Whether one view Kamala Harris as a good or bad choice, the increasingly rampant conspiracies spread about both the candidate and the party threaten to muddy the waters.
Here’s what you should be focusing on.
The run-up to the 2020 presidential elections has been dramatic, to say the least. From Donald Trump’s impeachment in December 2019, to COVID-19 and nationwide protests against police brutality, the past year has been eventful.
Against this backdrop, one could have been forgiven for assuming the small matter of Joe Biden picking a running mate for his presidential bid would have gone under the radar.
But those assumptions obviously did not last. In the weeks preceding the announcement, people – both democrat and republican alike – waited with bated breath. And since the announcement of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick, both the move and the candidate have come under finicky scrutiny.
Whether one views Harris as a good or bad choice, the increasingly rampant conspiracies spread about both the candidate and the party threaten to muddy the waters.
In the wake of false birther conspiracies about Harris (which now seem almost obligatory when a black candidate is running), it is important to keep things in perspective about who Kamala Harris is and what she will do.
Kamala Harris is a unifying pick
To say Harris has a blended background is an understatement. The eldest of two children, Harris was born in Oakland, California in 1964 to black parents – an Indian mother and a Jamaican father. Her name means “lotus” in the Sanskrit language, and her current stepchildren call her “Momala”, a Yiddish term of endearment for “little mama”, and a play on her name.
In a moment where the country is being forced to acknowledge the deep systemic injustices in the US, Harris represents a step in the right direction. While there are arguments that she is not really “African American” or “black” and does not represent these racial groups, nothing could be further from the truth. As one person states, “If she was alive during the enslavement period, you know what she would have been. I consider her a black woman.”
The significance of Harris’ multi-racial lineage is not lost on commentators. They note that her announcement is an important step towards unifying the racial and political divide in the US. Kamala Harris essentially represents a confluence of the political minority in the US. She is a symbol of racial diversity in the country, and her announcement has the potential to help mend broken fences.
As Harris says herself, “I believe our country wants and needs some leadership that provides a vision of the country in which everyone could see themselves.”
Harris is competent
Harris has enjoyed an outstanding political career. She was the first black woman in California history to be elected District Attorney. She was also the first woman to become the state’s Attorney General and the first Indian American to be elected US Senator. Now, she has become the first Asian American and black woman to be picked as a vice presidential candidate for a major party.
Harris has been breaking glass ceilings all her life, and from available public records, she performed well in all positions she has occupied. She first joined the Alameda County prosecutor’s office in 1990, straight out of law school, as an assistant DA with a focus on sex crimes.
She later joined the Office of the San Francisco DA where she introduced a revolution into law enforcement approach to teenage prostitution, choosing to focus on the girls as victims rather than criminals.
She became San Francisco DA in 2003 and, within the first three years of her election, the city’s conviction rate increased to 67% from 52%. She was elected as California Attorney General in 2010, and a short while later, she famously refused a national mortgage settlement of $4 billion after the foreclosure crisis.
While she received severe backlash over her decision, her tenacity eventually won the state’s homeowners $20 billion in settlements. She eventually became US Senator in 2016 and has distinguished herself since for her sharp intellect and fiery debating skills.
Through all of these positions, Harris has been undeniable in her competence and passion for getting the job done. While there are question marks over some parts of her track record, such as her inconsistent position on certain policy issues, there is no doubt that she will bring her competence to the vice-presidency as well.
Harris complements Biden
During his campaign so far, Biden has faced criticism from the Trump campaign for his age (Biden is 77) and his sometimes hesitating nature. Trump infamously nicknamed Biden “sleepy Joe” and all but dismissed him during the early stages of the presidential race.
While Biden’s stock has risen drastically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing racial tensions, he still needed that shot of vitality in his presidential bid. Kamala Harris provides that (relatively) youthful vigor that was always missing and, crucially, “legitimizes” Biden’s bid by bringing on board minority groups in one fell swoop. As the Washington Post puts it, “She [Harris] compliments Biden, the genial, if occasionally inarticulate septuagenarian, in an uncanny way. If he’s sleepy, she’s a jolt of caffeine”.
In addition, both Harris and Biden are largely ideologically similar. They both favor center-left ideologies in an increasingly progressive democratic party. This is important for two reasons. First, center left beliefs may be more acceptable to right-leaning voters and this can be an important factor in capturing the bi-partisan support that will be necessary to win the election. Second, considering the fractious nature of Trump’s presidency so far, a center-left administration provides the best chance of measured the healing of the country without rocking the boat too much.
As the US counts down towards the 2020 presidential elections, there is a sense that the country is approaching another crossroad. The decision that will be taken by voters in just over two months’ time may represent another turning point in the fortunes of the US.
In what direction will this take the country? No one can say for sure. But what is paramount is that voters make their decision with the benefit of the right information and the right perspective.
Since the writing of the articles, President-Elect, Joe Biden and Vice President-Elect, Kamala Harris won both the popular vote and projected winners of the Presidency.