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So, you’ve been locked in the house with not much to do but scroll through Twitter and occasionally glance over the news. Maybe you’ve never been one for politics, but now you’re invested and want to know more. Welcome to Women in Politics, a comprehensive guide to the backgrounds and policies of female politicians. 

First up, Madame Vice President herself, Kamala Harris. Odds are you already knew that Kamala Harris is the first female Vice President in American history. For context, in 244 years of US politics, she is the first elected woman in the White House. She is also the first African American and first Asian American Vice President in history, so her election is monumental in more ways than one. When journalists write that Kamala has been shattering glass ceilings for the entirety of her career, they’re not exaggerating. 

Let’s get into it. Keep reading to learn more about Kamala Harris’ background, politics, and vice presidency. 

Who is Kamala Harris?

Harris was born in 1964 in Oakland, California, to immigrant parents. Her father is from Jamaica and her mother is from India. She graduated from Howard University with a degree in political science and economics, and attended law school at the University of California before pursuing a political career.

Politics Before the Vice Presidency

Harris worked as a deputy district attorney in Almeda County, California. She worked primarily on sex crimes before serving as the district attorney of San Francisco. Her election made her the first Black woman in California to serve as district attorney. She went on to serve as California’s attorney general and was elected to the US Senate in 2016. Harris ran in the 2020 Presidential campaign and officially dropped out in December 2019. She delayed her endorsement for Biden until March 2020 after the California primary.

Policies: A Quick Overview of Harris’ Politics

Racial and Social Justice: One of Harris’ standout achievements as attorney general was the creation of OpenJustice, an online database that makes criminal justice information available to the public. OpenJustice has been credited with increasing police accountability by providing information on the number of deaths and injuries of those in police custody. In her presidential campaign, Harris pledged to eliminate private prisons and mandatory minimum prison sentences. Her stance was based on a broad proposal to reform the criminal justice system’s policies which disproportionately target communities of colour. Harris has been criticized for taking a tough stance on criminal justice and reform. In her first two years as district attorney, Harris had an 87% conviction rate for homicides and a 90% conviction rate for felony gun violations. She has been criticized for fighting to keep people imprisoned, despite sufficient evidence of wrongful conviction, and for not doing enough to empty California’s prisons in her time as attorney general. She has also been criticized for her comments regarding marijuana use, where she admitted to smoking marijuana despite her support for imprisonment on possession-related charges.

LGTBQ+: Harris is a longtime vocal supporter of LGTBQ+ rights and same-sex marriage equality. In 2004, Harris established a hate crimes unit in San Francisco against anti-LGTBQ+ violence. In 2006, she organized a conference to end the use of “gay and transgender panic defence,” a legal defence in which the defendant could claim temporary insanity due to unwanted sexual advances — this practice was abolished in California under Harris in 2014, and Harris co-authored the bill which would ban the practice nationally in 2018. She has frequently spoken out about pro-equality legislation, and against the violence faced by transgender women, discrimination on religious grounds, and the transgender military ban. The Harris-Biden ticket is arguably one of the most pro-equality tickets in American history. 

Healthcare: Harris has been criticized for her fluctuating stance on universal healthcare and “Medicare for All.” After initially supporting government-run insurance over private insurance in her presidential campaign, she backtracked and has since avoided weighing in on the healthcare debate. Harris is a supporter of women’s rights, particularly abortion.  She is among those calling for new addresses to America’s maternal mortality crisis, in which Black women are three times more likely to pass away from pregnancy-related issues than white women. 

Immigration: Harris has frequently opposed the Trump administration’s separation of families at the border. She advocated for reinstating and expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and providing paths to citizenship for Dreamers and other undocumented immigrants.

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Carly Pews

Western '22

Carly Pews is a fourth year student pursuing a specialization in Creative Writing and a major in Political Science. She is also an award winning author and aspiring journalist.
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