Saturday, August 15, 2020

Biden picks Kamala Harris - can she be the difference the Democrats need to win in November?

words by Charles Brooks

After nearly 5 months of waiting, the suspense is finally over. On August 11th, Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden made history naming Kamala Harris, former 2020 presidential candidate and current US Senator (D-CA), as his Vice-President. 

The announcement unleashed a level of excitement and enthusiasm unseen since Barack Obama seized the White House back in 2008.  But in less than a week, Ms. Harris already came under attack as Trump’s team resurrected the racist conspiracy “birther” question around her eligibility for the VP post while social and mainstream media interrogates her racial identity and political ambition while publishing racist cartoon images and memes. 

Despite her spotty resume, Harris is widely viewed as an ally in the White House, particularly around taking action on the pandemic crisis, climate control and Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).  Remember, this is the same Kamala Harris whose recent presidential campaign didn’t gain traction with black voters primarily due to her prosecutorial record as a California District Attorney and Attorney General.  In addition, there’s the matter around her position on health-care during the primaries, when she initially backed Medicare for All and the elimination of private health insurance before releasing her own healthcare plan.

While there is considerable apprehension around Harris, an analysis by GovTrack revealed she had one of the most liberal Senate voting records in 2019. Harris also scored high on legislative scorecards from the ACLU, AFL-CIO and the National Education Association with 89%, 100%, and an “A”, respectively.  Then there's an analysis by ProPublica that also reveals during the current 116th Congress, Harris voted with Bernie Sanders 92% of the time. 

Meanwhile, Harris has joined with Rep’s Rashida Tlaib (D Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Senator Sanders on various pieces of legislation on climate control and the environment, police reform, and pandemic crisis relief.  In recent months, Harris revealed herself as a supporter of the Green New Deal, the Justice in Policing Act 2020 , along with pandemic relief in the form of monthly cash assistance of $2,000, as well as assistance to those facing eviction.  

Within days after Biden's announcement, a narrative began to emerge around Harris as an inspirational figure to literally millions of young women of color across the country. The sheer symbolism here is immeasurable and gives rise to another element to this emerging narrative - her  racial identity - her blackness that's seemingly validated and focused on her graduation from Howard University - an HBCU, as well as her sorority membership with the Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA).  The third prong to this narrative is one that now highlights her sudden "progressive" credentials.  With less than 3 months before the November election, Democrats and their media partners will work to highlight this narrative on the campaign trail to increase voter turnout to 2008 - 2012 levels. However, the key question for Democrats will be whether her recent transformation will prove to be the difference in states that Biden absolutely needs to win to gain the White House.  

As much as there is a solid opposition against the Trump White House, there is an almost equal resistance to any valid criticism of the Biden-Harris ticket that is somehow construed as "pro-Trump".  The campaign to defeat Trump in November has to extend beyond his racism and racist rhetoric to include a critique of Trump's policies nationally and across the globe. However, that does not mean that Democrats and Independents cannot voice their interests, their demands, what they agree with - and what they don't agree with.  Defeating Trump certainly cannot trump being informed of the issues. 

Discussion Questions:

1. Are you supporting the Biden-Harris ticket?

2. What do you think about Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate? Does her past as a top prosecutor harm her chances to attract votes?

3. With Harris on the ticket, can the Biden-Harris ticket be the difference in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, and Florida?  

Related Posts

Additional Reading

Center for American Women & Politics, Black Women in American Politics, 2019

Senator Kamala Harris record of legislation sponsored or cosponsored in the Senate. 

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