Opinion. Kamala Harris is the Democratic nominee for Vice-President and running mate of Joe Biden. This pick has been criticized by many. But why?
The next important step in the preparations for the 2020 US presidential election was taken when the nominee of the Democratic Party, Joe Biden, announced his running mate on the 11th of August 2020. Should Biden win the election in November, his Vice-President would be former District Attorney of San Francisco, former Attorney General of California and current Senator from California Kamala Harris. With this pick, Biden did both stick to his promise to nominate a woman and heeded the calls of many, who hoped for a person of color as his running mate. Harris, who was born to a Jamaican-American father and an Indian mother, has a long career in politics and in 2019 ran her own presidential campaign, which she ended, citing a lack of funding, in December. While a lot of centrist Democrats have openly celebrated her nomination, there is no lack of critical voices from all over the political spectrum. These however reach from critiques of her policies in some cases to conspiracy theories regarding her political standing and eligibility for the office of vice-president, mirroring the “birther” movement under former president Barack Obama, who was also wrongfully and without evidence accused of not being born in the United States. The one thing that Kamala Harris definitely is though, is a moderate. And, in the eyes of many of her critics: A cop.
It seems incredibly tone deaf to nominate someone who has worked as a prosecutor in times of widespread protests against police violence and the American prison system. As a district attorney, Harris showed reluctance when it came to prosecuting cases of police brutality and said in 2009 that “If we take a show of hands of those who would like to see more police officers on the street, mine would shoot up.” Is someone with a record like that really the right person to mobilize young, frustrated BIPoC to vote for Joe Biden in the coming election? During her presidential campaign, Harris claimed in an interview that she used to smoke weed. This of course was a clear nod towards the strengthening movement for legalization of cannabis, medical as well as recreational. When considering that, as part of her job as a prosecutor, she helped put many non-violent drug users, many of them Black or PoC in prison, this however leaves a funny taste in the mouth. If her past as a “Top Cop”, a label which she still claims for herself, will be a help or hindrance for the Biden/Harris campaign can only be seen in the future. Another, admittedly less prominent critique of Harris, is that she is not descended from Black Americans that were affected by slavery. The ADOS (Americans Descendants of Slavery), a political movement that advocates for the descendants of American Slaves, has claimed that she cannot be called Black, due to her father being from Jamaica and her mother having been born in India. While coming from fairly liberal circles, especially right-wing political figures have used these claims to further discredit Harris, with Donald Trump Jr.retweeting such claims.
The Democratic Party, and especially Joe Biden, who was mainly picked as a running mate by Obama to appease more conservative parts of the electorate, are in a difficult position image-wise. To many progressives they represent the status quo that has led to the current political crisis and has plagued many of the disadvantaged parts of the population. Biden and Harris are both moderate Democrats, which, against the predictions and hopes of many people, has not stopped right-wing pundits and personalities from calling them “communists” or “far-left radicals”, which once again shows the futility of trying to appease them. When it comes to liberal identity politics, Harris might be the right pick. If you’re looking for actual progressive policies, her nomination might just be where you stop following the news concerning the election. For many political activists, progressives and left-wing voters, the only positive thing left about the current Democratic nominees boils down to them being “not Trump”. A tactic that failed spectacularly with Hillary Clinton‘s candidacy in 2016.