Around exactly the same time, though, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said something quite different. “Kamala Harris’ extreme positions … show that the left-wing mob is controlling Biden’s candidacy, just like they would control him as president,” McDaniel said in a statement.
But by late that evening, the RNC was back to making a very different case. “Liberals revolt against Biden, Harris ticket,” an RNC news release said. It pointed to Bernie Sanders supporters and others who attacked Harris as insufficiently progressive. “Even if Joe Biden’s campaign handlers gave their base the same notes they gave Biden for his video chat with Kamala D. Harris, it’s highly unlikely the left’s reception of Kamala would have gone any better,” it said. “Talk about embarrassing.”
Trump backers’ response to Harris’s selection has been somewhat dizzying. They have mostly painted her as the kind of radical that McDaniel did, even labeling her a socialist. But as with the man whose ticket Harris is joining, they have offered mixed messages by also suggesting she is a disappointment to Sanders supporters and even a tool of Wall Street.
Fox News’s prime-time airwaves on Tuesday night were full of dire warnings about Harris’s supposed liberal hostile takeover of the party. But on Tucker Carlson’s show, he asserted she was, in fact, an entirely principle-free politician who would bow to big business.
“[Susan] Rice is a hardened partisan,” Carlson said of another top VP contender who was passed over. “But she is not stupid, and more to the point, Rice has sincere beliefs whether you like them or not — and we don’t. But Kamala D. Harris is the opposite of that. Harris may be the single most transactional human being in America.”
Carlson added: “If you’re choosing a presidential nominee, you think you’d want someone with a built-in constituency, a base of passionate voters you can count on Election Day. But as it turns out, that is the last thing the leaders of the modern Democratic Party wanted. They already had a candidate like that, in fact, his name was Bernie Sanders, and they did everything they could to stop him.”
Carlson concluded: “Voters may not like Kamala D. Harris, but Wall Street does — just in case you’re wondering who is actually in charge.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) picked up on this line of attack, tweeting, “Of course Wall Street is delighted with Biden/Harris. Right back to the #China appeasement, unfettered globalism, and ruinous trade policies that have transferred billions from working people to Wall Street. That’s the Biden agenda.” Trump campaign aide Matt Wolking retweeted the message.
So Harris is simultaneously proof that the “left-wing mob” is taking over the Democratic Party and that the Biden campaign is embracing radical socialism, yet she is also a thumb in the eye of the people who support such policies and will let Wall Street run rampant.
If the attack seems familiar, it is because it has essentially been copy-and-pasted from the GOP strategy against Biden. As The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker wrote Monday, Republicans have attempted to argue that Biden’s more pragmatic record is beside the point and that he will be a “Trojan horse” for the liberals in his party. The issue with the disparate attacks on Harris is that the GOP cannot seem to decide whether she is a fellow empty vessel or the leader of the forces within that Trojan horse who will soon spill out.
The mixed messaging has also been applied to Harris’s past as a prosecutor and California attorney general. Conservatives have simultaneously argued that she was too tough on crime but that she will also set aside those principles to appease the left wing of her party and be a conduit for defunding police.
“Phony Kamala will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party,” the RNC said.
The confusing and contradictory lines of attack reflect the GOP’s dilemma in running against Biden and Harris. Some vote rankings have Harris as far to the left in the Senate, but those can be misleading. She is clearly not in the mold of a Sanders or even an Elizabeth Warren. The conventional wisdom about why Harris’s presidential primary campaign faltered, in fact, was that it did not have a defined message and it was not clear what she was about. You can spin that in a positive way as pragmatism, or you can spin it in a negative way as a lack of principles. But to suggest she’s some kind of radical socialist infiltrator is difficult to square with the idea that she has got nonradical principles that she has abandoned out of expediency and is also beholden to Wall Street.