Kamala Harris accepts VP nomination. Trump is officially back in the race
Harris’ record does not help Biden his base and this could hurt the ticket as their lead on President Trump narrows.
Former vice president Joe Biden has not had to do much campaigning, at least in the traditional sense, with ongoing pandemic terrorizing the lives of millions of Americans.
He has given interviews to mainstream media outlets, held large fundraisers, and accepted the Democratic nomination for president all from his hometown of Willmington, Del.
Biden has been enjoying high polling and favorability numbers in recent months not because of the public’s enthusiasm for his campaign, but because they see this election as a referendum on President Donald Trump for his handling of COVID-19, the recent protests for criminal justice reform and the country’s standing as a world leader.
A Monmouth University poll that was conducted between Aug. 6 and 10 had the former vice president leading Trump by 10 points nationwide.
After Biden announced Senator Kamala Harris of California as his running mate, his campaign expected an even larger boost, but in fact, their road to the White House turned into a treacherous mountain to climb.
A CNN poll released a week after the country knew Harris would be joining the Democratic ticket shows that Biden and Trump are practically tied in 15 battleground states and that his nationwide lead has narrowed significantly.
But why is Senator Harris damning to Democrats winning the White House in 2020?
Progressives are an ever-growing part of the Democratic party and Biden’s main rival during the primary cycle was Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a self-identified Democratic Socialist.
The same script played out in 2016 as Sanders battled with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton all the way until the convention when she expected a smooth coronation.
When Senator Sanders dropped out of the race in 2020, voters expected Biden to pick a running mate that had different regional and ideological appeal.
Harris offers neither as California was going to vote blue no matter who he picked, and she ran a centrist presidential campaign.
Former Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis paid the price in 1988 for not picking his main rival Rev. Jesse Jackson as his running mate.
Dukakis was prone to coming across as too robotic as well as delivering several gaffes, like when he staged a photo-op of him in a tank wearing military gear to prove to George H. W. Bush that he knew about military matters.
Rev. Jackson was a passionate speaker who knew how to captivate the youth vote with his progressive appeal. His platform consisted of single-payer universal health care and reparations for the desecdents of slavery.
John F. Kennedy’s selection of Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas helped him capture the support of Southern Democrats in 1960, an election decided by less than 125,000 votes.
Harris started her campaign attempting to have the media portray her as the progressive candidate along with Sanders.
She cosponsored Sanders’ Medicare-for-All bill in 2018 and at the first debate she was the only candidate aside from the Senator from Vermont to raise her hand when asked if she supported abolishing private insurance in favor of a single-payer system.
Within months she favored a more moderate approach to health care, an issue that is consistently regarded as one of the most important to voters.
Harris’ support in the primaries was not notable or unique enough for Biden to choose her as his vice president.
She was only ever a leading candidate after she attacked the former vice president for associating with segregationist politicians and his record on busing.
That ended up being one of the most memorable moments of the primary debates.
Her attack on Biden was even harsher than her comments about President Trump. The worst thing she said about the incumbent on a debate stage was that his Twitter account should be suspended.
The moderators were asking her about the possibility of worsening disinformation by breaking up large tech companies.
“Senator Warren I just wanna say that I was surprised to hear that you did not agree with me that on this subject on what should be the rules on corporate responsibility for these big tech companies, when I called on Twitter to suspend Donald Trump’s account that you did not agree and I would urge you to join me,” she answered.
Senator Harris dropped out two months before the Iowa caucuses because of winnowing support and funds.
Harris represents the most populous state in the nation and she was outlasted by the Mayor of South Bend, IN, a college town with a population under 105,000, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, whose only claim to running for president was being a moderate from the battleground region of the Midwest.
Mainstream media pundits will have people believe that because Senator Harris could potentially be the first Black female vice president in American history and that she will drive up enthusiasm in Black communities to vote in November.
This is simply not how identity politics works and Harris’ presidential campaign is proof of that.
