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By choosing as running mate a black woman who excels in verbal jousting, Joe Biden, Democratic pretender in the White House, tries to make up for his own weaknesses. He also bets on the moderate profile of a woman who could herself become a presidential candidate in 2024.
Joe Biden kept the suspense going before announcing on Tuesday August 11 that Kamala Harris would be his running mate in the race for the White House. Perhaps not because he was hesitant – the California senator had been given a favorite for months despite half a dozen potential contestants – but to pique voter interest until the last minute.
If elected alongside Joe Biden in November, Kamala Harris would be the first woman, but also the first black and the first Asian American to become vice president. His father was indeed born in Jamaica and his mother in India.
Her skin color and rapid rise in the Democratic Party – she ran in the recent primaries after only one term as a senator – have earned her many comparisons with Barack Obama. “I have known Senator Harris for a long time,” the former US president said on Tuesday. “She is more than ready for the job.”
I’ve known Senator @KamalaHarris for a long time. She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing. pic.twitter.com/duJhFhWp6g
– Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 11, 2020
His appointment alongside Joe Biden is also a stepping stone to the Oval Office: the 77-year-old candidate has already hinted that if elected he would not stand for a second term. His 55-year-old runner-up could therefore embark on the campaign for 2024, or even accede to the White House even sooner if bad luck happened to the president.
Hence the importance of choosing Joe Biden. Kamala Harris doesn’t really give him a geographic electoral advantage. In fact, since 2017, she has been a senator from California, a land erected as a stronghold of the resistance to Donald Trump. This state should therefore vote for Joe Biden in November no matter what, and the senator’s seat should logically go to one or another Democrat. Still, its proximity to Silicon Valley could allow the Biden-Harris duo to secure the support of generous donors.
But if Kamala Harris was chosen, it is above all because she brings a certain complementarity to this democratic ticket. Joe Biden, a white man from the seraglio, was under pressure to choose a woman of color: he responded to this request in order to motivate progressive troops and encourage the black community to go to the polls.
But Kamala Harris was not the first choice of the Democratic Party left, which blames him for his past severe prosecutor and unwilling to prosecute police officers who have killed civilians. A theme that should return to the campaign, especially in light of the anti-racist demonstrations following the death of the African-American George Floyd at the hands of the police.
Rather centrist at the start, Kamala Harris was also criticized for her rallying considered too late to certain themes dear to the socialist Bernie Sanders and to the young guard led by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, such as universal health insurance (she has since backpedaled) or the minimum wage at $ 15 an hour. Some saw him as opportunism for his run for the White House.
Still, the moderate left adulates it and is appreciated by some anti-Trump Republicans, reassured by the choice of Joe Biden who wants to bring together the largest possible coalition. Donald Trump has already found his nickname: “phony” Kamala, which could be translated as “false” or “hypocrite”. The attacks have already started to rain on the Republican side against this new opponent who does not allow himself to be intimidated.
Kamala Harris is indeed also complementary to Joe Biden by his character: while the ex-vice president sometimes stutters and multiplies the blunders, the charisma, the stubbornness and the oratory talent of his new partner hit the mark. For example, the former prosecutor shone in 2018 on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where she asked tough and insistent questions, especially during the hearing of Brett Kavanaugh. His muscular exchange with this judge accused of sexual assault, which will still be confirmed at the Supreme Court, has gone down in history.
More recently, it was during Democratic debates that his sense of verbal jousting was noticed. Joe Biden himself paid the price, when she accused him of opposing the practice of “busing” in the 1970s, an anti-school segregation measure aimed at transporting black children by bus to public schools in white neighborhoods. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to be integrated into a public school [hors secteur, NDLR], and she took the bus every day. That little girl was me, “she said.
Born in Oakland, Calif., Kamala – her first name means “lotus flower” – Harris is a child of well-to-do immigrants. Her father came to the United States to study economics and ended up teaching it at Stanford University, while her mother worked in breast cancer research. Her parents separated when she was five years old.
With her mother and sister Maya, she grew up in Berkeley, California, and Montreal, Quebec, before studying at Howard University – the college of black American elites – in Washington. She then returned to California to pass the bar. A career attorney, she rose through the ranks to being elected Attorney General of San Francisco then Attorney General of California and finally Senator of the same state, a post she still holds today.
Kamala Harris, who enjoys cooking for loved ones in her spare time, in 2014 married Douglas Emhoff, a Los Angeles lawyer who already had two children from a first marriage. The latter, potential first “vice-gentleman” of the United States, gave him unwavering support on the country roads during the primaries. “Ready to get to work! Let’s go Dr Biden!” he tweeted on Tuesday, with a nod to Jill Biden, possible future first lady.