Tuesday, presumptive Democratic nominee for President Joe Biden named his former opponent in the Primaries, Senator Kamala Harris (Calif.), his running mate, thus nominating her for the office he once held from 2009 to 2017. If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris defeat incumbents Donald Trump and Mike Pence this November at the ballot box, Harris would become the first Vice President of the United States to be a woman or a person of color.
After months of a constantly shifting selection process for Biden’s running mate within his presidential campaign, Biden today announced his decision- first via text message and email to supporters, and then on social media. Biden’s text, sent at 4:17 P.M. EDT, first announced Harris as his running mate, followed in quick succession by an email at 4:23 P.M. In the email, Biden described his decision as not “political,” saying it must instead be one about “governing.” Biden referenced Harris’s notable service on two top Senate committees, her record in the Senate and as Attorney General of California, and as a subject of admiration by Biden’s deceased son, Beau, who served as Attorney General of Delaware before his death.
Kamala Harris is a good balance to her running mate, Joe Biden, in many ways, and the contrasts are quite stark. Biden, age 77, is a Caucasian male from the Atlantic coast in Delaware. Biden served as Senator for 36 years before himself becoming Vice President in 2009. Biden, throughout the 2020 Democratic Primaries, espoused fairly liberal policies which, when compared to those of others competing for the nomination at the time, were seen as relatively moderate.
Harris, age 55, is a half-Black, half-Asian-American woman (the first of which to serve in the Senate) from San Francisco, California. Harris was first elected to public office 33 years after Biden, in 2003. After becoming San Francisco’s District Attorney following that election, she went on to be a twice-elected Attorney General of California (2010, 2014), and a United States Senator (elected 2016). In the Senate, Harris has been consistently ranked by watchdogs and advocacy groups as one of the most progressive Senators, though she is widely regarded as more moderate than those like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
The most notorious contrast between Biden and Harris, however, may sprout from Biden’s actions in the Senate while Harris was a child. In the Democratic Presidential Debate of June 27, 2019 (sponsored by NBCUniversal), then-candidate Harris attacked Biden on his past opposition to busing as a solution to scholastic segregation, and his friendships and cooperations with pro-segregation Senators, such as Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.).
In a heated exchange, Harris said Biden was not himself racist, but that he should not uphold the legacies of certain Senators. Harris concluded her remarks, talking of a little girl from California who was among the first in her area to integrate with the help of busing. “That little girl was me,” said Harris. Biden, visibly hurt, responded that he only opposed federal busing due to fear of federal overreach, but that he did not oppose all busing at the time.
That said, it seems as if Biden and Harris have bound their old wounds. Biden has repeated to the press and to advisors throughout the Vice Presidential selection process that, above all else, he values “simpatico” in a running mate or a close personal bond. Biden and the President with whom he twice ran, Barack Obama, have often referred to their close relationship as a “bromance,” and a relationship built of trust. Biden has deeply sought out a running mate with those same characteristics, and, seeing as he ultimately selected Sen. Harris, it appears as if they have patched over their prior conflicts.
Harris, following her official nomination next week at the Democratic National Convention (August 17-20), will become the fourth woman to ever be on a major party’s ticket, following Geraldine Ferraro (Democratic, 1984), Sarah Palin (Republican, 2008), and Hillary Clinton (Democratic, 2016). All of the aforementioned women, except Clinton, have been Vice Presidential nominees. Upon her nomination, Harris will also be the first person of color (she is both Black and Asian-American) to be a major nominee for Vice President.
Biden’s announcement of Harris’s nomination also comes after considerable pressure from the African-American community to select a Black woman to be Vice President. Monday, over 100 prominent Black leaders penned an open letter to Biden, claiming that “failing to select a black woman in 2020 means you will lose the election.” One of the letter’s signatories, Ben Crump, is the attorney representing the family of George Floyd, the Black man killed by police in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. Floyd’s death has sparked sustained protests across the United States, as Americans of all stripes ponder whether a just society can permit people to be killed by police at higher rates due to their race. These protests seem to have nudged Biden away from choosing a white running mate, favoring Harris.
On social media platforms following the announcement of her Vice Presidential nomination, Harris wrote, “Joe Biden is a leader who can unify the American people because he’s spent his life fighting for the American people. And as President, he will build an America that lives up to our ideals. I’m honored to join him as our party’s nominee for Vice President, and do everything it takes to make @JoeBiden our next Commander-in-Chief.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic raging on and ravaging the United States, Sen. Harris will, presumably, not be able to attend many large in-person events on behalf of the Biden / Harris campaign. Harris’s ability to bring in large sums of money for the campaign, though, should not be underestimated. Wednesday, Biden, and Harris are slated to make their first joint appearance as a ticket in Wilmington, Del. The two will also hold a massive virtual fundraiser, which has been selling tickets ranging in cost from $500 to $250,000. Even on the day of the announcement, ActBlue, the primary platform for donating to Democratic candidates for office, reported over $10.8 million in donations between 4 and 8 P.M.
After meeting in Wilmington, Harris will presumably proceed to officially be nominated by the Democratic Party next Wednesday, August 19, during the Democratic National Convention. The Convention will be in session from 9 to 11 P.M. that evening, and following her nomination, Harris will go on to deliver her nationally-broadcast acceptance speech. Afterwards, she is scheduled to debate incumbent Vice President Mike Pence on October 7 at the University of Utah.
All roads, however, lead to November 3, at which time hundreds of millions of Americans will vote in the largest Presidential election in American history. Nearly all voters will entrust their sacred vote to either Donald Trump and Mike Pence, or Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Whichever ticket emerges victorious will, barring further complications or obstructions, assume office at noon on January 20, 2021. If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are victorious in their quests for the nation’s highest offices, they will have written beautiful poetry together. Joe Biden, on Inauguration Day 2021, will be the oldest President in American history. Biden’s success as a Presidential contender, however, can be owed nearly entirely to the selection of a Black nominee for President 12 years ago, and to the devotion of Black women in the Democratic Primaries. Upon Inauguration, Biden’s Vice President, Kamala Harris, will be the first woman and first person of color to hold that office which Biden himself once held- a fitting rhyme to the history written by Joe Biden throughout the recent decades of American politics.
As is always the case with politics, no victory is certain, and no outcome is assured. Biden and Harris, despite the overwhelming and, in some cases, unprecedented leads they hold in national and statewide polling, have quite the journey ahead of them. It is always difficult, to some degree, to defeat an incumbent running for re-election. Even if Biden and Harris win over the voters on November 3, they will have to work at an incredible pace with an inefficient Congress to repair the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and the worst public health emergency in a century. Only one thing is certainly assured about the Biden / Harris ticket: it will make history.
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