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RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR: Don’t let Harris con you. She doesn’t defend the little guy

Senior citizens are especially susceptible to scams. Now I’m afraid my own mother has been taken for a ride.

It happened during the recent Democratic National Convention. Watching the con unfold, frame by frame, I flashed back to the 1973 film classic “The Sting,” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

First, “The Set Up.” On the third night of the convention, as my sister joined our 78-year-old matriarch on the couch, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. — the Democratic nominee for vice president — approached the microphone.

Then, “The Hook.” My mother was an easy mark. In 2016, she went all-in for Hillary Clinton, the first woman to lead a presidential ticket for a major party. She was bound to get the warm and fuzzies about the idea of another woman vying for the No. 2 spot.

Finally, “The Sting.” For my mom — a Mexican American who suffered blatant discrimination growing up in south Texas in the 1940s — the fact that this trailblazer also happens to be a woman of color was the cherry atop the sundae. Seeing Harris on television, my mom turned to my sister and said: “She is looking out for all of us. Hillary didn’t do that.”

Mom, you’re killing me. It falls to your son — the columnist who has covered politicians for 30 years and who has learned to ignore what they say and focus on what they do — to set you straight.

I’ve been watching Harris for many years, and I can tell you that Harris looks out only for Harris — except when she is looking around the corner for her next job. She is a lawyer with only one client: her ambition. And she’ll defend it at all costs.

Of course, women have the same right as men to be ambitious. But when a public figure — man or woman — lets ambition get in the way of doing the right thing, he or she needs to be called on it.

Harris has plenty of “woke” talking points to share about the scourge of police violence. That’s an easy case for Democrats to argue. Yet the former prosecutor is a lot quieter when it comes to the public’s violent response to such shootings. The reluctance to scold protesters is bound to frustrate those Americans who want to vote for the Democratic ticket but feel reluctant to elect leaders who can’t, or won’t, restore order in U.S. cities.

Harris had her chance to fight for the downtrodden while serving as the first female district attorney of San Francisco from 2004 to 2011.

Instead, according to criminal justice reform advocates, she ignored alleged wrongdoing by attorneys who worked for her. This allegedly includes what is perhaps the most common act of prosecutorial misconduct: withholding exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys. That violates due process, the Supreme Court says.

Harris got another chance to look out for the little guy — in the form of undocumented immigrants — while serving as California attorney general from 2011 to 2017, the first African American and the first woman to hold that position.

Why is that fact important? Because the pioneers who are also minorities don’t just take the arrows, they also get extra scrutiny by white people who keep waiting for the groundbreakers to get radical and go off the rails. That paralyzes some folks.

While serving as California’s chief law enforcement officer, Harris kept quiet for the most part while an intramural debate was raging between Democrats. California legislators were battling both the Obama administration and then-Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown to pass something called the Trust Act, which would have limited the cooperation that Immigration and Customs Enforcement enjoyed from local police and sheriff departments.

Listen to California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, who wrote the Trust Act. He told The Huffington Post in 2019 that the help he received from Harris’ office was “bupkis” and “zilch” and “invisible.”

Not exactly a profile in courage from someone who is — as Democrats insist on reminding us — a “daughter of immigrants.”

Sorry, Mom. I hate to burst your bubble. But you’re the one who taught me to stop believing in fairy tales.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

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