a cornerstone of western political thought that governments derive their legitimacy from the act of protecting the life and other inalienable rights of their subjects, and become fit targets for a revolution when they refuse to protect these rights. Thus, it is hard for a fair-minded observer to take the Right seriously when it claims to believe in an unborn baby’s right to life, even though Roe v. Wade and Congress’ ambivalence toward that decision for the last 47 years haven’t inspired independence movements in the parts of the country with ostensibly pro-life majorities, and even though the March for Life quietly disperses itself each year without the need for John Roberts or whoever to send in the tear gas and the dogs.

Kamala Harris becoming Vice President, or even ascending to the White House itself, won’t actually have much impact on the mop-up phase of America’s so-called culture wars. Putting her in office is the sort of thing that the Left does when it has already won.

As for me, I will be voting for Donald Trump and Mike Pence this November. I am not expecting them to usher in some grand turnaround, but I do see value in keeping America out of more wars. (While Trump has had a few brushes with Iran, I think he is less warmongery than Biden or Harris would be). And I would like to see Trump appoint more judges who will defend freedom of speech, the press, and religion. Those aren’t causes which I think Kamala Harris holds in high regard.

1 comment:

  1. The big question that conservatives must answer is: which of the great changes of the last half-century are genuinely episodes of civilizational decay, and which are not -- either advances in civilization, or 'neutral' steps to the side. And the problem is, they may be both. If educated women stop having babies at replacemenet rate or better this is not a good thing. But if the barriers -- formal or informal -- to education for women have dropped, this is a good thing. I personally think repeal of the laws which could put homosexuals in jail was a good thing. The same for laws allowing a couple who do not wish to remain married, to divorce. But a stable society requires a lot of traditional male-female families. Other examples could be brought forth.

    Our real problem is that there is no theory to predict society's evolution. Clearly -- to me at least -- economic development and technology has a lot to do with it: societies which are rural, and where the average person has no access to an automobile or to radio/TV will produce a different sort of human being to ones where the population is concentratedin urban/suburban centers, can drive, and has access to radio and TV (and now, the internet). Social change will will be a function of economic/technical change. But just what this function will yield - where we're going -- is, to me anyway, a mystery.