Harris Drops Her Mask

Joe Biden can try to hide, but he can’t run away from Kamala Harris now that she’s his vice presidential nominee. Harris’ acceptance speech was historic for its radicalism, in particular because she privileged racial identity over citizen equality, while remaining silent on rioters and their violence and glorying in her own will to power.

Thus the former California attorney general pledged to protect the violent in the name of upholding the law. She will use her prosecutorial skills against the law-abiding public. “I know a predator when I see one”—like Brett Kavanaugh, I suppose. The cleverly crafted speech had enough cliché to numb the audience to her disturbing message, but when her mask drops, her hostility to the American political principles of equality and liberty, safety and happiness is stunning. 

Harris’ speech begins and ends with celebrations of demonstrations and protest, not limited to the centennial of women’s right to vote or even George Floyd protests but open-ended activity in the name of whatever. “Fight” or “fought” appeared 13 times in her speech. She is literally a child of Berkeley protesters.

Harris’ celebration of her family heritage, her father an economist from Jamaica, her late mother a Brahmin and cancer researcher from India, is most certainly a testament to the richness of America and the opportunity its freedom offers by example to the whole world. This richness was foretold by the founders, but they also insisted that immigrants had to be loyal to constitutional principles—a difficult test to pass, given the novelty of the new American order (novus ordo seclorum). 

This is why the Constitution mandates, in addition to being a “natural born Citizen,” that a person be “fourteen Years a Resident within the United States” in order to be eligible to be elected president. The focus on “natural born Citizen” has distracted from the purpose of this requirement, however, which is worthy of consideration. 

The 14 (presumably consecutive) years’ requirement is included to ensure the person has skin in the game, that he or she has roots in America and accepts its ways and laws. In other words, in addition to the birth requirement, the founders wanted a sign that the eligible person is part of the American social contract—citizens bound with one another—and accepts the duties of American citizenship as well as the rights that come with it. 

In regard to the number of years, Harris has more than made up for having spent the bulk of her teen years in Quebec, Canada, attending middle and high school in Montreal, before studying at Howard University, the historic black university born of Reconstruction in Washington, D.C.. 

But the issue remains, what does this cosmopolitan background bring to Harris’ conception of being American? Does she recognize American duties as well as rights? This question and not some alleged “birther” charge is at the heart of the problem with Harris’ candidacy. 

If she wants to make her background part of her appeal, it is fair for voters to question it as well. And on this score her speech raises many disturbing questions. Not to ask those questions is to privilege the children of immigrants over other Americans and thus to create inequality among them. Such aristocracy is intolerable.

While protesting the “loss of normalcy” and the failure of remote learning, Harris will do nothing to oppose the teachers’ unions that resist opening classrooms. She notes the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on blacks, Hispanics, and “indigenous peoples” but blames it on “structural racism,” and therefore highlights a need to recreate society on socialist terms.

Moreover, the real virus here, Harris claims, is racism. She implies that measures on par with required “masking” could apply to dealing with racism, just as she and Biden called for a mask mandate. If racism is a “public health crisis” we should know her view of the limits on policies to restrain or eliminate it. Are there any? Such a totalitarian mentality comes easily to postmodern socialists. They begin by declaring “we are united by the fundamental belief that every human being is of infinite worth, deserving of compassion, dignity and respect” and end up assailing someone like Justice Kavanaugh on fantastic charges while also ignoring the victims of “righteous” riots. 

How Harris winds up in this Grand Inquisitor mixture of compassion and cruelty can be seen in examining the key line in her speech which appears in the middle as kind of a throwaway: “none of us are free … until all of us are free …” (ellipses in the original text). This has become a chant of the Black Lives Matter protests. Its implications are disturbing. It does not hail back to the founders or Abraham Lincoln but rather to later 19th-century sources. To the founders and even the abolitionists it would have been an alien sentiment. 

Of course men must prize their own freedom so they can work for the freedom of others. This means that Americans’ individual freedoms must never be sacrificed to a collectivity for later redistribution. Karl Marx and, later, John Dewey and other Progressives such as Woodrow Wilson, despised individual freedom, condemning it as “bourgeois.” 

By equating everyone being free with everyone being enslaved, the slogan identifies the collective will (the “all”) with the fate of the individual. This is the Karl Marx/Jean-Jacques Rousseau vision of freedom, which identifies the collectivity of the human race (why stop with borders?) with the freedom of the individual. Of course the Declaration of Independence begins with individual natural rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, among others. Respecting these demands limited government and the consent of the governed. Not so for collective rights.

Marx presented the essence of this socialist principle in his three-page “Theses on Feuerbach” (1845). Denying that the human “essence” is “inherent in each single individual,” Marx declares “[T]he standpoint of the old materialism is ‘civil’ society, the standpoint of the new is human society, or socialized humanity.” Harris expresses this sort of socialist viewpoint in her calling for “A country where we look out for one another, where we rise and fall as one, where we face our challenges and celebrate our triumphs—together” (emphasis added). This is not ordinary patriotism but a demand for redistributed wealth and honor. 

Lincoln knew well the threat and the appeal this vengeful spirit would have to working men and women and reformers and opposed it with his principle of equal opportunity (July 4, 1861). The Union’s “leading object” he said, “is to elevate the condition of men; to lift artificial weights from all shoulders; to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all; to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life.” 

The choice Americans have faced since the Civil War has been between Marx or Lincoln, alien socialism or American freedom, street mobs or the rule of law, and it is this same choice we face in 2020. With Kamala Harris on one major party’s ticket the choice is abundantly clear.

About Ken Masugi

Ken Masugi, Ph.D., is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute. He has been a speechwriter for two cabinet members, as well as for Clarence Thomas when he was chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Masugi is co-author, editor, or co-editor of seven books on American politics. He has taught at the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he was Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor; James Madison College of Michigan State University; the Ashbrook Center of Ashland University; and Princeton University.

Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

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