Joe Biden/Kamala Harris—“Team Blue’s” One-Two Punch – August 12, 2020
Politics can never be an exact science. There is no one right way to win an election for president, Congress, or even local contests. There is certainly no “perfect” method for a party’s presidential nominee to pick his/her vice-presidential running mate. Throughout U.S. History, vice-presidents have been picked for many reasons. Often, they have used to “balance” the ticket. If the presidential nominee is from an urban state, the VP often came from a rural one. Regional differences have often been used in this balancing act. In the Democratic Party, when the top of the ticket came from an urban area in the late 19th and 20th Century, the VP was often picked from the conservative/rural then “Solid Blue South” or a border state-- FDR and VPs’ John Nance Garner (D-TX), in 1932 and 1936, Harry Truman (D-MO) in 1944, and JFK’s LBJ (D-TX), in 1960. Other times, the candidate is way behind and wants to shake up the race, so an un-orthodox pick is employed. Witness Democrat Walter Mondale’s selecting Queens, NY Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and GOPer John McCain’s giving Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin the nod. While these moves briefly stirred up the race, ultimately, these tickets still badly lost. At other times, presidential nominees who are ahead emphasize the medical maxim of “doing no harm.” They pick someone who is not controversial, is versed in domestic and foreign policy, and can add luster or complement the presidential nominee’s experience. If the presidential nominee is elderly, picking a younger person “ready to step in at any time,” is additionally important. On 8/11/2020, former Obama VP Joe Biden selected CA Democratic Senator Kamala Harris for the VP slot. Actually, by picking Kamala Harris, Biden employed a “twofer” in making his VP decision. He used the “do no harm”/ready to step in on Day One selection criterion as well as the modern concept of VP balancing, picking a political star from the next generation and one who embodies the diversity of modern 21st-Century America. Let’s meet Kamala Harris and discuss what she brings to the Democratic ticket.
First-term CA U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (55) is an Oakland, CA native. Her background constitutes an “only-in-America” story that resonates with millions. She is the first African American and Asian American to be chosen as the running mate of a major party, the first woman of color (cnn.com,Zeleny, Merica, & Saenz, 8/11/20). Sen. Harris’ late mother Shyamala Gopalan, was a native of India who came to the U.S. to pursue a doctorate in nutrition and endocrinology at Berkeley and became a breast cancer researcher (Harris, “The Truths We Hold,”2019). Kamala’s mother met Donald Harris at Berkeley. He was originally from Jamaica and later became a professor of economics at Stanford. Both of Harris’ parents were involved in the civil rights movement. Kamala was often taken by stroller while her parents and friends marched in peaceful civil rights and voting rights protests (“The Truths We Hold”). When Kamala was five, her parents separated and divorced a few years later. Harris and her younger sister Maya were raised by her mother in Berkeley. When Kamala visited her father on weekends, the neighbors’ children in Palo Alto were not allowed to play with her sister and her “because we were black (Cohen & Cook 2020 Political Almanac).”
Kamala overcame such prejudice. She spent her high school years in Montreal, Canada where her mother worked as a researcher at McGill University. Kamala earned her undergraduate degree at Howard University in D.C., the nation’s oldest historically black college, and interned in the office of CA Democratic U.S. Senator Alan Cranston. Harris earned a 1989 law degree at the University of California’s Hastings College. She took a job in the Alameda District Attorney’s office where she prosecuted crimes ranging from homicide and robbery to child sexual assault cases in Oakland. In 1998, Harris transferred to the San Francisco’s District Attorney’s office, before moving to the city attorney’s office as head of its division of families and children (Cohen & Cook 2020, CQ 116th Congress At Your Fingertips).
In 2003, Harris challenged the incumbent San Francisco District Attorney, her former boss, Terence Hallinan. After Hallinan beat her in the first round, Harris won the runoff one month later by 12 points (Cohen & Cook 2020). She won praise for being among the first district attorneys in the nation to emphasize alternatives to incarceration for drug-related offenses. In 2007, Harris ran unopposed for a second term. In 2010, Harris ran for CA Attorney General against GOP LA County District Attorney Steve Cooley. Harris won a razor-thin victory, 46.1%-45.3%, becoming CA’s first female and black Attorney General She was re-elected to that office by a 15-point margin (Cohen & Cook 2020).
As Attorney General, Harris brokered a $25 billion settlement with several large mortgage institutions for improper foreclosure practices during the housing market crash which yielded $18 billion in mortgage relief for CA homeowners. Harris created a task force to prosecute mortgage relief for Californians. She won a $ 1.1 billion judgment against the large for-profit institution, Corinthian College. Harris, with her multi-racial background, has often been called CA’s version of Barack Obama. Not long after being elected San Francisco’s top District Attorney in 2004, Harris raised money for Obama’s Senate race. Harris became the first CA elected official to endorse Obama’s 2008 presidential bid. President Obama gave Harris a prime-time speaking role at the 2012 Democratic Convention. He called her “brilliant and tough.” In 2016, Harris ran for the U.S. Senate in CA, when Dem. Barbara Boxer decided to retire. Harris was endorsed by Obama and the CA Democratic Party. In a state that is almost 40% Latino and just 5.5% black, Harris clobbered her female Latina Democratic opponent Orange County Cong. Loretta Sanchez by 24 points (Cohen & Cook 2020).
