Prospective 2020 Candidate Kamala Harris Offers Olive Branch to Bernie Bros: ‘Health Care is a Right’

This summer, freshman Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris experienced something of a meteoric rise, drawing attention from Democratic voters and donors alike as a strong possibility for a 2020 candidate. Her sharp lines of questioning at judicial hearings, unique resume as a former attorney general and the daughter of two civil rights activists, and impassioned campaigning to protect the Affordable Care Act certainly stand out.

But despite fighting for everything from better conditions for pregnant incarcerated women to tuition-free community college, Harris has drawn outspoken criticism from the Bernie Sanders faction of the Democratic party — one that tends to ignore all other pressing issues of equality on the basis of identity and views socialist economic policies as a cure-all. Sanders supporters as well as African-American activists have been wary of her record as a prosecutor and cozy relationship with Democratic donors, but one resounding criticism was that she had yet to declare support for universal health care.

However, all of that changed this week, when Harris signed on as a co-sponsor of a bill by Sanders to establish a single-payer system. The alliance between Harris and Sanders was all but confirmed when Harris on Thursday tweeted, “Health care is a human right,” and Sanders subsequently retweeted this.

Harris has previously stated her belief that health care is a right, not a privilege, but did not legislatively move to support universal health care. Her formal support as of this week may not be a cure-all for Bernie supporters, who are known to make tall demands of and inherently distrust Democratic lawmakers who aren’t Elizabeth Warren. But it could be more than enough for former Bernie supporters who are on the fence about Harris.

In either case, critics of Bernie Bros, or people who think economic inequity is the only inequity that exists, that gender-based and sexual inequity and racial inequity are a thing of the past, have highlighted their disrespect for female politicians in the past. The common defense of Bernie Bros is that their criticisms of Democratic female politicians, and people — notably, most often women — who support Democratic female politicians are policy-based, but documented, overt sexism by this wing of Bernie’s faction sharply counters this.

At the end of the day, Sanders himself certainly doesn’t encourage or condone sexism from his supporters, and his campaigning on behalf of former Democratic nominee and his former rival, Hillary Clinton, and now, most recently, his alliance with Kamala, all show his respect for female leadership. But his criticisms of “identity politics,” or having the audacity to highlight ongoing negative experiences of people on the basis of sex, race, and orientation, and his sharp focus solely on income distribution and fighting the “establishment,” have all undoubtedly contributed to the rise of the Bernie Bro.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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