Global Advocacy for African Affairs
Leadership/Governance

Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate

Joe Biden has named Kamala Harris as his running mate, making the
California senator the first Black and South Asian American woman to run on a
major political party’s presidential ticket.

“I’ve decided that Kamala Harris is the best person to help me take
this fight to Trump and Mike Pence and then to lead this nation starting in
January 2021,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee wrote in an
email recently.

The two are set to appear together for the first time for a speech in
Wilmington, Delaware. Biden’s campaign has not yet said what time that speech
will take place.

In selecting Harris,
Biden adds to the Democratic ticket a former primary rival who centred her own
presidential bid on her readiness to take on Donald Trump and show Americans
she would fight for them. She rose to national prominence within the Democratic
Party by interrogating Trump nominees during Senate hearings, from former
Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Harris’ selection comes months after Biden committed to picking a woman
to join him on the Democratic ticket. Harris, 55, is now the third woman to
serve as a vice presidential candidate for a major political party, following
Geraldine Ferraro as the Democratic vice presidential pick in 1984 and Sarah
Palin as the Republican vice presidential pick in 2008.

Aware that his age could be a concern to some voters, Biden, 77, has
said that he is “a bridge” to a new slate of Democratic leaders, and
by selecting Harris, more than 20 years his junior, he has elevated a leading
figure from a younger generation within the party.

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Trump told reporters after news of Harris’ selection broke that she was
“my number one draft pick” as a potential Biden running mate. Trump
pointed to her criticism of Biden’s past positions on busing to desegregate
schools in a June 2019 Democratic debate.

“She was very disrespectful to Joe Biden and it’s hard to pick
somebody that’s that disrespectful,” Trump said.

Biden’s selection unfolded with the utmost secrecy after a period in
which he spoke with the contenders either in person or in face-to-face meetings.
He notified several close advisers on Tuesday, two people familiar with the
matter told CNN. After considering some 11 women for the post, he and his aides
spent time on Tuesday afternoon notifying the vice presidential prospects who
he did not choose.

His calls included California Rep. Karen Bass, the chairwoman of the
Congressional Black Caucus, as well as Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, Illinois
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Mexico Gov.
Michelle Lujan Grisham and Florida Rep. Val Demings, sources familiar with the
matter told CNN.

As part of the selection process, the former vice president spoke
directly to the final contenders, according to people familiar with the
process, through either face-to-face meetings or remote conversations.
Officials would not say which of the candidates visited Biden in person, but
CNN confirmed last week that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had flown to
Delaware for a meeting. Harris and former Obama national security adviser Susan
Rice were among the others seen as the most serious contenders.

CNN had previously reported that Biden was also believed to be
considering Bass, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sen. Tammy
Duckworth of Illinois, people familiar with the search say.

In another sign that the pick was imminent, a Biden campaign official
told CNN on Tuesday that they have assembled the staff for Biden’s future
running mate.

Karine Jean-Pierre, who joined the Biden campaign as a senior adviser in
May, will lead the Harris’ team as chief of staff. Jean-Pierre had previously
worked for Barack Obama and Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaigns.

Two veterans of the Obama-Biden administration are also joining the
team. Liz Allen, who served as deputy communications director for Biden as vice
president as well as deputy communications director in the White House, is
joining as communications director to Harris. And Sheila Nix, who was chief of
staff to Biden’s reelection campaign in 2012 and served as Jill Biden’s chief
of staff in the White House, will be a senior adviser to Harris and her
husband, Douglas Emhoff. The vice presidential pick is expected to also add a
few of her own advisers to the team.

The last time Biden and Harris shared the stage was March 9 in Michigan,
the eve of a primary that would prove decisive in Biden’s primary battle. On a
stage in a Detroit high school gymnasium, Biden gestured to Harris, Whitmer and
New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and called himself a “bridge” to “an
entire generation of leaders” within the Democratic Party.

The spouses of Biden and Harris, Jill Biden and Emhoff, had an exchange
over Twitter as Biden welcomed Harris to the ticket.

“Hey @DouglasEmhoff Are you ready?” Jill Biden tweeted.

“America, let’s do this!” Emhoff said.

