In the aftermath of last week’s two Democratic presidential primary debates, Sen. Kamala Harris garnered most of the attention thanks to her gotcha moment with former Vice President Joe Biden on the subject of race. Harris drew on her personal experience of being bussed to school as a child to attack Biden for his record on civil rights. She turned the moment to her political advantage and turned a profit as well, immediately offering T-shirts for sale featuring a childhood photo and the slogan “That little girl was me” on her website—because nothing says “late capitalism” like self-proclaimed progressives merchandising their personal civil rights moments.
Less discussed post-debate was the fact that “dignity” has become one of the Democrats’ favorite buzzwords, and not just to describe their sense that Donald Trump has not brought a sufficient amount of it to the Oval Office. Recently, Democrats have added the word to legislation they’ve sponsored, such as Rep. Judy Chu’s “Promoting Respect for Individuals’ Dignity and Equality Act of 2019,” which would give more than $50 million in tax refunds to gay couples (Elizabeth Warren is sponsoring a similar bill in the Senate). Cory Booker and Warren cited dignity in April when they reintroduced a 2017 bill, the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act (one of the original sponsors in 2017 was Kamala Harris). And Sen. Sherrod Brown called his (now moribund) 2020 presidential exploratory bid the Dignity of Work tour.