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Evoking Muckrakers: Hannah Giorgis’s Devastating Critique of Senator Kamala Harris

In the age of news as you want it and agitprop supplanting journalism, it is getting harder and harder to find analysis that tells it like it is without bias. That is why I was captivated by Hannah Giorgis’s article about Kamala Harris that I read last night. It was a compelling piece of journalism, one that compared Harris’s rhetoric with her actual record during her tenure as a District Attorney and California’s Attorney General.

Reading Giorgis’s article reminded me of the era of the muckrakers, a time when journalists made it their mission to root out corruption and shine a light on the hypocrisy of the ruling class. Journalists like Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair and Lincoln Steffens courageously exposed the insidious intersection of big business and government. This spirit of truth-telling sans hidden agendas is rarely found these days as too many journalists act like political operatives instead of reporting the facts.

What makes Giorgis’s assessment so riveting is how she deftly interweaves pop culture with wonk, she systematically dismantles Harris’s memoir by contrasting her platitudes to her actions before she became a Senator.

“Recounting her years as a district attorney, for instance, she tells a fairly cringeworthy story in which she responded to colleagues’ racist assumptions about an arrested man—his music taste was deemed evidence of his gang involvement—by interjecting that she, too, had a “tape of that rapper.” It’s the kind of ostensibly anti-racist gotcha!that might easily earn a “yass!” gif in response if it were a tweet, but doesn’t translate to any substantive shift in either policy or perception.”

These day, highlighting a politician’s record is dismissed as an attack piece. A few weeks ago, David Sirota ran into a buzz saw for daring to call attention to Beto O’Rourke’s voting history. This is why Giorgis’s article is a must read, we must encourage more journalists to bravely shine the light on the gap between the pabulum of candidates and their accomplishments.

Checking off identity boxes and getting jiggy with it is not enough, we must demand more from politicians than soundbites and feigned indignation. Instead of addressing income inequalities and systematic imbalances that are the sources of most social ills, Harris tries to hide behind anecdotes and outlier stories in an attempt to minimize the disproportionate impact her decisions had on the poor and working class. After making a name for herself by aggressively locking up Californians and enhancing the  inmate supply for the prison-industrial complex, she is now attempting an image makeover by using social justice and diversity hustles as launching pads.

Senator Harris will spend the next two years using photo/ops and platitudes to sanitize her prison for profit record.

This is why Giorgis’s article is so insightful. Instead of letting Harris skate and excusing her past behaviors, Giorgis takes the junior senator from California to task. Most of us are rightly dismayed by the state of mainstream media, there is a reason why root canals have a higher approval rating than the “fourth estate”. However, as much as we criticize corporate journalists, we must give credit to the few who refuse to parrot the establishment.

That is exactly what Giorgis did in her critique, instead of opining, she simply chronicled Harris’s exploits. What becomes obvious is that Harris has a double standard when it comes to dispensing justice—an iron fist for the proletariat and velvet gloves for the affluent. Harris was not interested in rehabilitating prisoners and giving inmates second chances, she was more concerned with protecting the bottom lines of for-profit prison corporations. As Giorgis notes, “[Kamala] attempted to block the release of nonviolent second-strike offenders from overcrowded state prisons on the grounds that their paroling would result in prisons losing an important labor pool.”

Harris’s take every prisoner temperament was nowhere to be found when the time came for her to take on robber barons. She famously chose to look the other way when she had the chance to prosecute Steve Mnuchin and make an example of unscrupulous bankers. Her “progressive prosecution” reserved progress for the rich and doled out draconian measures for the poor and marginalized. It is worth repeating, Harris’s administration effectively argued for slave labor in order to enrich penal plantations. As outrageous as that is, as evidenced by this video, Kamala also proudly gloated about threatening parents with jail time if in order to address school truancy. When one only has a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Kamala Harris is no activist, she is Hillary Clinton in a black face. This is precisely the reason why the corporate donor class are licking their chops and pushing Harris as a viable presidential candidate. She has proven her loyalty to Wall Street; when push comes to shove, CEOs knows that they have an ally in Kamala. What Harris is banking on is an electorate that is so deranged by Trump’s puerility that we don’t inspect her positions and just accept her optics and rhetoric as a suitable alternative to the incumbent president.

In order to obscure her ignominious record, she released a memoir that is heavy on platitude and extra-light when it comes to substance. Hoping to capture the White House in 2020, she decided to follow in the footsteps of Obama by pushing a book that leans on identity politics while ignoring her deeds. Unlike Obama, she is no blank canvass, Harris has a vast record of corporate obsequiousness that she can’t run from.  Giorgis eloquently rips apart Harris’s revisionist essay and does so in a way that is at once engaging and devastating. @ethiopienne Click To Tweet

Kamala Harris recently tweeted, “it’s disgraceful that this Administration’s actions could drive some federal workers to predatory payday lenders because they feel they have no other choice, in order to pay their bills.” This is the type of sloganeering that is not backed up by her past decisions. After all, when she had the chance to take on predatory lenders and nefarious bilkers, she took a pass and let the current Treasury Secretary get away without so much as a slap on the wrist. This is the type of canned speeches that Giorgis dismantles throughout her analysis.

“For those already inclined to find her highly tweetable brand of #resistance rhetoric appealing, the memoir offers up palatably anti-establishment quotes for possible tote-bag screen-printing. If only it presented a holistic political foundation instead.”

A couple of weeks ago, I highlighted Matt Taibbi for having the courage to speak against the bipartisan clamor for endless wars. It is easy to complain about the insipid nature of corporate journalism these days, but as we condemn reporters who echo authority, we must also celebrate the few who insist on checking power. Check out Hannah Giorgis’s article and see why muckrakers are needed now more than ever.

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Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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Lij Teodrose Fikremariam

Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the co-founder and former editor of the Ghion Journal. He is currently the chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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