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Kamala Harris’ tacky dalliance with Elle leans into gender stereotypes to cover for her lack of appealing policies

Helen Buyniski
Helen Buyniski

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

Kamala Harris’ tacky dalliance with Elle leans into gender stereotypes to cover for her lack of appealing policies
Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris has graced the cover of a fashion magazine, complete with a platitude-laden interview. Can this hypocritical exploitation of her gender distract from her horrible record?

Harris appeared on the cover of the November issue of Elle, which featured an interview with the candidate “on the power of optimism.” It’s exactly as platitude-laden as that tagline suggests, and the writer even seems to tire of Harris’ pandering, admitting “sometimes it does sound a little like Harris was raised inside a Hallmark card” – though she has no problem helping Harris bury her old image as a corrupt prosecutor, replacing it with that of a reformer. But worse than that, the slickly-produced cover package is taking advantage of an odious double-standard, one that is as sexist as the candidate’s supporters claim her critics are.

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Harris’ campaign and her ‘KHive’ supporters have been downright vicious in response to any suggestion that she attained her position by weaponizing her sex, crying misogyny whenever someone brings up her career-launching affair with former San Francisco mayor Willie Brown.

Even after their relationship was over, Brown served as Harris’ political mentor, fueling her rise in California politics and raising the legitimate question of whether she would have received the same opportunities and advantages had she been born a man. The Elle cover raises the same question – it gives Harris a chance to reach out to a politically-apathetic segment of the electorate who will view her uncritically. Just imagine Vice President Mike Pence on the cover of a fashion magazine, if you doubt there’s a double-standard at play.

The fetishization of Harris’ exterior is no accident. From the forced meme that was her Timberland boots to the Elle shoot itself, the packaging is designed to distract from the shortcomings of the person beneath. Not only is Harris seemingly addicted to cliches, but in an election year where many Democrat voters are moving further to the left than ever, she drags around her lock-em-all-up stint as California’s attorney general like a ball and chain. In an era when voters are demanding criminal justice reform, Harris’ campaign hopes they’ll forget how she repeatedly covered for corrupt prosecutors and blocked the release of exonerating evidence.

Many voters haven’t forgotten her history – especially those on the left disillusioned with Joe Biden, a lifetime creature of the neoliberal centrist establishment. Biden may have hoped that in choosing a woman of color as his running mate, he could reach out to these voters. But for that tactic to work, Harris’ record has to vanish and her ethnicity and gender must become her sole defining characteristics. 

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It’s not clear what triggered Harris’ transformation from bad cop to woke wonderwoman, but she plays the role to the hilt. “America has a deep and dark history of people using the power of the prosecutor as an instrument of injustice,” she lamented in a shockingly hypocritical 2019 campaign statement, continuing, “of innocent men framed, of charges brought against people of color without sufficient evidence, of prosecutors hiding information that would exonerate defendants.” Rule number one of dirty politics: accuse your opponents of that which you yourself are guilty.

Harris’ initial presidential run infamously crashed and burned after Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard brought up her record on the debate stage, suggesting the California senator had no ready explanation for the apparent change – and that she possibly still holds those old views.

That would certainly explain why she climbed into bed with Biden. It would also explain why her platitude-laden delivery is so insubstantial, larded with meaningless feel-good phrases like “Let’s fight with hope!” and “Optimism is the fuel driving every fight I’ve been in.”

Thus, while you’d think a campaign trying to distract from Harris’ lock-em-all-up stint as AG would pick footwear that isn’t commonly associated with abuse of authority – see “imagine a boot stomping on a human face forever,” “bootlicker,” “get their boots off our necks,” and so on – the superficial approach is a last-ditch effort to salvage a doomed campaign, literally dangling a shiny object in the hope of distracting an admittedly attention-deficit public.

Banking on voter amnesia is a terrible strategy, but with Biden’s own equally-noxious record offering no possibilities of salvation policy-wise, it’s the only one the campaign has.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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