Kamala Harris, pawn of the very, very rich of San Francisco
Kamala Harris has an authenticity problem. This is why she's busy making friendly with Iowa's farmers these days, traipsing around the state with sudden interest in charming the locals (and not completely wash out in the Iowa caucuses, where she's now in fourth place). Suddenly, she's interested. According to USA Today:
By the time her bus pulled into her last rally in Davenport on Monday afternoon, Harris had traveled more than 650 miles, stopped formally in 11 counties and held 17 events.
The itinerary included presidential candidate staples: An appearance at the Wing Ding dinner in on Friday in Clear Lake, a meeting with the Register editorial board, along with pork flipping and retail politicking on Saturday at the Des Moines Register Political Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.
But in between, she hosted a roundtable with teachers in Fort Dodge, a meeting with renters in Waukee who have been impacted by rising housing costs, a farm visit in Lacona and a health care event in Burlington.
Harris said she wants to elevate kitchen table issues on the trail, like affordable health care access, providing a tax cut for middle-class families, giving teachers a raise and ending the gender pay gap. She’s adapted amid the national conversation over gun control: Her recent mentions of a policy she rolled out months ago aimed at curbing gun violence repeatedly got some of the loudest applause.
She tweeted about her pork chop:
Finally got my pork chop! pic.twitter.com/3LUSKorixU— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 11, 2019
It's all just too cute.
Harris, as is well known, is someone who slept her way to the top, through her "girlfriend" relationship with California's most powerful politician at the time, Willie Brown. "Sure, I dated Kamala Harris. So what?" Brown shamelessly wrote last January.
It's also coming out that Brown wasn't the only one she sucked up to in her bid for power; she also hobnobbed hugely with San Francisco's richest elites, the Pacific Heights crowd, the richest people in town during her rise in the 1990s, according to this excellent investigative piece from Michael Kruse at Politico. She wasn't out doing pork chops then; she was doing filet mignon, very likely done by famous chefs such as Alice Walker and Jeremiah Tower, and she was focused on pleasing those people. Those actually are her real people. Kruse writes.
Her rise, however, was propelled in and by a very different milieu. In this less explored piece of her past, Harris used as a launching pad the tightly knit world of San Francisco high society, navigating early on this rarefied world of influence and opulence, charming and partying with movers and shakers — ably cultivating relationships with VIPs who would become friends and also backers and donors of every one of her political campaigns, tapping into deep pockets and becoming a popular figure in a small world dominated by a handful of powerful families. This stratum of San Francisco remains a profoundly important part of her network — including not just powerful Democratic donors but an ambassador appointed by President Donald Trump who ran in the same circles.
Harris, now 54, often has talked about the importance of having "a seat at the table," of being an insider instead of an outsider. And she learned that skill in this crowded, incestuous, famously challenging political proving ground, where she worked to score spots at the some of the city's most sought-after tables. In the mid- to late '90s and into the aughts, the correspondents who kept tabs on the comings and goings of the area's A-listers noted where Harris was and what she was doing and who she was with. As she advanced professionally, jumping from Alameda County to posts in the offices of the district and city attorneys across the Bay, she was a trustee, too, of the museum of modern art and active in causes concerning AIDS and the prevention of domestic abuse, and out and about at fashion shows and cocktail parties and galas and get-togethers at the most modish boutiques. She was, in the breezy, buzzy parlance of these kinds of columns, one of the "Pretty Thangs." She was a "rising star." She was "rather perfect." And she mingled with "spiffy and powerful friends" who were her contemporaries as well as their even more influential mothers and fathers. All this was fun, but it wasn't unserious. It was seeing and being seen with a purpose, society activity with political utility.
What I like about this piece is that Kruse gets every detail right, and creates a tapestry of that very scene Harris used to bite and claw her way to the top. Kruse talks to the right people and the stories they tell are authentic. He had to have scanned through tons and tons of microfiches and paper newspapers, because it all happened just before the internet era. He shows and cites all the evidence that that was what Harris's real game was back when she was a pretty young thang, using her looks as her assets and adopting the agendas of her billionaire leftist patrons.
My gosh, he got it right. I used to float around that scene a lot in my youth, too. Back in the late '80s, just before Harris came on the scene, I used to work at Brooks Brothers on Post Street in San Francisco as the fix-it girl/receptionist who got things through customer service in New York for patrons with names like Swig, Getty, Traina, and other luminaries of Pacific Heights, including Herb Caen himself, who'd always chat with me by the elevator in his trench coat. I remember those names. After that, I went to work as a private detective and ran into those people described by Politico even more — Gavin Newsom was my client on bar shopping at his Buena Vista Cafe, where I'd go late at night to make sure no one was stealing from the till and customers were getting good service. I knew Dan Addario, Terence Hallinan, Nancy Pelosi, all in friendly contexts. I also had a job as a "researcher" for the Netherlands foreign investment agency and ended up mixing with the absolutely huge, famous-now Silicon Valley names for talks on expansion in the continent, same ones Harris did, they weren't as famous then. Then I went to work at Susie Tompkins's Esprit warehouse to finish up at college — and mixed a lot with her and her crowd, including daughter Summer cited in the piece. Susie was tight with Hillary Clinton and supported leftie/greenie causes. The Politico piece was a blast from the past, and it got the details and the feel for the time right.
All of those people are described in the Politico piece who fueled Harris's rise to the top. She got her rise because she was pleasing to them, and echoed their agendas. Their agendas became her agenda. That's what fueled her rise and made her her. Some people rise to the top by creating new and profitable inventions. Some people rise by doing great works helping others. Harris rose on the Whom You Know model, going to parties.
Now Harris wants us to think she's Regular Kamala talking up farm country over in Iowa, just a reg'lar gal.