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 position on 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.
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.