Katie Kieffer, Many women—and some men—feel a sense of obligation to vote for the Joe Biden-Kamala Harris ticket and thereby help a woman achieve the presidency. Today, I make the case that we must wait—out of respect for all little girls in America who need and deserve a more authentic role model as the first female president of the United States.
Technically, Harris is running for vice president. However, both Biden and Harris have referred to themselves as the aspiring “Harris administration.” We can take their word for it: the ultimate plan is for Harris to take the reins. Is she worthy of helming the Oval Office?
Not that “little girl”
In 1999, soccer prodigy Mia Hamm led the United States to victory over China in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena, California was virtually sold out—with 90,185 fans in attendance—breaking an international women’s sporting event attendance record. It was an intense game—played on American soil against a longtime foe—in which neither team scored until a dramatic shootout.
Hamm and teammates—including African American goaltender Briana Scurry—inspired little girls of all backgrounds to play soccer. The 1999 tournament is largely credited as a “watershed moment” for U.S. women’s soccer—responsible for a dramatic spike in interest.
Little girls are inspired by strong female role models—as proven by the inspirational athletic careers of Hamm and Scurry. At the same time, not every woman in a position of influence is a role model. And not every woman of color is a pioneer for other women of color.
“That little girl was me,” Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., boasted in a 2019 debate against Joe Biden where she accused him of racism by flaunting her participation in an integrated school busing effort that he once opposed. Harris positions herself as “the little girl” who shatters glass ceilings and paves the way for greater female opportunity. Sadly, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Harris is no Ginsburg—or Barrett
Harris should not be the first female president of the United States because she fails the role model test. In contrast, Judge Amy Coney Barrett should be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court because she is a role model like the icon who came before her—the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Ginsburg and Barrett represent two distinct judicial philosophies. Ginsburg proudly led the liberal wing of what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.” Ginsburg openly believed in using the courts to implement fundamental legislative changes consistent with her individual views of justice and equality. Barrett, in contrast, ascribes to a “textualist” or “originalist” philosophy of constitutional interpretation. Ginsburg and Barrett nonetheless share the same core – they are role models in their personal and professional lives.
As an octogenarian, Ginsburg was known in popular culture for her delicate crochet collars; her strong and beautifully-written dissents; and her icon status as a champion of female equality. But far more than her fashion sense or pop culture status—Ginsburg must be remembered for being a woman who was honest with the American people.
Ginsburg was open about being a liberal, activist judge who believed the Supreme Court should shape the law without straying too far from public opinion. She was so transparent, in fact, that she almost didn’t get nominated to the Supreme Court.
In 1993, Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., urged President Bill Clinton to nominate Ginsburg to a Supreme Court vacancy. Clinton resisted. Ginsburg had recently delivered a speech at NYU where she argued that Roe v. Wade was decided on weak grounds. “The women are against her,” Clinton told Moynihan.
Indeed, the same women’s groups that today hail Ginsburg as an icon petitioned Clinton to dump Ginsburg. He ultimately nominated her and—to her death—she never altered her stance that the majority decision in Roe vs. Wade needed a stronger foundation. Bottom line, Ginsburg had the integrity to be transparent and consistent—even though it nearly cost her a Supreme Court seat.
Barrett has also been very transparent about her views, and this transparency may have cost her a seat on the Supreme Court in 2018 when her religious beliefs were under the Democrat microscope. But Barrett, like Ginsburg, is not one to shy away from her values to gain power.
Barrett served as law clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. “His [Scalia’s] judicial philosophy is mine too,” Barrett said in her Sept. 26 Rose Garden speech accepting Trump’s nomination to fill Ginsburg’s seat. She added: “A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.” There you have it. Barrett is honest about who she is.
Harris, unfortunately, struggles to showcase the honesty of Ginsburg and Barrett. In last week’s debate with Vice President Mike Pence, Harris repeatedly refused to answer whether she and Biden will “pack” the Supreme Court if elected. Pence eventually looked straight into the TV camera and said: “the straight answer is they’re going to pack the Supreme Court if they somehow win this election.” Instead of seizing the opportunity to correct the record, Harris changed the subject.
Harris’ lack of authenticity is evident in the fact that she has publicly flip-flopped on whether she considers Biden to be a man of integrity. Last year, she maligned him as a racist with a history of sexually assaulting women. Last week, she told the nation on live television: “Joe Biden has been so incredibly transparent. …He is honest. He is forthright.”
