So, now what?
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced his running mate today after what some were anxiously describing as a much-too-long, exhaustive process. It is Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA).
Previous game theory on this selection is now obsolete, which was expected. Biden, however, has a nice dream team of preliminarily vetted Black women to put in key positions if he’s elected. He has put himself in a position to let Black women run things.
First: Biden was in a corner. He had no choice but to pick a Black woman running mate. All signs pointed to a self-depressed Black voting electorate in which a large chunk was on the cusp of just giving up and not voting altogether. This pick should help with resuscitation.
Initial thoughts on politics: reportedly Trump is nervous about Harris, her selection makes him uncomfortable. So, any decision-making Trump politically uncomfortable is a sound decision. Anything to get under his skin. Indeed, there is a thought out there that he could go wild cat (which is his style) and boot VP Mike Pence from the ticket in favor of another woman of color such as former South Carolina Gov. and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. But, back to Harris, the Senator from California did do well in hypothetical polling matchups against Trump when she was in the Democratic primary. See Real Clear Politics from back in November 2019.
Aside from the fact that she is a Black woman, this helped make that decision easier: two names on the top Democratic ticket who both ably defeat Trump by a combined average of more than 13 polling points, see Biden.
In addition, Harris has celebrity that Biden does not have. He needs that. She also has natural fundraising skill and campaign trail stamina that can easily surpass and outmatch Biden – which is what Biden wants.
He’s only doing one term, as he’s said. There is always the possibility that he may feel comfortable enough stepping down midway through his first term and then pass the reigns over to her. So, he’ll need relatively youthful energy and star power – which she has much of – to hit the ground running and to keep the trains moving into 2024. Someone who will know how to also campaign against predictable Republican electoral vengeance in 2024 if Biden is elected. And in terms of policy: Harris seems mostly aligned with Biden on all his fundamentals and is already a familiar face in Washington. She is decently progressive enough and capable on key domestic issues – from racial justice to childcare to, yes, criminal legal/policing reform, shaping/crafting legislation & producing in Senate. Progressive enough, but not too far to the left so as not to turn off moderate White voters. She has also been known to grill the Trump administration relentlessly on oversight and she can rally rank-&-file Democrats. She has the ability to go instantly viral on social media in a way that Biden does not. He needs that.
Culturally: yes, she’s a Black woman. But, Biden gets the best of multiple cultural worlds with a true “woman of color” story that can excite those in not only the Black community, but the Black Caribbean community (since she’s of Jamaican descent) and the Indian community as well as other South Asian communities in the U.S. who might view her as a friendly extension of their diasporas. Those communities also know how to unify, pull resources together and fund raise (even during times of financial crisis).
Still, Harris has some negatives she’ll need to be wary of and prepared for. Despite her large public profile (including 1.4 million followers on Twitter, for example), not all Black voters were in to her when she was running for president. She has to, if she hasn’t already, find a better way to explain and ably summarize her record as a local & state prosecutor. She was way too wobbly during the primary over that record to the point where few could understand what it really was about. She also needs to show counterpunches that are better and more swiftly and mercilessly on the VP debate stage & campaign trail. Harris has always been known to throw big punches, but she always seemed to shake a bit when challenged.
Now for the silliness: detractors will resurrect her as “Kop.” And some in the #ADOS hardline “Black American” community will stupidly say “she’s not Black enough” … which is straight up silly, but it will be there. Some Black men will point to “her White husband” … again, all insanely silly, nasty and self-defeating, but it’s coming. That recent 100 Black men letter in support of a Black woman pick may help, though, even though Harris wasn’t specifically named. But, the brothers who signed on to it can’t back out now.
In the end: it’s a solid pick. This is what Black voters asked for, this is what the Black commentator class constantly bugged the Biden campaign about. This is Biden reading the room in the Black Lives Matter moment. The Black woman running mate is finally here. Black voters can’t, after all that, get picky now. No getting in your feelings and relitigating an antique crime bill you never read, no talking about “no vote.” This is it. Time to mobilize. Black voters, for the most part, better have minds made up and be ride-or-die electorally with Biden. It can’t be any widespread grumbling, doubting and equivocation. It’s either all in for Biden-Harris or it’s a descent into complete and utter dystopic chaos if Trump is re-elected.