I’ve figured out why Kamala Harris is leading the race for U.S. Senate.
She’s the only major candidate with a real job.
That was the only takeaway of a poorly designed debate last week in San Diego. The public radio stations organizing it stuffed five candidates, four different journalist panelists, and a journalist host – so 10 players – on to one stage. And then limited the total conversation to just 56 minutes. Given those constraints, the outcome was preordained — little of import was asked, and even less was said.
Most of the debate was about Harris. She got the most pointed questions from the panelists. And she took most of the direct hit criticism – particularly from Duf Sundheim.
But you couldn’t say this was unfair. Harris took the hits and hard questions because her current job as a.g. involves real decisionmaking, thus creating targets for criticism and the opportunity for the journalist questioners to make news with a query.
The stakes were lower with the others. Loretta Sanchez talked about committees and other manuevers on Capitol Hill as if they actually do things, looking oblivious in the process. Sundheim and Tom Del Beccaro are former state Republican party chairs—and never made clear what it is they do for a living (Sundheim mentioned he was a mediator without really explaining it).
And Ron Unz, whose job was almost mysterious, kept busy demonstrating that one of California’s more original thinkers has gone batty. He denied climate change and suggested – against all evidence – that what a California with a stagnant population and declining birth rate needs is fewer legal immigrants. He even said that immigrants are to blame for California’s environmental problems – a statement that Harris correctly singled out as nutty.
If there is another debate in this race – and no debates would be better than a repeat of the San Diego session – questions need to go beyond asking Harris about her record or posing vague queries about issue positions to the other candidates.
The key question, never asked in this debate, is: how good are these candidates at playing unfair games?
Because being a U.S. senator from California is an unfair game. We get just two senators, the same as the other 49 smaller and less important states. So a senator from California needs to be a step ahead of her or his colleagues, outmaneuvering other states, demanding and securing extras that other senators can’t get. What can you get for California—and how?