But Biden is not honest. In 1987, he dropped out of contention for U.S. president when it was shown that he copied an entire speech written by British politician Neil Kinnock and presented it as his during an Iowa State Fair closing debate. Over three decades later, Biden still struggles with honesty. The day after Harris squirmed in the hot seat, Biden also refused to take leadership and tell the American people if he would radically change the Supreme Court’s structure, saying voters will “know my position on court packing when the election is over.”
Biden expects us to vote for a question mark. And Harris labels Biden’s pompous presumption as “transparent,” “honest,” and “forthright.” Which calls into question her own integrity and accountability as a wanna-be world leader.
Keep it Classy, Kamala
“Classy” is a word that is frequently used to describe both Ginsburg and Barrett—including by individuals who vehemently disagree with their political philosophies—and infrequently used to describe Harris.
Ginsburg was a woman who was confident enough in herself that she was unthreatened—personally or professionally—by those with whom she disagreed. In fact, Ginsburg considered the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia—a textualist, conservative and Catholic—her “best buddy” and “treasured friend.”
Ginsburg was known to be gracious—even in heated discussions. “We got into a wrangle over some legal issue, and Ginsburg, smiling with exquisite politeness, squashed me like a bug,” Yale University Law professor Stephen L. Carter described interacting with the late justice.
Barrett, likewise, has been praised as a class act. “Barrett is a sincere, lovely person. I never heard her utter a word that wasn’t thoughtful and kind—including in the heat of real disagreement about important subjects,” wrote Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman—who clerked with Barrett at the Supreme Court from 1998-99. (And Feldman disagrees with the majority of Barrett’s judicial philosophy.)
Harris could learn from Ginsburg and Barrett because undecided voters who watched her debate with Pence last week told pollsters they perceived her to be “condescending” and “abrasive.”
“Momala” and the Massive Coverup
Role models are confident, but they’re also humble and charitable. They are willing to make personal sacrifices for the team or greater good. Mia Hamm and hockey star Wayne Gretzky go down as athletic role models due to their unselfish willingness to put the team first. Both Hamm and Gretzky are known for passing to teammates in situations where they could have tried to boost their own scoring records. (Gretzky was awarded over twice as many assists—1,963—as goals scored, 894.)
Kamala Harris, however, is not a team player. Her political career has consistently come ahead of her duty to her constituents during her time as both an attorney general and senator. While she has risen in power over the course of her career—what has she actually accomplished? Her record of defending the vulnerable—specifically victims of sexual assault—is particularly concerning.
Mothers tempted to vote for Harris should be concerned about her role in burying evidence against some 40 alleged child molesters. Even if you disagree with Barrett’s views—there’s no use denying that she cares deeply about children and will do her best to defend the vulnerable. Harris has given us many reasons to question her commitment to protecting children, born and unborn.
“A massive cover up,” investigative journalist Peter Schweizer has called Harris’ inability to explain why hundreds of pages worth of documents potentially incriminating some 40 clergy members with the sexual abuse of minors disappeared under her watch as attorney general for San Francisco. Could it be that Harris let the interest of her campaign donors—including law firms and lawyers tied to the Catholic Church—supersede her duty to investigate legitimate cases of sexual assault?
Harris failed to prosecute even one sexual abuse case against the Catholic Church during her seven years as attorney general from 2004 to 2011. “To put that in context,” Schweizer reported, “of the 50 largest cities in America, all 50 of them prosecuted at least one case during that time period, except for Kamala Harris.”
No wonder Hillary Clinton, famous for using BleachBit to destroy emails, has come out of the woodwork as a vocal cheerleader for Harris. “When you’re using BleachBit, it is [to destroy] something you really do not want the world to see,” former Rep. Trey Gowdy told Fox News on Aug. 25, 2016 regarding Clinton’s disappearing emails. Birds of feather flock together.
Which way does the wind blow?
History tells us that Harris makes political decisions based on the direction of the wind—not on a set of fixed values and philosophies like Barrett and Ginsburg.
Role models are rocks—strong people upon whom others lean for wisdom and guidance. Yet, on issues as crucial as healthcare policy, Harris has held bipolar positions in the same calendar year. Twice in 2019, Harris expressed a definite desire to eliminate all private health insurance and replace it with a socialist plan called “Medicare for All.” Yet, when twice pushed by the media to defend her radical position—she claimed to have no idea what they were talking about.
Role models must go beyond inspiring
While it may be inspiring for a young woman to see a woman—any woman—in a position of power—it is possible to be inspiring without being a role model.
Kamala Harris may inspire because she is a female vice presidential candidate, but her accomplishments while serving as a “public servant” are not inspiring. Further, she is not someone whose integrity, character, choices or courage may be emulated. Ideally, the first female president should be a strong role model because little girls deserve to look up to the best in order that they, too, may strive to be their personal best.