NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE I f Joe Biden wins the presidency, it is likely that two of the three faces Americans see during State of the Union speeches will be San Francisco Democrats. The first, the familiar Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House. The second, Vice President — and heir apparent — Kamala Harris.
In an almost hidden way, the American nation’s polarization in the Trump era is a story about California. The California of the 1960s and early 1970s was a middle-class paradise of low-cost bungalows with great weather and fantastic public services. That California, the state that other states wished they could be, produced Ronald Reagan.
Over the last half century, however, California has turned into the most unequal state in the country, with the highest levels of concentrated poverty. It is subject to brownouts and environmental rationing. Even celebrities have to cheat to get their kids into its colleges. Homelessness is one of the state’s major issues. California all but legalized theft of anything less than $1,000 in Proposition 47. In short, the state’s political center of gravity has moved from the sprawl around Los Angeles and San Diego to the prohibitively expensive Bay Area, inclusive of San Francisco, Oakland, and Silicon Valley. It’s this California that produces Nancy Pelosi — and Kamala Harris.
And it’s this California that also produces a reaction against itself. Those who can no longer afford the cost of living are abandoning California for Texas, Colorado, Arizona, even New York. The Claremont Institute, the conservative think tank that is most pro-Trump, is in Upland, Calif. Our own Victor Davis Hanson is a California man. His book, Mexifornia: A State of Becoming, warned that Mexicans fleeing one dysfunctional state were recreating it in California. Now, Arizonans and Texans might say the same of California itself. Other dissident anti–mass-immigration voices, such as Steve Sailer and Mickey Kaus, are also Californians.
But as a Democrat attorney general in a state largely controlled by Democrats, Kamala Harris had no taste for going after political corruption. When potentially criminal negligence on the part of the state transportation agency, Caltrans, caused whistleblowers to sound the alarm over an over-budget and unsafe bridge extension, the scandal inspired no investigation from the supposedly tough law-and-order attorney general. But, of course, why would Kamala Harris look deeply into political favoritism and corruption in California? Her career took off when her married boyfriend, San Francisco mayor Willie Brown, got her two separate jobs, one of which paid $99,000 per year for attending two meetings a month. “Whether you agree or disagree with the system, I did the work,” she later explained. “I mean, if you were asked to be on a board that regulated medical care, would you say, no?” I guess if there are a hundred grand on the table, I’d also be willing to attend two meetings a month, maybe even more.
Harris has always had an eye for where the main chance was, and the deepest pockets. Reporting for the Silicon Valley trade pub Recode, Theodore Schleifer assures us that Kamala Harris is “a candidate the industry can get behind.” By picking her, Biden will bring in the big money from the biggest investors, moguls, and founders in the Valley. One fundraiser calls her “the safest pick for the donor community.” She will be headlining a fundraiser there in just a few days.
Schleifer goes on:
Harris’s special touch with the ultra-rich has been integral to her political ascent in San Francisco, where she first served as district attorney before her statewide wins as attorney general and then US senator. Harris was a regular presence on the city’s cocktail circuit and has been profiled in society pages ever since her 30s. Her campaigns were funded by the old-money families that predated the modern tech boom.
When that boom did arrive, Harris capitalized and built an orbit of new-money fans that she will further bring into the Biden fold. Her biggest donors over the last two decades read like a who’s who list of tech moguls: Salesforce founder Marc Benioff has told Recode that Harris is “one of the highest integrity people I have ever met.” Early Facebook president Sean Parker invited Harris to his wedding. Fundraisers for her presidential bid included billionaire Democratic power brokers like Reid Hoffman and John Doerr.
No wonder Harris inspires mainstream celebrities to ease back into a self-destructive Hillary 2016 mode. They rhapsodize about her evident heroism, while sneering at the economic and moral inferiors who just don’t get it. Stephen Colbert and Jessica Chastain are already making moon-faces about her. This is precisely the sort of thing Joe Biden doesn’t inspire — and it’s probably why he sailed to the nomination and has sustained a healthy lead throughout. But Hollywood can get inspired because this pick shows that the Democratic Party isn’t going back to high tax rates and tough regulation on business; it’s their party now.
Picking Kamala Harris is a sign that the overclass capture of the Democratic Party is still on, even if an old warhorse of the dying FDR coalition has to temporarily stand in the leading spot. No wonder the New York Times is so thrilled.