David Harsanyi / Feb. 1, 2019

Kamala Harris Sounds a Lot Like an Authoritarian

It wouldn’t be fair to accuse presidential hopeful Kamala Harris of supporting state control over the means of all production.

It wouldn’t be fair to accuse presidential hopeful Kamala Harris of supporting state control over the means of all production. To this point, the junior senator from California is focused only on the energy, health care, auto manufacturing and education sectors. Good candidates prioritize.

In this age of hyperbole, I sometimes worry about overusing words such as “socialist” and “authoritarian.” Yet if we accept that an authoritarian is a person who favors or enforces strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom, I’m not sure how anyone watching Harris’ campaign kickoff this week could maintain that her policy positions do not fit that description.

For starters, here are some of the things that Harris believes the state can ban at the expense of your personal freedom: private health insurance, your car, affordable energy, political speech, your guns and for-profit colleges. Of course, the media, complicit in normalizing these hard-left positions over the past decade, treat her agenda as the centrist option for voters. Who knows? Maybe in the contemporary Democratic Party, it is.

In addition to pushing a “Medicare for all” policy — now widely supported by presidential hopefuls — Harris says that private insurance (already governed by a massive regulatory regime) should be banned outright in favor of a government-run program. “Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper.

Once, not long ago, voters were worried that they might lose their insurance plans. Now candidates openly campaign on the promise of canceling every American’s insurance plan and handing the entire project over to a centralized government bureaucracy that will govern the choices of about 325 million people. Forcing people to participate in this system (and it should be noted that a number of nations that have adopted socialized medicine allow citizens to get private insurance) is a pretty good example of demanding obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.

Harris’ communications director later walked back her position, saying that though the senator still prefers the plan that would kick more than 160 million Americans off their insurance plans, she is willing to consider something more “moderate.”

It is one thing that Harris supports the Green New Deal, which would artificially make our cheapest and most ubiquitous energy sources prohibitively expensive. The Green New Deal’s requirement that the U.S. eliminate nearly 90 percent of our energy sources would be a suicidal policy initiative. But the plan’s insistence that some Americans must replace “non-essential individual means of transport with high-quality and modern mass transit” sounds pretty authoritarian. Not a “literally Hitler!” level of authoritarian, no. But still, having some technocrat decide which Americans have to give up their “non-essential individual means of transport” so they can use a (oxymoronic) “high-quality and modern mass transit” system feels like an unreasonable attack on personal freedom.

Harris also wants to outright ban for-profit colleges (something the Obama administration tried to do through regulation), even if there are Americans who believe it would be in their best interest to attend them. Harris may want to ban all semi-automatic weapons, as well, though the made-up term “assault weapon” can refer to any class of firearm, I guess. What we do know is that the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision found that Americans have a constitutional right to own weapons that are “in common use by law-abiding citizens.”

It is unsurprising that Harris openly bragged about having “a huge stick” as a prosecutor in San Francisco who threatened poor parents with jail time in an effort to craft social policy that was not within her bailiwick. You can imagine what kinds of things she would have in store for personal freedom if she could brandish the huge stick of the executive branch. Her despicable actions during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings offer us a taste of how effortlessly she embraces abusing the process and her power to get her way.

She’s not alone. There seems to be quite a bit of confusion among liberals who view anything that undermines their policy goals as an attack on “democracy.” Your good intentions do not make state coercion any less authoritarian. Your ability to find electoral support for your state coercion does not make that policy any less authoritarian. Even if you’re right about the outcomes of those policies and state control greatly improves the lives of Americans, it can still be authoritarian.

Harris claims that these intrusions mean rediscovering American values. The foundational ideals of American governance are limited government and individual freedom — two notions that conflict with Harris’ worldview. Genuine liberalism within the Democratic Party died during the Obama administration. Since then, a number of Democrats have tried to recast their soft authoritarianism as a patriotic endeavor. I apologize for the cliche, but it’s quite Orwellian.

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