Kamala Harris is Biden’s choice for vice president

  • Alexander Burns and Katie Glueck, The New York Times
    Published: 2020-08-12 02:50:22 BdST

bdnews24
Former Vice President Joe Biden and US Senator Kamala Harris shake hands before the start of the second night of the second US 2020 presidential Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, US, July 31, 2019. Reuters

Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his vice-presidential running mate on Tuesday, embracing a former rival who sharply criticised him in the Democratic primaries but emerged after ending her campaign as a vocal supporter of Biden and a prominent advocate of racial-justice legislation after the death of George Floyd in late May.

Harris, 55, is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and only the fourth woman in history to be chosen for one of their presidential tickets. She brings to the race a far more vigorous campaign style than Biden’s, including a gift for capturing moments of raw political electricity on the debate stage and elsewhere, and a personal identity and family story that many find inspiring.

Biden announced the selection over text message and in a follow-up 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.”

After her own presidential bid disintegrated last year, many Democrats regarded Harris as all but certain to attempt another run for the White House in the future. By choosing her as his political partner, Biden may well be anointing her as the de facto leader of the party in four or eight years.

A pragmatic moderate who spent most of her career as a prosecutor, Harris was seen throughout the vice-presidential search as among the safest choices available to Biden. She has been a reliable ally of the Democratic establishment, with flexible policy priorities that largely mirror Biden’s, and her supporters argued that she could reinforce Biden’s appeal to Black voters and women without stirring particularly vehement opposition on the right or left.

For all the complexity of Biden’s vice-presidential search, there is a certain foreordained quality to Harris’ nomination. She has been regarded as a rising figure in Democratic politics since around the turn of the century, and as a confident representative of the country’s multiracial future. Harris sought to capture that sense of destiny in her own presidential campaign, announcing her candidacy on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2019 and paying frequent homage to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate to seek a major party’s nomination.

Sen Kamala Harris at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan 16, 2020. The New York Times

Sen Kamala Harris at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan 16, 2020. The New York Times

Throughout her rise, Harris has excited Democrats with a personal story that set her apart even in the diverse political melting pot that is California: She is the daughter of two immigrant academics, an Indian American mother and a father from Jamaica. Harris was raised in Oakland and Berkeley, attended Howard University and pursued a career in criminal justice before becoming only the second Black woman ever elected to the Senate.

Still, Harris was far from a shoo-in for the role of Biden’s running mate, and some of Biden’s advisers harboured persistent reservations about her because of her unsteady performance as a presidential candidate and the finely staged ambush she mounted against Biden in the first debate of the primary season. Jill Biden, the former second lady, called Harris’ debate stage remarks a “punch to the gut” at a fundraiser in March.

In the end, however, Biden may have come to see the panache Harris displayed in that debate — when she confronted him over his past opposition to busing as a means of integrating public schools — as more of a potential asset to his ticket than as a source of lingering grievance. Indeed, even in the bleaker periods of her presidential candidacy last year, Harris maintained an ability to excite Democratic voters with the imagined prospect of a debate-stage clash between her and President Donald Trump.

©2020 The New York Times Company