Why I See Kamala’s Racial Attack on Joe as a Positive Seminal Moment for Our Country

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VP Biden swears Harris into office as Senator. Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org.

Joe Biden has just selected California Senator Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential running mate. Some call it an easy, obvious decision. I see it differently.

I think this was just the right choice at this time. But it couldn’t have been easy for Biden.

I was one of many who was put off by Harris in the first debate for her attack on Biden about his support of busing when she was a child integrating her neighborhood school.

It seemed unfair because it was ancient history, and he has clearly moved far from that kind of thinking. Though I didn’t support Biden then, I was moved by the shocked, hurt look on his face. He appeared wounded. He and Harris were friends. She was a close friend of his beloved late son Beau.

Evidently, Biden’s wife’s Jill was similarly offended: she reportedly questioned early on whether Harris should be his running mate. Even more tellingly, Chris Dodd, an old trusted friend who was leading Biden’s search committee, accused Harris of disloyalty and an excess of ambition.

Harris recently dismissed that tense exchange as being “just a debate,” fueling those who saw her as callous and opportunistic. But I think that moment has turned out to be one of the most important for our country today.

Here’s why:

First, it says a huge amount about Biden’s own strength and courage–aligning himself with a strong woman who will speak her mind on important issues. It shows the character of the man. His remark that “I don’t hold grudges” should be a model for us all these days.

Second, Biden has made it clear that racial justice and erasing inequality are central to his campaign for the “soul of America.”  His willingness to see Harris as his ally shows that he wants someone willing to tell him when he’s wrong–and to provide him with perspectives that he knows he can’t gain from his own lived experiences.

That is both extremely impressive and necessary. And he demonstrated true independence of judgment. He dismissed the warnings of his old guard friends like Chris Dodd–warnings that were clearly sexist and not relevant to today.

Thus, his decision tells me that Joe Biden will be his own person. He has shown that he has no fear of being overshadowed by his Vice President. He has decided that Kamala Harris and he are “simpatico”–a word he used as one of the most compelling factors for him.

I’ve been feeling for a while that Biden, having been through so much as Vice President, was the right person to lead us. All this has enhanced my opinion of him as a strong leader.

It has also been noted that through the careful selection process he conducted in seeking his partner, he has shone the light on other talented women who were under consideration but might not otherwise have gained such notice, eg, Val Demings as a possible gubernatorial candidate in Florida; Karen Bass as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House when she retires.

So his deliberative approach became much more than simply a vetting: it has opened our eyes to the leadership potential of women who’d previously been overlooked.

At the same time, although Harris has dismissed her remark, I no longer see it as a cheap shot. As the killing of George Floyd led to huge and racially diverse protests and widespread societal acceptance of the grievous wrongs and unfulfilled promises in our society, Harris’s insertion of that bit of history may be seen as the opening bell for our great awakening.

Indeed, schools are more segregated today than they have been in years. And Harris was most convincing in helping us envision what it was like for that little girl on her lonely journey years ago. We are now more aware that parallels of that isolation are still plentiful in our nation.

Thus, on one of the most important issues of our time, Biden-Harris are uniquely positioned to move us forward.

In some ways, Harris parallels President Obama. Both grew up in largely white environments and sought their identities elsewhere: he went to Africa in search of his father; she attended Howard University, a predominantly black institution. Thus, they are both comfortable with all types of people in varying settings.

Both are also highly intelligent, accomplished, witty, fast on their feet, and charismatic. Harris drew 20,000 screaming Californians to her presidential campaign announcement–even more than Obama did to his.

Both are more pragmatic than ideological–despite what you’ll hear from the Trump administration about the raving leftists who want to destroy America.

And both have an uncommon ability to demonstrate compassion toward the individuals they engage and the societal problems people face. (With Biden, who also has an abundance of compassion, and Harris, the compassionate responses will flow freely. Due to the pandemic and accompanying financial distress, our suffering nation now needs this quality in our leaders as never before.)

Kamala actually has more executive experience than Obama did: as California’s attorney general, she ran the second largest attorney general office in the country–with the exception of the federal government’s.

It was in that position that she became close friends with Biden’s son Beau, and Biden has said that knowing how highly Beau thought of her was a large influence on his decision to choose her.

One of her many accomplishments during her tenure in that position was to walk away from a 2011 offer by the country’s biggest mortgage firms that she felt was a paltry response to the needs of Californians and others facing illicit foreclosures. Beau Biden and other state AGs sided with her, but she took heat as she stood her ground. Dismissing the $2-$4 billion original offer, she eventually gained $20 billion for Californians.

That, President Trump, is truly The Art of the Deal!

There will be much media digging into Harris’s imperfections, many phony attacks by the Trump Administration, depicting them both as captives of the far left–Communists, anarchists, religion defilers. Nonsense!

