In the space of 24 hours, Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat running for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination, made clear that when forced to choose between the interests of the donor class or progressives, she’d choose the former.
On Sunday night, as Bloomberg reported, Harris attended a big money fundraiser in the Hamptons, telling the superrich attendees “I believe in capitalism” and that she wasn’t “comfortable” with a comprehensive Medicare for All plan.
Bloomberg’s reporters set the scene:
Teslas and Maseratis lined the street as Kamala Harris greeted guests sipping drinks from plastic cups with her name on them and eating cinnamon sugar donuts from Dreesen’s at a fund-raiser hosted by movie executive Jamie Patricof and his wife Kelly as the summer of Democratic fund-raisers rolled on in East Hampton.
The next day, the Harris campaign told CNN Harris would not attend the network’s September 4 climate forum, citing previous commitments — big dollar California fundraisers.
NEW: Senator @KamalaHarris’ top bundlers are hosting fundraisers for her in Downtown LA and Hancock Park…
Those fundraisers directly conflict with CNN’s Climate Crisis Town Hall, which Harris is not attending👇🏽 https://t.co/CT04jF7FmA
— Zohreen Shah (@Zohreen) August 19, 2019
Harris was the only candidate of the nine who reached the threshold to participate in the forum to decline the invitation, a decision that was sharply criticized by climate advocates.
“We need a leader who prioritizes the future of humanity over rubbing elbows with millionaires and billionaires,” environmental group Sunrise Movement said in a disapproving tweet reacting to the news about the forum.
Yikes. @KamalaHarris is skipping out on the first ever Presidential climate forum to schmooze with big donors.
Debating our generation’s survival isn’t optional.
We need a leader who prioritizes the future of humanity over rubbing elbows with millionaires and billionaires. pic.twitter.com/by6XDmpB4g
— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) August 19, 2019
The climate controversy came on the heels of sustained criticism Monday over Harris’ healthcare comments.
Harris’ position on the issue has changed since she first cosponsored a Medicare for All bill with her 2020 rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) two years ago and again this April.
According to comments provided to The Daily Beast by the Harris campaign, the senator told donors that Sanders’ bill was one of a number of “good ideas” that she had signed onto over the years.
“I support Medicare for All,” Harris told donors. “But as you may have noticed, over the course of the many months, I’ve not been comfortable with Bernie’s plan, the Medicare for All plan.”
Kamala’s camp sent me full transcript on M4A: “As you may have noticed, over the course of the many months, I’ve not been comfortable with Bernie’s plan…. I’ve been listening to ppl, and people don’t want to — to your point — they don’t want to not have a private option.” pic.twitter.com/bfa7bMdNHx
— Alex Thompson (@AlxThomp) August 19, 2019
As a chorus of criticism over the remarks grew louder Monday, Harris press secretary Ian Sams attempted to spin the decision to change course as a pivot from his candidate.
“She has her own healthcare plan,” said Sams. “So yeah, not a secret she isn’t running on Bernie’s plan anymore.”
As Jacobin writer Luke Savage noted, Sams’ comments were a “remarkable use of the word ‘anymore.'”
Sams later told The Daily Beast that Harris “was hearing from lots of voters real concerns, specifically about proactively abolishing private insurance, the four year transition, middle class tax hikes, and so she came up with her own plan to adjust for those that, frankly, is better than his.”
Harris, whose polling is mired in the high single digits, briefly reached 15 percent in early July after a strong debate performance. That temporary bump has receded back to around eight and seven percent.