Black voters continuously preferred two old white male candidates, Biden and Sanders, ahead of the only Black woman in the primary field.
A Morning Consult poll from July 2019 showed that the Senator had 16% support with Black Democrats. She was 22 points behind Biden and five behind Sanders.
Policies as well as background is what sways voters, political analysts forget that Black Lives Matter formed under a Black president and attorney general.
Biden committing to pick a female running mate did not at all mean he lacked options that bolster his chances with different voting groups and parts of the country.
Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would have made the Sanders wing of the party feel more comfortable turning out for Biden as they would be guaranteed a progressive in the White House.
Warren topped most polls that asked Democratic voters who they would prefer to have as Biden’s running mate, even Black voters.
A CBS News poll from May showed that 72% of Black voters had a favorable view of the Massachusetts Senator compared to 60% for Harris.
Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin is also to the left of the former vice president and would help Democrats win back a state that Trump carried in 2016.
She would also break another barrier by being the country’s first openly LGBTQ vice president.
Many pundits were quick to tell Biden that he should pick a Black woman of color because of the outcry for criminal justice reform following the murder of George Floyd.
But picking Harris, a former prosecutor who enacted right-wing criminal justice policies, was a tone deaf choice.
Her being Black does not alone give her the authority to claim she is fully aware of all of the issues affecting the community, they are not a monolith.
“I am not the Black candidate of America, although I am Black and proud. I am not the candidate of the women’s movement of this country although I am a woman and I’m equally proud of that,” said Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York, the first Black woman to run for president.
Voters should not much as the top of the ticket said that the Black community lacks diversity.
“What you all know but most people don’t know, unlike the African-American community with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community,” said Biden in an interview.
Trump paints her out to be part “the radical left” when her record on criminal justice would easily make her a favorite during fellow Californian Ronald Reagan’s tough-on-crime era.
The U.S. is the world’s largest penal colony and was when Harris served as San Francisco’s District Attorney and California’s Attorney General.
As district attorney, she arrested the parents of truant children and laughed about it.
She said her staff was worried about the policy not because it's horrid and inhumane, but because they did not know if she was going to have an opponent in her reelection campaign.
Kamala Harris at an event hosted by the Commonwealth Club in 2010, explaining her decision as San Francisco DA to get tough on truancy.
Critics of truancy crackdowns say such efforts unfairly target poor parents and children without actually helping students. pic.twitter.com/GKkDpayxuv
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) January 28, 2019
“I believe that a child going without an education is tantamount to a crime… This is a serious issue and I’ve got a little political capital and I’m gonna spend some of it,” Harris said.
Truancy disproportionately happens with children that come from poorer households. This means Harris used her political capital to come after the people who were finding it the hardest to get by.
She did not know if the children that skipped school did so to work and help support their family, because they felt unsafe in their classroom, or because their school was poorly-funded and the student was not receiving the attention they deserved.
She blamed the most vulnerable members of her community for the system failing them.
As attorney general she failed to prosecute Steve Mnuchin, current Secretary of the Treasury, when he was the CEO of OneWest Bank and illegally foreclosed on thousands of households in California.
He violated notice and waiting period statutes and illegally backdated key documents to rush thousands of homeowners out of their residence.
Her staff urged her to go forward with the case, but she declined. In 2016 Mnuchin donated to her Senate campaign. She was the only Democratic senator he donated to in 2016.
After The Supreme Court found that there was overcrowding in California prisons, she also refused to release many inmates because she argued it would deplete the pool for prison labor.
Many of those prisoners were used in fighting California wildfires and paid $1 an hour for saving a state that did not want them to restart their lives.
A large reason why Harris had so many people arrested was because she placed over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations even though she admitted to smoking the drug on an episode of The Breakfast Club.
Harris’ centrist rhetoric will alienate supporters of Sanders, the candidate who placed second in the delegate count, and her prosecutorial record will lead to Black voters not turning out as highly as the Biden campaign expected.