But Joe Biden has pronounced himself a transitional figure. In selecting Kamala Harris as his running mate, he has demonstrated his understanding and belief in the direction America is moving.

Yes, race and gender are major components. We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment–but when women won the right to vote, the Black women who’ve done so much to build our nation were not included in that move. They have increasingly made up for  lost time.

So just as Black women (and Congressman James Clyburn) were the powerful force that brought Joe Biden’s candidacy back from the brink, so will they protect Kamala Harris from undue attacks and use their sororities and networks to turn out a vote that I believe will be massive enough to overcome the Republican efforts to suppress voting and prevent valid ballots from being counted.

It’s about time, for sure. I teared up when I saw one after another Black woman interviewee express her delight at finally seeing a candidate “who looks like me.”

I hope the media and the grumblers won’t get carried away with focusing on race and gender to the exclusion of everything else.

Make no mistake. In Biden-Harris, we have two pragmatic and compassionate souls who will consider all ideas–some more progressive than might have been the case before conditions in this country became so dire–to dig us out of the worst hole America has been in due to failed leadership in its history.

I expect Biden and Harris will be concentrating on workable, equitable solutions to help us get back on our feet and begin moving toward greater economic and social justice.

The historian Jon Meacham pointed out earlier that our America today dates from Kamala Harris’s birth 55 years ago, when the Voting Rights Act became law, and changes in our immigration laws made the nation more inclusive and diverse. “Our America is 55 years old,” he said.

I believe this is a great day for the America most of us long for.

I welcome your thoughts.

Annie

 

 

 

 

34 thoughts on “Why I See Kamala’s Racial Attack on Joe as a Positive Seminal Moment for Our Country

  1. I like your analysis. And I think it is accurate and perceptive. I don’t have a whole lot of faith in the American citizenry. They put people like Trump and McConnell in office, after all. If there’s to be a decent future for this country, Biden/Harris must win.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Absolutely great! Compassionate and pragmatic — exactly what we need. Thank you for your careful parsing of how this went for Biden. As usual, the nuances you present are so instructive. And thanks for your optimism (I was worried at the start of the post) because we need that too. Yahoo. Let’s get it done.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Again, a lot of good points here. I hadn’t thought of how Biden helped raise the profile of he other women he was considering, but it’s certainly true.

    Perhaps the significance of that debate moment today is how the joint ticket shows, not just that Biden has forgiven Harris for her attack on his past, but that she has forgiven him for that past. At the time, I considered this a serious issue about Biden — not just that he had cooperated with segregationists decades before, but that he was still defending having done so. But as you say, he has evolved a great deal since then, and by accepting the VP position, Harris has given anyone else who was concerned about that issue permission to move on from it as well.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Absolutely; I’m glad you stressed that point, though Harris endorsed Biden swiftly and emphatically after withdrawing. And he has positioned her to perhaps become the first Black/Asian/woman President; that would be a tough “no,” I should think…

      I plan to run your super Biden post in early September, when early voting begins.

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    1. I think they really are simpatico—and they’re two grownups who will battle things out as needed. I’m glad he told her that, just as he had asked of Obama, he wants her to be the last person in the room.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely agree with you. Biden choosing Harris as his running mate shows that he is willing to take criticism from his past and learn from it. It shows that he doesn’t hold grudges over heated debate where Trump clearly does. Biden won’t dismiss someone due to the fact that they have or had a different opinion. Biden’s also willing and has shown to learn from his mistakes and grow from them. He’s willing to listen and work with a strong woman who has opinions of her own and is not afraid to back down.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I purposely waited to let things settle a bit before offering my thoughts. I went back and looked at a couple of your posts from last August and September when the debates were going on. You already know what I saw – or more precisely what I didn’t see: A single positive impression of Harris, either from you or from your commenters.

    I find this choice a mystery. She will not help Biden with the left – much of the left is outraged at her history as prosecutor. She will not help him in the center either. She has the same problem that so many politicians have who come to prominence in a heavily lopsided area – she has never had to appeal to anyone but Democrats, and mostly fairly far leftward Democrats. Like him or not, this was Clinton’s secret – he understood people who disagreed with him because he lived among them.

    And you know that I am not big on race-for-race’s sake, but why on Earth, in the year of BLM, does Biden think he will get any credit on this front from Harris? There has been a wave of emotion coming out of a black community that has suffered indignities and mistreatment for generations. Why not pick someone who comes from that experience and can speak to it with some conviction and authority. Harris? There is nothing wrong with a Jamaican or an Indian heritage – but she is trying to pass it off as something else (even if from a position of respect). I don’t think she’s going to get the kind of traction in the black community that a lot of people think she will.