In the Senate, Harris, who came to office at the same time as Demagogue Donald, has voted with him just 16.2% of the time (projectsfivethirtyeight.com). She has an 89%-11% Liberal v. Conservative rating from the Cohen-Cook 2020 Political Almanac. She has received several 100% ratings from the Liberal Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), labor’s AFL-CIO, and the League of Conservation Voters. The hard-right Club for Growth has given her just an 11.5% near basement average and Harris has received an even lower 9% rating from the American Conservative Union. She has zero ratings from the right-wing social issue Family Research Council (Cohen & Cook 2020). In the Senate, Harris serves on the powerhouse Budget, Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, Select Intelligence, and the Judiciary Committees (CQ 116th Congress At Your Fingertips). Such committees give her a strong overview of both financial, legal, and national security issues.
Harris is quite adept at using her prosecutorial background to take on high-ranking Trump officials. She rattled then Atty. General Jeff Sessions when she grilled him about his dealings with Russian officials on behalf of the Trump campaign. Sessions said Harris’ questions “made me nervous.” She went after GOPer Deputy Atty. General Rod Rosenstein with strong interrogation. Senate Republicans tried to cut off her questioning of him, while not cutting off fellow male Democratic Senators. Male Democratic Senators accused the GOP Senators of sexism by trying to shut Harris down (See Cohen & Cook 2020). Harris grilled Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh regarding a meeting he may have had about the Mueller investigation with a member of a law firm founded by Trump’s personal lawyer. Kavanaugh was unable to answer this question and repeatedly ducked replying to it. She voted against his confirmation as well as against Gorsuch’s to the High Court (Cohen & Cook 2020, Vox, Zhou, 9/06/18). She went after Atty. General Bill Barr. She was able to get Barr to admit that he had not reviewed the underlying evidence before deciding not to charge Trump with obstruction of justice. When Harris next asked Barr if he or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that he open an investigation of anyone, Barr stuttered, unable to answer “Yes” or “No” to that question. Harris called for Barr to resign, adding that his refusal to answer her questions indicated that he could open himself up to perjury (See cnn.com, Stracqualursi, 5/02/19). Harris voted to impeach Trump.
Like first-term Senator Obama, Harris decided to run for president. She had strong backing from members of the Democratic Party and had endorsed Hillary early in 2016. Harris received initial positive reviews. She is best remembered for the first presidential debate among Democrats in Miami, Fl. During that 6/2019 debate, Harris grabbed headlines for attacking Biden for opposing school busing. She showed a picture of herself as a youngster. She stated that “that little girl was me,” the beneficiary of Berkeley CA’s plan to bus children to integrate schools (cnn.com). Biden had trouble responding to her. He admitted he had no trouble with voluntary school busing which Berkeley had adopted. He was against forced school busing. Harris herself later admitted that she too was only for voluntary busing and there was little difference in their positions. Biden was shocked that Harris, a close friend of his late son Beau, the former Delaware State Attorney General, would have launched such a personal attack. In later debates and campaign rallies, Harris was unable to explain where she exactly stood on issues like health care and other crucial matters. Harris’ support nosedived and she withdrew before the Iowa caucuses, the start of the actual voting season. While some people in Biden’s camp were furious at what they saw as Harris’ personal attack on him, Biden himself and many others understood that Harris was just making political points, what one often does to be noticed. He rightfully forgave her. He correctly realized that someone who could interrogate adversaries like Harris and throw out strong political zingers would be an excellent running mate. Vice-presidential candidates are often required to be attack dogs and Harris will be quite good taking it to VP Pence in a debate and going after Demagogue Donald. Biden is a decent person, and unlike Trump, holds no grudges.
The reaction of most Democrats and most pundits to Harris’ pick as Biden’s running mate was a 100+. Bernie Sanders, Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, and Obama are thrilled with her pick (see dailykos.com, Einenkel, 8/11/20). Trump? He was his usual nasty self. Although he gave Kamala over $6,000 as a private citizen for her CA races (businessinsider.com, Sheth, 8/11/20), his campaign called her “phony Kamala who will appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democratic Party (americanindependent.com, Martin, 8/11/20).” And Trump’s favorite TV propaganda channel FOX/aka FAKE News, threw everything plus the kitchen sink at her. Tucker Carlson deliberately mispronounced her name and refused to correct his mispronunciation. Jeanine Pirro stated, “Who really picked this woman to be the vice-presidential candidate?” Translation: a blatant racist dog whistle that blacks control all of Biden’s choices. Trump repeatedly called Kamala “nasty,” his term for female rivals. He complained Harris had not been “nice” to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (nytimes.com, 8/12/20). You get the idea.
By picking Kamala, Biden went for both a safe and groundbreaking choice. When elected, Biden will be 78, while Harris will be 55. She can step in at any moment should Biden have physical problems. Harris will also bring out black voters, especially black women who will energize Democratic turnout (See nytimes.com, 8/11/20, Martin & Herndon). Congratulations Kamala! Now let’s get out in droves plus to end the nightmare of Trumpism.