This is What Democracy Looks Like

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s pasts and campaigns for President and Vice President, respectively, are contradictory. Contradiction is so widespread in today’s politics, that it’s pretty easy to state that contradiction is itself a widespread politics, and seemingly necessary for political survival in American democracy. When mastered by a politician and his, her, or their operatives, contradiction does not threaten the politician in question from remaining in or winning office. Contradiction often implies that a politician has no integrity. Can there be integrity in contradiction, or despite contradiction, progressively?

First, integrity. I particularly like James Miller’s writing on integrity. I quote from Prof JM in “From Socrates to Foucault”: “whether or not it is used in a moralizing context, the concept of integrity, when applied to a human being, presupposes a capacity in that being for resoluteleness and constancy, a certain power to organize and integrate one’s impulses and impressions, habits and beliefs into a characteristic form of life, a form that, because it endures over time, allows us to speak of a coherent soul or self.” As voters, we are presented plans by candidates who promise to fulfill these plans in an acceptable manner. These plans are sometimes grand societal projects, and sometimes these plans are basic plans veering on reactionary. It’s understood by most that without integrity, there will be no efficacy: the plan will not be accomplished big or small. Furthermore, corruption will ensue from a lack of integrity. In American politics, efficacy is the main concern for voters, though corruption is also very important. In integral self, resolute in their decisions and worldviews, consistent, is who will achieve the governance and infrastructure necessary for the lives that we aim to live. Is a contradictory person an integral person?

Kamala Harris, as candidate for Vice-President, cares about black lives. So much so, that when she speaks of black lives mattering, she speaks with passion and resoluteness. How has she achieved this resolve, this form of life so full of resolve? Is that she a black woman? Is it that she is a daughter of a Jamaican economist, a pioneer in being a black economist in the USA? Is that she attended an HBCU (Historical Black College or University)? Is it that she’s lived and worked in San Francisco, during what has been a massive gentrification of black community from the entire bay area? Has she reached such resolve, such integrity about revolutionizing the relation between society, the state, levels of governments, and black lives? As a prosecutor in San Francisco, she was particularly harsh to black persons, singer and tuba of a band feeding the prison industrial complex that Black Lives Matter seeks to undue. Her career as a prosecutor is in contradiction with her positions as a candidate. Despite this contradiction, does she have the integrity that her passion implies? There is undoubtedly integrity in pursuing a career in public life as a black woman, a fundamental belief in the worth of one’s self, the self worth of one’s black body, etc. Is this the kind of integrity that allows for a vice-president to push for policies and governance that change the course of history for millions of black lives in America?

There’s the contradiction, and there’s the self required to accomplish what the candidate has promised. A contradiction does not mean that she will not accomplish it, and neither does her past as a prison industrial complex feeding prosecutor. In the same way, a promise, or passion, words do not mean that she will even attempt to accomplish what has promised. She has the potential to, but so does every human. Potential is our essence as human beings, if such a thing exists. Integrity is the presupposition as Miller says that self-organization can allow Kamala to accomplish what she promises to hold dear to her and accomplish.

So, can there be integrity despite contradiction, progressively? For Kamala Harris? Contradiction and integrity can co-exist, but as Frank Capra so brilliantly implies in Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, there’s something about integrity without contradiction to love. Contradiction kills. It cuts down forests. It pays farmers in the Western Hemisphere a pittance for coffee pushing them to perilous and agonizing lives at the border and beyond, to be shamed by our society. It should not be underestimated. How do we make integrity without contradiction a political tradition?