    Some day one of the parties is going to pick someone who comes from deep within the American black experience. Among the elder generation there was John Lewis on your side and Clarence Thomas on mine. Both grew up poor in the segregated South and understand what it was all about far more than you or I ever will. But this is not that year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. JP–
      Even knowing your basic philosophy, I find your reactions here perplexing.

      I’ll start with the easy part: I acknowledged in my post that I was initially put off by Harris; I also explain why I came around–and why I am so delighted to support her now. And you must have missed the comments from others who supported her–both during her presidential bid and for VP.

      As for your belief that she won’t have much support among Black people, you must have missed all the coverage shortly after she ended her Presidential campaign from Black women expressing “non-buyer’s remorse.” There is now euphoria among her fellow Howard grads (a great source of pride among Black people: she’s the first graduate of an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and her sorority sisters–a huge network of Black women throughout the country–are energized to “have her back” against the grotesque attacks that are already occurring (as well as unfair media characterizations) and to work as hard as they can to get Biden-Harris elected. Not to mention South Asian American women! And there are hordes of white suburban women like me who will be right beside them. I expect a gender gap unlike any we’ve seen in the past.

      The Jamaica question of authenticity strikes me as weird (not weird in the sense that it’s spawned a new hate-filled birther conspiracy–weird as worthy of even mentioning). Africans were brought to Jamaica as slaves, period. As a child, Harris had to integrate her school. Her parents were both in the civil rights movement. She, herself, participated in the BLM march in Washington and has been working for criminal justice reform, anti-lynching legislation, and other legislation to promote greater equity.

      It’s true that I was inspired by Val Demings’ background as a very poor Southern black woman whose mother was a cleaning woman and father was a janitor. But I’m not going to hold it against Harris that her mother was a prominent cancer researcher and father was a Professor of Economics at Stanford. Are you? I get the sense from your comment that there’s no way a person of color can “fit” our preconceived notions.

      I do know that Harris was early on so clearly identified as a rising star in California that Republican Ed Gillespie did his damndest to try to stop her career. She won in all parts of California among very diverse constituencies. Gillespie was smart enough to see the entire Harris package: intellect, passion, strength, compassion, charisma. And the toughness and agility as a prosecutor to make Bill Barr find himself at a loss for words.

      If you totally remove race from the equation, Kamala Harris is a superbly qualified individual. She is guided more by a desire to make government work “for the people” than she is by any labels. That makes it hard for the Republicans to attack her, but it will make her an even more formidable candidate in this center-left nation, when people who never before realized the importance of government suddenly find themselves forced to line up for food packages.

      I am extremely proud of Joe Biden for selecting her, and I am delighted to give her my full-throated endorsement and support.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You may have read more into my point than was intended – while I reject the whole idea that there are demographic requirements for a VP pick, my only point was that you shouldn’t be surprised if there is less overall enthusiasm for Harris among the black community than you expect. Howard grads and Harris’ sorority sisters are a mighty small demographic. I happened across a story about a Rasmussen poll yesterday that claimed that almost 30% of black respondents said the Harris choice would make them less inclined to vote for Biden. If this is true (and we both know that much mischief can occur below the surface of a poll) this should be concerning for Biden. One of us will turn out to be right on this, but we won’t find out which until November.

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      2. Rasmussen has a reputation as one of the least reliable pollsters—and polling has become suspect in general. I’m confident that if we don’t get huge voter suppression, eg, removal of mail sorting machines and actual mailboxes, there will be a huge Black vote for Biden-Harris.

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  6. There was a huge surge in donations right after the Harris pick was announced — almost $11 million in four hours, if I remember correctly. Someone’s enthused, even if the enthusiasm doesn’t ft into the neat demographic categories people are too used to thinking in these days.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi Annie – good analysis. And the comments you’re getting are interesting as well. Biden needed to pick a woman who was fearless because the campaign is going to be nasty and, if elected, he is going to have to heal a lot of fractures and wounds. He has to come across as for ALL of the people while she has to come across as a fighter for justice (good cop, bad cop). At least, that’s the way I see it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi, and thanks for your kind words. I agree that Harris will play bad cop, but she will also be Mamala, the compassionate nurturer.

      I appreciate your visiting my blog. Please feel free to come back when convenient.

      Cheers,
      Annie

      Like

  8. Hi, Annie.
    The optimism of this post is so refreshing. I really needed it!
    I was just reading that her agenda includes working to get climate change to be taken seriously. This issue has been not only ignored by the current administration, but vilified.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Glad to hear that, Fran. So much damage to be reversed. Now we have to hope the country’s uproar due to the attacks against the PO builds quickly enough.

      Note: the post released today ends on a happier note thanks to you, as I state.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. An excellent pick as far as I can see. There’s an old adage about surrounding yourself with smart people who disagree with you, and whilst a lot of what Harris said in the debates can be put down to trying to create distance between her and Biden, there is no doubt in my mind that she will sharpen his arguments.

    Liked by 1 person

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