January 18, 2020

Kamala Harris’ Plan to Fight White Nationalists Can’t Die with Her Campaign

Sen. Kamala Harris of California addressing the AIPAC policy conference in Washington, D.C., on March 28. Photo from AIPAC

Kamala Harris, who suspended her presidential bid on Dec. 3, never dominated the polls. She lacked Elizabeth Warren’s economic expertise, Joe Biden’s nostalgia with voters and Bernie Sanders’ populist ideology.

However, there was one crucial thing only Harris had: a plan to stop white nationalists from terrorizing America. The remaining contenders have provided more lip service than policies.

“White supremacist extremism is currently the most lethal form of extremism in the U.S.,” American University professor Cynthia Miller-Idriss told Congress this September. 

Under President Donald Trump, the FBI’s efforts to stop domestic terrorism “came to a grinding halt,” said George Selim, who ran counterterrorism under George W. Bush. According to Reuters, Trump attempted to rename the Countering Violent Extremism program to “Countering Radical Islamic Extremism” — erasing white nationalist violence from its mission.

In contrast, Harris unveiled a detailed strategy to take on this issue. Along with an abundance of enactable policies, the California senator planned to commit $2 billion to counter white nationalist violence.

Biden said of white nationalism that the “threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.” Six months later, Biden has yet to propose any policies to curb this extremism.

What about Warren, who appears to have a plan for everything? We’re still waiting for her solution to this problem. Yes, Warren pledged to fight white nationalism, but she’s yet to articulate a strategy. 

None of this will comfort Jews who are terrified to step into a synagogue because an anti-Semite might shoot it up.

Given that Bernie Sanders is a Jew, you’d think he would be particularly invested in stopping white terrorism. The Democratic socialist said he “will go to war with white nationalism.” This week, Sanders promised to order the Justice Department to prioritize fighting white-nationalist violence and immediately appoint a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. This is encouraging — but too general and insufficient.

That’s why, although Harris’ campaign is dead, her policies on combatting white nationalism must live on.

Based on Harris’ suggestion, the next president should expand the purview of terror-related intelligence bodies such as the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Although the NCTC is tailored to combat white nationalist violence, Congress has prohibited it from taking domestic terrorism cases.

“There was one crucial thing only Harris had: a plan to stop white nationalists from terrorizing America.”

In this gory cycle of mass shootings and manifestos, 42% of domestic terrorists exhibit disturbing behavior before their crimes. The candidate who scores the nomination can resuscitate Harris’ game plan by allowing federal courts to issue domestic terrorism prevention orders. These mandates would seize the firearms of suspected terrorists, disarming extremists who may commit a hate crime.

Even Trump, as a die-hard Second Amendment defender, could follow Harris’ lead. He would be adhering to his own counterterrorism policies. Trump’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism includes preventing terrorists from acquiring weapons. He needs to treat white nationalists like the terrorist group they’ve proven to be.

White nationalists recruit and radicalize just like ISIS. Both groups prey on young Americans. Both murder innocent Americans.

That means resurrecting Harris’ promise to order the FBI to vigilantly monitor white supremacist websites and put pressure on platforms such as 4chan and Reddit to take down extremist content. This approach isn’t radical; we already de-platform websites that facilitate sex trafficking.

White nationalists are terrorists. Kamala Harris knows we need to treat them as such.


Ariel Sobel is a screenwriter, filmmaker and activist, and won the 2019 Bluecat Screenplay Competition.