Weekend Open Thread: Kamala is Not a Cop; Stop Calling Her “Copmala”

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On a Midwestern friend’s Facebook page, in which I was engaged in a discussion about whether one can meaningfully generalize attitudes within a demographic group (my position: which there will be deviations from the group norm, doing so still often improves one’s understanding of individuals). I came across a comment another person there that stopped me cold, which I’ll paraphrase:

“Given what happened with George Floyd, I’ll be damned if I’ll vote for someone this year who is LITERALLY a cop!”

My answer was this:

“She is *literally* not a cop — and never has been!  Dubbing her “Copmala” was a lie started by some of my my fellow leftist friends in the Californa Democratic Party’s State Democratic Central Committee.  When challenged about her not actually being a cop, they say: “Well, but she was part of the carceral system (the term just means “related to jail, prison, and penitentiaries) that has led to mass incarceration!”  Still doesn’t make her a cop, of course, but let’s take that argument on it’s own merits:

Yes, Kamala was part of the “carceral system” in that when you prosecute people for serious crimes, one of the likely outcomes is incarceration.  Good prosecutors try to find ways to divert people who can benefit from rehabilitation into other sorts of programs, but it’s not always possible or appropriate and so it is hard to avoid entirely when you’re a county’s or state’s chief prosecutor.

And while there is — as Ava DuVernay argued in her fantastic 2016 documentary 13 (for the 13th Amendment) — a continuity between slavery, then Jim Crow segregation, and the loss of the right to vote through prison convictions, that does not mean that any prosecutor is intentionally trying to convict Black people en masse to keep them from voting.  (I absolutely do believe that this still happens — and that it was happening in OC, except mostly with respect to Latinos rather than Blacks, until Tony Rackauckas got defeated in 2018.)

In any event, when I’ve challenged their actions regarding Kamala (coming from my position as a  Green New Deal and Single Payer favoring Berniecrat and, Occupy veteran who preferred Karen Bass for VP) to make up stories, they tell me that everyone knows it’s not literally true but that prosecuting anyone is being part of the corrupt system.  Yeah — and a lie is still a lie, I can now testify that at least some people half a continent away or more did buy it.

But there’s a broader underlying criticism here: that her simply having chosen to be a prosecutor, rather than a public defender of the poor, is about the most regressive thing a law school graduate can do.  One person noted that prosecutor positions tended to attract ambitious politicians who try to gain popularity by prosecuting minorities.

That is, I’m sure, true.  But it misses most of the story.  I replied:

Yes it does. (It also attracted me: I ran for DA in 2014 to kick out a corrupt and flat-out evil incumbent, despite that I’m not a criminal law attorney. He lost in the 2018 election, and I’d like to think that I softened him up.) It’s relatively easy to scare people into voting for the person who promises to break all the rules to protect them — and once they’re scared it’s hard to convince them that they’re really better off in a more just society.

There’s a huge movement in the country to elect progressive and humane prosecutors. A prosecutor’s power can be used not only for ill, but for good.

A prosecutor has the power to decide to let someone go — or not.

A prosecutor has the power to decide to charge someone with a lower level of offense than might be charged — or go for the max.

A prosecutor can decide not to charge people with a higher charge than warranted just to try to negotiate them down into a plea deal just with the threat of a disproportionate sentence — or to misuse the system in exactly that sort of way.

A prosecutor can decide to exclude evidence because of police misconduct — or to let it slide, or even to hide it.

Beyond that, a prosecutor can decide to prosecute people who are usually considered safe from the consequences of their actions, such as corrupt politicians, con artists, and those who systematically violate the rights of workers and the relatively dismpowered.

There’s SO much more. It’s literally the most important office in a county and the second most important in a state.

But if you like public defenders — despite that they are intentionally starved of the resources they need to defend far too large numbers of clients, you’re in luck! Someone who made *exactly* the decision you admire is running for President this year!

His name is Joe Biden. Life is complicated, huh?

While I did head Kamala’s Senate campaign in Orange County against Loretta Sanchez — which was understood to be the worst job in the campaign, and which mostly involved playing possum until Loretta “Woo–Woo-Wooed” herself to national notoriety during a speech in Anaheim — I did not support her for President.  But I’m not afraid of her as Vice-President, and even get some pleasure that the dire predictions from the political establishment that this would happen someday, if she were elected to the Senate, did in fact come true.  She’s more centrist than I’d like, and more risk-averse — but she’s the polar opposite of stupid and these days that means that she will push for a Green New Deal and for something a lot like Medicare for All once in office.  (Covid has finally pushed us to recognize that we really do have a fiat currency.)  She won’t ve as hard on the financial sector as I’d like — but, again, she’ll be attuned to the political winds blowing favorably.

As for the litany of supposed horrors that Tulsi Gabbard and others have tarred her with, most of them are misleading, to put it nicely.  A couple of them involved Orange County, so let’s focus on those.

First, Kamala gets crap for not taking over prosecutions in Orange County given the pervasive corruption of the then-DA — over whom, you may remember, the DPOC kicked me out for opposing in favor of the now-incumbent.  Well, nothing good would have come of her doing so, and everyone with a lick of sense knew it.  Rackauckas was deeply embedded throughout the local political scene, with both parties, and it would have been futile to try to get one of our juries to convict any of the wrongdoers.  By our votes, to that point, we had shown that we wanted a corrupt prosecutors office.  (Actually, it was less our votes that the fact from from after 2002 until 2014, no one even had the guts to run against him,  That’s power.)  Her trying to prosecute and losing would have only made things worse. If she had had unlimited resources and nothing else on her agenda, maybe she should have done it anyway — but it’s not surprising that fixing OC did not survive triage.

The second thing held against he is that she pushed for parents to be held responsible for their children’s chronic truancy from school — even to the point of facing jail time.  That was a mostly empty threat — the idea was to impel them to call in the social work system so that their children didn’t end up not getting the benefit of a public education.  (A laudable goal — even if by dicey means.)  But everyone in the state seemed to get that this was not just a license to start arresting people — except for one city: Buena Park, where Chellie Pingree was arrested because her daughter kept on missing school due to the effects of sicke-cell anemia!)  It’s sometimes said that no law is completely foolproof — and Buena Park (I think it was just the cop, not the school board) proved it.  I don’t put that on Harris’s tab; if abuse occurred elsewhere, this seemed to be the only case that became known.

I’m sure that we’ll go over more of the accusations against he in comments, and I may update this accordingly.  But take the main point here: that the main criticisms of Kamala from my friends on the left seem to be wildly overblown.

This is your Weekend Open Thread.  Talk about that, or whatever else you’d like, so long as it doesn’t create too much heat during the torrid upcoming week.


About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose attorney, semi-retired due to disability, residing in northwest Brea. Occasionally runs for office against bad people who would otherwise go unopposed. Got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012; Josh Newman then won the seat in 2016. In 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002; Todd Spitzer then won that seat in 2018. Every time he's run against some rotten incumbent, the *next* person to challenge them wins! He's OK with that. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 (in violation of Roberts Rules) when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Expelled from DPOC in October 2018 (in violation of Roberts Rules) for having endorsed Spitzer over Rackauckas -- which needed to be done. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. One of his daughters co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)