Progressives also quickly welcomed Harris to the Democratic ticket.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted that Harris “will make history as our
next Vice President.”

“She understands what it takes to stand up for working people,
fight for health care for all and take down the most corrupt administration in
history. Let’s get to work and win,” he said.

Why Harris was chosen

Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks
at the National Forum on Wages and Working People: Creating an Economy That
Works for All at Enclave on April 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Harris started out in the vice presidential search process as a favorite
because of her experience as a senator, California attorney general and
district attorney in San Francisco and her extensive vetting as a presidential
candidate. Ultimately, she was chosen by Joe Biden the “common sense
pick” who everybody could agree would “do no harm,” a source
familiar with the vetting process told CNN.

With her multi-racial background as the child of two immigrants to the
United States, her allies believed she could complement Biden as a symbol of a
changing America.

She also proved to be a hardworking surrogate for Biden in recent
months, taking part in everything from virtual policy events with voters in
swing districts to a live DJ dance party fundraiser with Diplo and D-Nice
online.

When Trump tweeted about delaying the election in late July, she
responded on Twitter by saying he is “terrified” because “he
knows he’s going to lose to @JoeBiden. It will require every single one of us
to make that happen.”

Still, some members of Biden’s team resisted choosing Harris. A
recent Politico story noted
that former Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who was helping vet candidates, was
still galled by her attack on Biden during a June 2019 debate in Miami, when
she criticized his work with segregationist senators and highlighted his fight
against busing to desegregate schools decades ago.

The pushback against Harris apparently became so strong that Biden felt
the need to defend her during his July 28 press conference, where an Associated Press photo
captured the talking points about her on his notecard that included “do
not hold grudges” and “great help to campaign.”

Harris also
benefited from being a running mate who could match this turbulent moment in
American history.

Many of the issues at the center of her life’s work — including
criminal justice reform, improving health care for Black Americans and tackling
income inequality — have come to the forefront in the three-pronged crisis
America is now facing: the coronavirus pandemic (which has disproportionately
affected communities of color), the fight against systemic racism and an
economic recession.

The protests against police brutality of Black people in the wake of
George Floyd’s death also gave Harris an opening to more succinctly explain her
decision to become a prosecutor as a young lawyer, despite the deep mistrust of
that profession among Black Americans who have been wronged by the criminal
justice system.

During the recent “Live
Free”
 forum, the California senator was asked what she
says to activists and voters who contend that as attorney general, she was part
of the system and don’t trust her to be part of the change within it.

Harris said she grew up experiencing some of the abuses of the system,
noting that every Black man she knows has experienced “some form of
profiling, of excessive force, of unreasonable stop or seizure.”

She noted that she made a very conscious decision to become a
prosecutor: “I said why do we only have to be on the outside, trying to
knock down doors to change the system? … Isn’t there a role for us to go
inside the system and try to change it?”

She pointed to aspects of her record as California’s attorney general
that she said were incremental steps toward police reform: arguing that she
“opened up California’s data system” to assist activists who were
trying to “claw that information out” through public records requests
— making data around deaths, custody and arrest rates by race more accessible.

Harris also highlighted her work improving re-entry initiatives for the
formerly incarcerated, and a program that required implicit racial bias and
procedural justice training for law enforcement officers under her command when
she was California’s attorney general.

“These are just a few of the things that we were able to accomplish,
certainly not enough, which is why I keep working on it. It has been my life’s
work to keep working on this and I’m not going to stop,” she said.

Rise to becoming a prosecutor

Harris graduates from law school in 1989. “My first grade teacher,
Mrs. Wilson (left), came to cheer me on,” Harris said. “My mom was
pretty proud, too.”

As the half-Jamaican, half-Indian-American daughter of immigrants who
sought higher education in the United States, Harris and her sister Maya Harris
grew up steeped in the world of academia and the Black intellectual circles of
Oakland and Berkeley, California.

Harris’ mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a breast cancer specialist who
pursued her graduate studies at UC-Berkeley, and her father, Donald Harris, who
became an economics professor at Stanford, both protested during the Civil
Rights Movement, giving Harris what she has called “a stroller-eye
view” of activism from a very young age.

