Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) has faced criticism from activist Democrats who say her record as California attorney general was at odds with her progressive reputation. On Saturday, she went on the offensive, laying out a robust defense of her record as prosecutor and decrying “self-appointed political commentators” who fail to understand the complexities of criminal justice, reports the New York Times. In a South Carolina speech, Harris demanded “we reject the false choice that said you’re either tough on crime or soft on crime. Instead, I said we must be smart on crime.” Harris has fallen in recent polls, which has triggered concern within her campaign and among her supporters.
Harris was the first black woman to serve as California attorney general and the second black woman to serve in the United States Senate. The speech made a vigorous case for the power of racial representation. She argued that because of her identity, background and experiences, her mere presence in the state’s law enforcement systems helped make them more just and equitable. Government needs “people who bring the context, awareness and life experience to the job, to make the system more just,” she said. The voters she was courting are also being wooed by former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner at this early stage. Part of her goal was to show she can best argue the case against President Trump. “We’ve got to hold this guy accountable by prosecuting the case in front of the American people against four more years of this administration,” Harris said on Saturday. “I’ve prosecuted a lot of cases. But rarely one with this much evidence.”