Kamala Harris has a chance to make history twice after presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected her Tuesday to be his vice-presidential running mate. Harris, a centrist U.S. senator from California and former state attorney general, is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent tapped for the office by a major party.
In some ways, Harris is the safe pick for Biden — going with the prosecutor rather than a bomb thrower — and some on the progressive left will likely object. But in playing it safe and choosing an experienced campaigner and legislator, Biden has underlined that his most important objective is to defeat President Donald Trump.
Her selection cannot be underestimated, though, for the message that it sends at this moment, when race relations are at the forefront of voters’ minds and the fight for racial and gender equity rages throughout the country.Historically, Black women have been the backbone of the Democratic Party and Biden’s selection pays homage to those contributions.
It will also go a long way toward mobilizing minorities and balancing the Democratic ticket, said Michael Adams, professor of political science at Texas Southern University. She has name recognition and brings her substantial experience in politics and law enforcement, Adams told the editorial board, and given Biden’s age, the 55-year-old Harris can make a stronger appeal to millennial and Gen-X voters. But while Biden’s selection of Harris makes history on a grand scale, on a far more prosaic level, it also brings the presidential election into tighter focus for millions of Americans who’ve largely tuned out amid so much worry over other concerns.
For all the talk that the 2020 election is among the most important in recent memory, who can blame voters for so far feeling they’ve not had time to pay attention to the campaigns amid the rising deaths due to the pandemic, our stalling economy and lingering civil unrest as street protests stemming from Black deaths in police custody continue unabated in many cities.
That lack of focus should change now that the starting teams on both campaigns have been set and Election Day draws steadily closer. Voters will more and more ask themselves which ticket’s vision speaks most powerfully to their needs, and which does most to ease these and other worries that have been on everyone’s minds for months now.
Trump will run, of course, on his record. He will continue to claim his pandemic response has been great, and will boast of successes in passing a major tax cut and huge budget increases — on both the military and domestic programs — and in reducing the impact of federal regulations on the environment, labor and more. He’ll also trumpet his success, thanks to the Republican-led Senate, in putting more judges on the bench than any recent predecessor, a track record that has also pushed the ideological mix of the federal judiciary solidly to the right.
The team Harris now joins will be making the case that America can’t stand any more of the “winning” it’s experienced under Trump’s presidency. The administration’s pandemic responses has been widely faulted as not just incompetent, but fatally so. The deficit has soared, thanks to the reckless tax cuts Trump is so proud of and after years of economic expansion — a trend begun and continued for years under his predecessor — Trump is now presiding over the first U.S. recession since the one President Obama inherited following the financial crisis of 2008.
There are 84 days until Election Day — not an eternity, for sure, but plenty of time for Americans to focus on which candidates are most likely to steer what has become a very troubled ship of state. Let the debate begin, and let us hope that both campaigns will present their visions clearly and with integrity. Upon our shoulders is a great weight of responsibility to choose wisely. To that task, let us all dedicate ourselves. In the meantime, let us welcome a formidable American daughter and stateswoman to the contest — and to the history books.