Opinion: Why US Senator Kamala Harris is a risky pick for Joe Biden
What you need to know:
- She was one of Biden’s harshest critics in the fight for the Democratic Party presidential ticket.
- Harris comes with significant baggage from her time as the District Attorney of San Francisco and the Attorney-General of California.
- No female running mate has ever succeeded (as a running mate) in getting a male presidential candidate elected.
The Chinese adage goes: “May you live in interesting times”. Ironically, interesting times do not always result in interesting results.
Here are five reasons Senator Kamala Harris is a risky pick for Joe Biden as a presidential running mate.
Harris comes with significant baggage from her time as the District Attorney of San Francisco and the Attorney-General of California. In both positions, she was perceived to side too closely with law enforcement while increasing the number of minority inmates in California’s already overcrowded correctional system.
This negative tag ties her to the perception of contributing to the unparalleled escalation of prison populations in the United States, a system that has disproportionately incarcerated minority populations.
While being hard on crime runs well in the Republican conservative districts, this element of Harris’s resumé dampens the enthusiasm in the base of the Democratic Party for her candidacy.
Notably, the African-American and Latino communities have historically been disproportionately over-represented in the American correctional system.
Secondly, she was one of Biden’s harshest critics in the fight for the Democratic Party presidential ticket. She called him a racist for his past statements on immigrants and a sexual predator for sexual harassment charges brought against him by several women.
The clips have made rich fodder for attack ads for President Donald Trump’s campaign team. The Trump campaign is bent on shaping the message that Biden has deep and worrisome moral and ethical shortcomings that make him unsuitable for the White House.
Thirdly, there is a feeling in the Democratic Party that there were candidates who were superior to Harris. They include Susan Rice, the US Ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Rice not only brought the foreign policy expertise to the ticket; she is a woman of colour and fits the youthful age demographic to balance the ticket.
Whitmer brings executive experience, the added capacity to attract suburban white women to vote for Biden and the campaign machinery to win the 16 electoral college votes of the perennial swing state.
The fourth is the curse of history. As much as things change, they stay in the same way. No female running mate has ever succeeded (as a running mate) in getting a male presidential candidate elected. Recent examples include the Walter Mondale-Geraldine Ferraro ticket in 1984 and John McCain-Sarah Palin (2008).
The structures of patriarchy are still strong and well in America. This is one of the reasons Obama chose Sen. Joe Biden over Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2008 and 2012.
Lastly, Biden’s age is going to be a major factor. The Trump campaign is already defining Biden as the transition president. It is not clear if he could run for a second term in 2024, at 81. Their opponents will portray a Biden election as a Harris first term due to his advanced age, concerns about his memory loss and suggestions that he has dementia. The question for the voters will be, given Biden’s advanced age, is Harris the safe hands in which they want to entrust the nation?
In this heated campaign season, sexist, racist and nativist caricatures will be whipped up on Harris’s presence as Vice-President to instill fear in the minds of independent voters about what might happen if Biden is unable to complete his four-year term.
While Trump is behind in the ratings, polls are really only a snapshot in time. This will be a brutal, ugly and drawn-out campaign; 2016 was a warning shot against those that counted their chickens before they hatched and gave Trump no chance of winning. Will Kamala Harris become the first woman of colour to be the American VP?
Biden’s risk might not get rewarded.
By David Monda