Biden reveals nominee for vice president

 

 

Donald Trump's opponent in the upcoming US election, Joe Biden, has chosen Senator Kamala Harris to be his vice presidential nominee.

Mr Biden announced the "big news" in a text message and email to supporters.

"Joe Biden here. Big news: I've chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate. Together, with you, we're going to beat Trump," the message read.

Ms Harris, 55, is a career prosecutor who previously served as the attorney-general of California and the district attorney for San Francisco. She is a first-term senator, having been elected in 2016.

She was one of Mr Biden's most formidable rivals for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination late last year, and famously went on the attack against him at one of the debates, but dropped out before the first votes were cast, citing a lack of funds.

As Mr Biden's running mate, Ms Harris will appear alongside him on the ballot this November and act as his highest profile campaign surrogate.

She will also confront the incumbent Vice President, Mike Pence, at a debate on October 7.

Should Mr Biden win the election and, at the age of 78, become the oldest president ever inaugurated, Ms Harris will be first in the line of succession.

 

The vice presidency is often the butt of jokes in the United States, because the job holds little real power, beyond the ability to break tied votes in the Senate. Look no further than Veep.

But the office is still highly coveted, due to its value as a political stepping stone. Mr Biden's own career is evidence enough.

Before Barack Obama chose him to be vice president in 2008, he was a long-serving senator who had run for president multiple times without any success.

Heading into the 2020 election, however, Mr Biden's record as Mr Obama's right-hand man made him the immediate frontrunner for his party's nomination.

American history is littered with examples of vice presidents going on to claim the top job, though surprisingly, it actually hasn't happened since George H.W. Bush in 1988.

Bill Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, won the Democratic nomination in 2000, but proceeded to controversially lose the general election by the thinnest of margins.

In any case, Ms Harris's status as Mr Biden's running mate will almost certainly make her an immediate contender the next time her party picks a presidential nominee.

 

The California Senator has long been seen as Mr Biden's most likely choice.

Mr Biden explicitly promised to choose a female vice president, and strongly indicated he would prefer someone who could bring racial diversity to the ticket.

Other names on the rumoured shortlist were Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Representative Val Demings and former White House national security adviser Susan Rice.

Ms Harris worked alongside Mr Biden's late son, Beau, when each was attorney-general of their respective state. But her otherwise warm relationship with the former vice president was tested during the Democratic primaries, when they faced off as opponents.

In May of 2019, Ms Harris was asked whether she would consider an offer to be Mr Biden's vice president.

"If people want to speculate about running mates, I encourage that," she said, before cheekily turning the question on its head.

"Because I think that Joe Biden would be a great running mate. As vice president, he's proven that he knows how to do the job. And there are certainly a lot of other candidates that would make, for me, a very viable and interesting vice president."

Then, in one of the campaign's more dramatic confrontations, she went after Mr Biden on stage during a presidential debate, attacking his credentials on racial issues.

"As the only black person on stage, I would like to speak on the issue of race," Ms Harris said.

"There is not a black man I know, be he a relative, a friend or a co-worker, who has not been the subject of profiling or discrimination. My sister and I had to deal with the neighbour who told us her parents couldn't play with us because we were black.

"And I'm going to say that in this campaign, we've also heard - and I'm going to direct this at Vice President Biden.

"I do not believe you are a racist. And I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground.

"But I also believe - and it's personal, and it was hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country."

That was a reference to a controversial comment Mr Biden made earlier the same month, touting his working relationship with two pro-segregation senators decades ago as proof of his ability to work constructively with the other side of politics.

"At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn't agree on much of anything. We got things done," Mr Biden had told the crowd at a fundraiser.

 

In the 1970s and 1980s, a number of American school districts implemented mandatory bussing policies, which saw students assigned and transported to particular schools in an effort to achieve a level of racial balance.

The schools themselves had previously been segregated, and had struggled to achieve any sort of balance due to the continuing racial inequality between residential areas.

There was fierce opposition to the bussing policy from some quarters, and Mr Biden opposed the idea of a federal law mandating its implementation nationwide, arguing it was a matter for state and local governments.

"There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public school, and she was bussed to school every day. And that little girl was me," Ms Harris said.

"So I will tell you that on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly."

Mr Biden dismissed the attack as "a mischaracterisation of my position across the board".

"If we want to have this campaign litigated on who supports civil rights, and whether I did or not, I'm happy to do that. I was a public defender. I didn't become a prosecutor, I left a good law firm to become a public defender," he said.

That last jab at Ms Harris's former career as a prosecutor goes to the heart of why some people were doubtful of her credentials as a running mate.

When she was attorney-general of California, Ms Harris took stances on some issues that no longer conform to the prevailing views of her party. For example, she did not join attempts to abolish the death penalty.

More significantly, Ms Harris did not back legislation that would have mandated independent investigations in cases where police officers killed people.

That might have been a small political problem before the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. Amid the current mass protest movement against police brutality and racial discrimination in the justice system, it's a bigger one.

 

When Ms Harris announced she was running for president last year, there was a backlash among Democrats who felt she was too reluctant to pursue progressive causes such as policing reforms.

"At almost every inflection point when there was a progressive alternative or a centrist alternative, she chose the safe and centrist alternative," law professor Lara Bazelon wrote in a scathing New York Times piece.

The candidate reacted by de-emphasising her prosecutorial record.

But that record might help Mr Biden appeal to a broader audience of voters outside the Democratic base, particularly as President Donald Trump seeks to paint the Democratic Party as soft on "law and order".

Since dropping out of the race, Ms Harris has taken a leading role in the Senate in response to both the coronavirus crisis and the protests that erupted after Mr Floyd's death.

She was among the first American politicians to join a Black Lives Matter march, and helped draft a bill imposing limited reforms on police, including an end to "qualified immunity" for officers.

We got an early clue that Mr Biden planned to announce Ms Harris as his choice on July 28, when the political news site Politico published a rather eye-catching update to its article tracking the various candidates.

"Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris to become his running mate for the 2020 election on August 1, two weeks before the Democratic National Convention, after keeping his choice close to his chest for months," Politico said.

"In his announcement, Biden called Harris 'a worthy opponent and a worthy running mate,' alluding to the pair's rivalry during the earlier stages of the Democratic primary.

"She will bring her experience as a prosecutor, household name recognition, and skill as a debater to the ticket."

The update was quickly removed, but not before plenty of people had seen it.

The same day, a photographer following Mr Biden's campaign took a photo of his notes, which included a section on Ms Harris.

RELATED: Photographer captures crucial clue in Joe Biden's notes

"Do not hold grudges," one of the points under her name said, presumably referring to that confrontation during the debate.

The notes also described Ms Harris as "talented", said she had been a "great help to the campaign", and stressed that Mr Biden had "great respect for her".

So, Mr Biden's decision is hardly a surprise. We'll have to wait and see whether it pays off.

 

 

Originally published as Biden reveals nominee for vice president


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