Kamala Harris, or Not?

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden must, above all, perform a balancing act, he must walk a fine line between the Democratic Party’s fiery left wing and its entrenched centrist establishment. With fewer than 100 days left until the Nov. 3 presidential election, Biden is certainly favored to win, considering the general collapse of Donald Trump’s popularity and an extraordinary convergence of events, including in the battleground states that voted for Trump in 2016. However, even if the Democrats close ranks around their candidate, the party will remain agitated by diverging interests and convictions, as evidenced by the efforts Wall Street made last June to unseat representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – AOC as she’s popularly known, the muse of the American radical left – in the primary for New York’s 14th District. Happily, they did not succeed.

Stuck in this context, the news these days has focused on the identity of the person Biden will choose as his vice presidential running mate. On Tuesday, Biden said he would announce his running mate next week before the “virtual” Democratic Convention in mid-August. Many are now expecting that, barring a surprise, his choice will be Kamala Harris, the 55-year-old California senator with a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, who is known for having pursued the Democratic Party presidential nomination most recently herself.

In a televised debate with Sen. Bernie Sanders in March, Biden made news by bluntly stating that he would choose a woman for his running mate. It goes without saying that this was calculated audacity: when running against such a misogynistic president, deciding that your running mate would be a woman amounts to a “social distancing” gesture. However, the buzz around this initiative, which demonstrates how progressive Biden is, also shows that women’s access to power remains controlled. This is clearly also not an unprecedented gesture either: Geraldine Ferraro ran with Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984, and the inexorable and reactionary Sarah Palin was Republican John McCain’s pick in 2008.

There was already pressure for this running mate to be Black, given the importance of the African American vote to the Democratic Party in general and to Biden in particular. That pressure became immense after George Floyd’s murder after being suffocated by a Minneapolis police officer in May, and the huge wave of anti-racism protests that followed.*

The United States has not finished confronting its racial demons. If, at 77, Biden is truly the “transitional” candidate that he claims to be, events have undoubtedly forced him in a direction that he never could have envisioned six months ago.

Speculation has placed Harris near the top of the list. But there is also Stacy Abrams, who was nearly elected governor of Georgia in 2018, and Val Demings, the Florida congresswoman and former Orlando police chief. There is Susan Rice, former national security advisor in the Obama administration, and Karen Bass, the California congresswoman who is very involved in police reform efforts. In making his choice, Biden must account for age, ideology and geography. But these are all high quality progressive candidates who would bring depth to his presidency — if he is willing to put them to good use.

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