The 2020 presidential election cycle has been full of missteps and face-palm moments, but Joe Biden’s campaign selecting Kamala Harris as his vice president might just top them all. Biden’s decision to revive Harris’ political career as his vice presidential pick is tone-deaf and strategically moronic. She contributes little to the campaign in the way of attracting new voters, her public criticisms of Joe Biden offer slews of advertising fodder and, in a post-George Floyd world, she represents the worst abuses of the criminal justice system.
When Kamala Harris ended her presidential campaign in December, many breathed a sigh of relief. Kamala is a cop and her strong debate performances could only do so much to mask her authoritarian background. As attorney general in California, Harris is famous for locking up the parents of students who failed to attend school, putting transgender inmates in prisons based on biological sex, pursuing harsh sentences for nonviolent offenders in order to procure slave labour for the state of California and intentionally withholding evidence that would have exonerated a man on death row until she was forced to submit it.
These policies disproportionately impacted black and brown people, groups whose support the Harris selection is meant to solidify. In light of recent conversations about police brutality, qualified immunity and criminal justice reform, one might have expected Biden’s campaign to pick a running mate who isn’t seen as having actively over-policed those communities. Instead, Biden has selected the failed-presidential candidate with the single worst record on policing and the least convincing defence of that record.
Next, Harris’ selection contributes nothing in terms of party unity, voter bases or even donors. Joe Biden’s popularity with the black community is already unmatched — without it, he would not have earned representative Joe Clyburn’s endorsement and won every county in South Carolina during the primary.
Harris is also from California, a deep blue safe state. Even if Biden’s nomination were to depress turnout in the state, it is unquestionable that he would have carried it. Choosing Harris means giving up the opportunity to choose a running mate from the midwest or the deep south or a swing state, options that could have helped Biden appeal to blue-collar workers who voted Trump in 2016.
Harris famously bodied Joe Biden with her “that girl” speech, criticising Biden’s senate record on bussing and working with segregationists. That clip is ripe for use in opposition advertisements, laying to voters Harris’ criticisms of Joe Biden in Hollywood fashion. Speaking of Hollywood, Harris will almost surely be attacked for being a member of the “Hollywood elite”.
She is famous for partying with A-list actors and artists, cosying up to them in their homes and studios. How is Joe Biden going to look rust belt voters in the face and tell them he understands their alienation with famous people trying to dictate their political beliefs? He certainly can’t send Kamala Harris to do it.
Finally, let’s consider Harris in terms of Joe Biden’s supposed priorities in a running mate. Biden was looking for a woman — and, ideally, a woman of colour. He was also seeking a competent individual who could help unify the party, a woman who would be a partner and not a competitor for the spotlight. Lastly, Biden hoped to select an individual who would be difficult for Trump to nickname and blast in his famously Trumpish style.
Superficially, Harris is indeed a woman and South Asian, Black woman at that. But Harris’ ambitious nature is unquestionable. She was fully aware that her debate assault on Joe Biden would weaken him as a general election candidate. She has also voiced support and belief for the women who have accused Biden of sexual harassment. Her attacks were calculated with the intent of hobbling Biden.
Now we’re supposed to believe she will sit by and support Biden’s policy agenda as president? A vice president Harris invites a White House akin to the Dick Cheney years, with cabinet and policy decisions being reached without input from the President. “Phony Kamala” carries a punch when taking her debate rhetoric and fake progressive credentials into account.
Perhaps the most depressing aspect of this entire process is the fact that there were many capable women who Biden could have selected to help him lead the country. While it is undoubtedly a good thing to see a woman of colour on a presidential ticket for the first time ever, there were several superior candidates.
Susan Rice would have offered Biden a balanced ticket in terms of domestic and foreign policy. Tammy Duckworth would have appealed to veterans and her midwestern roots would have helped the Biden campaign. Former sheriff and current member of the house of representatives Val Demings could have offered Biden a law and order ticket without half as much controversy on top of her Florida origins, in the I-4 Corridor, no less.
Biden’s decision is a shot in the foot. He will either pay dearly for that choice on 3 November, or the American voter will pay for it for the next four years under the de-facto rule of President Harris.