She attended Howard
University
 in Washington, DC, a place that taught students, she
has said, “that we could be anything — that we were young, gifted, and
Black, and we shouldn’t let anything get in the way of our success.”

After graduating from UC-Hastings College of the Law, she prosecuted
child sexual assault, robbery, homicide and three strikes cases in the courtrooms
of Alameda County and San Francisco.

One of her proudest achievements was her work as California attorney
general pursuing predatory lenders after the financial crash of 2008 and her
decision to hold out for a larger settlement from the big banks for
Californians after the foreclosure crisis.

The banks initially offered what she has referred to as crumbs on the
table, she held out for what become a $20 billion settlement, relishing the
chance to take on the top officials at the big banks who “seemed to be
under the misimpression that I could be bullied into submission.”

She has often described the shouting match that ensued when she decided
to directly dial Jamie Dimon, the then-chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase —
how she took off her earrings because of “the Oakland in me” and
yelled at one another “like dogs in a fight,” she wrote in her memoir
“The Truths We Hold.”

Harris has also written at length about being repeatedly underestimated
as a political candidate. One political strategist told her there was no way
she could win, according to her memoir, “because I was ‘a woman running
for attorney general, a woman who is a minority, a woman who is a minority who
is anti-death penalty who is DA of wacky San Francisco.’ Old stereotypes die
hard.” (Ultimately, she edged out her Republican opponent in a race so
close it took weeks to tally the ballots.)

As California’s junior senator, she has championed immigration issues,
including the cause of the so-called “Dreamers” who were brought to
America as young children.

She created viral moments as a senator by demonstrating her prosecutorial
demeanor when Trump nominees came before the Senate Judiciary Committee that
elevated her profile within the Democratic Party.

A rocky presidential bid

Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris participate in the
CNN Democratic debate in Detroit on Wednesday, July 31.

When she entered the 2020 presidential race in January 2019, Harris
appeared to be a formidable contender, but like many others, she struggled to
maintain a position at the top of the polls within a crowded field of
candidates.

Fundraising, as well as power struggles within her campaign — which was
directed in part by her sister Maya, the campaign chairwoman — proved to be
difficult hurdles to overcome. In a last-ditch effort to revive her bid, the
campaign decided to go “all in” on Iowa in September, then slashed
staff and redeployed aides in October from New Hampshire, California and Nevada
to the Hawkeye State.

Aides had privately questioned the campaign’s abrupt shifts in strategy, Harris’
swerving message
 and a lack of clear leadership at the top.

The moment that captured the most attention during her presidential bid
was also the one that injected the most uncertainty into her ability to rebuild
a strong working relationship with Biden.

As rivals, Biden and Harris had been on friendly terms in part because
of her friendship with Biden’s late son, Beau; the two met when they served as
attorneys general together, she from California and he from Delaware.

But during that Miami debate, Biden looked
stunned when Harris
 delivered her unexpectedly harsh blow by
noting that she had been one of the children who benefited from busing. The
moment went viral and she shot up in the polls. But her strong standing did not
last — and Biden and his wife Jill were both clearly blind-sighted by what
Biden allies perceived as a vicious and opportunistic attack.

Harris has tried to mend those relationships in the months since her
departure from the presidential race as she has campaigned with Biden and
joined forces with Jill Biden to highlight issues like Black maternal
mortality.

“You’re a role model to women and girls across this country,
including my granddaughters, and it’s no secret that you and our son Beau
worked closely together and shared a special connection,” Jill Biden said
to Harris during a recent virtual event with Milwaukee voters that focused on
the threats to the Affordable Care Act.

In that same event, Harris demonstrated the fierceness she has often
shown when taking on Trump. She called out the President’s decision to once
again ask the Supreme Court to strike down the ACA at a time when so many
Americans face have lost their insurance due to layoffs and tens of thousands
are dealing with new pre-existing conditions after contracting the coronavirus

“People are dying,” Harris said. “But Donald Trump is
prioritizing his political prospects and playing games.”

During a recent appearance on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth
Meyers,” Harris said she would do anything to get Biden elected.

“We need to save the soul of our country, we really do,” she
said. “We need a president who cares about the people and loves the
people.”

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