What Is Wrong With Kamala Harris?
Speculation is fair
Everything is in context! My mother used to, she would give us a hard time, sometimes, and she would say to us, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with you young people. You think you just fell out of a coconut tree?’” [Laughs] “You exist in the context of all in which you live and what came before you.”
Vice President Kamala Harris said that yesterday during a swearing-in ceremony for White House “equity” officials. Her words did not draw so much attention as her delivery, especially the uncomfortable laugh. Delighted Republicans spread the clip wide and far. Partisans speculated that Harris may have been drunk, or high, or brain-damaged, or perhaps she was always just dumb.
Which is fair, at least in principle, because there was plenty of speculation around the alleged amphetamine habit of one Donald J. Trump for four years. I know this because I remember writing a bit of that speculation myself, always being careful to cite sources and use the waffling modifiers, such as “alleged amphetamine habit” instead of writing about ‘Trump’s drug habit’ with a sense of absolute certainty.
I had learned that neat trick in public high school journalism. During the brief time that I wrote blog posts for the supremely-partisan Bipartisan Report dot com, I learned that site founder Justin Brotman, son of Costco co-founder Jeffrey Brotman, had to pay out a substantial settlement to Melania Trump over a post reporting her supposed past as call girl. Maybe they did not have journalism classes at his high school.
Likewise, Trump was the object of speculations around mental health, physical health, and cognitive decline. Whatever partisans say today about Kamala Harris is something that was said about Trump. I would prefer to live in a country were I am free to do that as long as I remember to allege scandalous charges instead of asserting them as gospel truth.
Thus the question: what is wrong with Kamala Harris? is fair and in-bounds, consistent with small-d democratic values. Yet I do not think that the alleged Vice President was abusing any substances during this speech. Last night I tweeted that it was “a national security concern.” I was more or less half-joking, darkly.
Her remark was unscripted, in the sense that any politician ever makes an unscripted statement in such a setting, so it has an odd energy, to be sure. However, the transcript of her remarks does not seem consistent with intoxication. (It is consistent with the full video, I did check.) Rather, Harris appears to be suffering from a species of confusion.
About a minute before the viral clip, Harris was talking about “the issue of equity, you know, this is about — this commission is about speaking real, right? Motivated by hope and faith, but speaking truth about the obstacles to actually achieving all that hope and faith can drive.”
This statement contains a cognitive dissonance around the word “equity.” For the uninitiated, “equity” has replaced “equality” in the language of social justice because it allows semantic inversion. Racial quotas and separations can be created under the rubric of “equity” that would not withstand scrutiny under the old rubric of equality. Concepts such as “equality before the law” can be replaced with laws that ostensibly create equity.
Vice President Harris knows this. Furthermore, conversations about hard, material inequalities — “the obstacles to actually achieving all that hope and faith can drive,” in her words — are anathema to social justice activism precisely because no amount of hope and faith can resolve them.
Harris then spoke to this point:
When we talk about, like you said, Mr. Secretary, about equity, you know — so many of us have come from movements that were about the fight for equality — we also understand there’s a difference between equality and equity.
Equity is everyone deserves to have — right? — and be treated equal. But equity understands that not everybody starts out on the same base. So, if you’re giving everybody an equal amount but they’re starting out on different bases, are they really going to have the opportunity to compete and achieve?
“Equity” replaces equality of opportunity with what are supposed to be equal outcomes. Every perceived category of inequality must be equalized, with the exact measure and meaning of that equity to be determined by a vast new bureaucracy. Harris was welcoming new panjandrums of equity to the bureuacratic family with some “real talk” acknowledging their jobs are bullshit.
That’s why we purposefully, as an administration — the President, myself, the Secretary, and — and everyone in our administration — are so dedicated to a specific principle, which is that of equity.
Understanding we must speak truth. We must be clear-eyed. We must see who’s not in the room, who’s never been in the room, where are the resources going, who needs what kind of resources. — to do what? To be able to compete equally, to have equal opportunity to achieve, to have equal encouragement, to have aspirations and be ambitious.
So, it’s all of that.
It slices, it dices, it makes Julienne fries! It’s both a floor wax and a dessert topping! Joe Biden was elected as the No Malarkey man, a centrist alternative to the progressive rabble, and then went fully “woke” in office. I have heard from Democratic operatives (the ones who still speak to me) who are frustrated by this turn. They fear this embrace of contentious social engineering policies will engender Republican victories, that overreach may result in voter overreaction.
Or as I like to put it, the Biden-Harris team is playing stupid games and winning stupid prizes:
And it’s not just simply about financial resources; that is a very big part of it. But it’s also about: What is the culture of the environment? How are we approaching this issue in a way that we also understand we cannot support and help our young people if we also — don’t also look at the context in which those young people live and are being raised? Which means necessarily, because our — our edict and our mission is not to come out and say, “Well, we could do this better.”
Part of the extension of the work you will do is, yes, focused on our young leaders and our young people, but understanding we also then have to be clear about the needs of their parents and their grandparents and their teachers and their communities, because none of us just live in a silo. Everything is in context.
And then Harris said her bit about falling from coconut trees. Everything is in context.
A lot of Republicans will listen to “the context in which those young people live and are being raised” and hear the American family under attack. They are not wrong. If the kids are not learning math as well as they used to, the apostles of equity cannot possibly blame the Covid lockdowns, or the TikTok app that propagates their message, or the teacher who spends 20 minutes a day discussing pronouns.
The parents must be to blame, otherwise the wheels come off the “equity” project. Kamala Harris knows that, but she cannot say it out loud. Rationalizing the dissonance consumes mental energy, distracting her.
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