Editorial: The complexity of Kamala Harris

The ISD Editorial Board describes Kamala Harris, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, and her impact on the Biden campaign. 

Editorial Board

Joe Biden’s choice to have Kamala Harris as his vice president represents a changing campaign that will rejuvenate the race. Biden and Harris are an echo of the Obama administration, with Biden bringing the nostalgia. Harris is bringing the fresh, new energy of being the first Black woman — and woman of Indian descent — to be on the vice presidential ticket.

The mix that their political identities bring will make for a strong campaign against Donald Trump in November. 

Democrats across the country were relieved once Harris was chosen as the vice-presidential pick. There was obvious excitement, too, with the Biden campaign reportedly raising $26 million in donations. While the pick was politically conventional, it represented a milestone for many voters, especially Black women.

Black women have been the most loyal major demographic in the Democratic party for decades, even though they have never before been represented on the presidential ticket, wrote Melanye Price, professor of political science at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, in a New York Times opinion piece.

“Millions of Black women and their political labor have made this historic day possible,” Price wrote.

The pair are set up well to take on the new, split Democratic party. 

However, the news of the pair hasn’t settled extremely well among Democratic voters. Jason Chavez-Cruz, a progressive activist who serves as president of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party’s youth caucus, said many young voters “are not excited” about the pick. 

“There’s a lot of concern from young people all over our state right now, specifically because of the Minneapolis uprising,” Chavez-Cruz said. “A lot of young people were hoping we would choose someone on the progressive left wing.”  

However, many on the left are still excited about the possibilities that the pair may offer, including Harris’ potential as a progressive counterweight to Biden’s more centrist political ideals. Chris Russert, president of the Minnesota State University Mankato College Democrats, said he considers Harris the “halfway point” between the new generation of progressives and the more traditionalist Democrats. 

“Many are excited about how she’s a lot more representative of what our country and our generation looks like,” Russert said. “She’s the daughter of immigrants. She’s a Black woman. Even if you don’t agree with her 100 percent, you can’t help but be a little excited that that’s being represented in politics.”

That “halfway point” is due to Biden and Harris’ mixed political identities. Their political ideas are a mix of traditional democratic ideals and the progressivism of modern-day millennials, a combination that most progressives can get behind. Many progressives believe that because Biden has already welcomed progressive input in his campaign, Harris could also be a malleable vice president that they can push in their ideological direction. 

However, Harris’ malleability may not even be needed. Biden emerged from the contested primary with surprising party unity without a serious threat from progressives. Overall, voters in battleground states who said Bernie Sanders was their top choice for president said they backed Biden over President Trump 87 percent to 4 percent

If there was ever a movement to abandon the more moderate Democratic Party and support Trump, like some voters did in 2016, that movement has either faded or it never existed in serious numbers. 

Harris may only serve to fire up and revolutionize Biden’s campaign, especially with attacks from President Trump calling him “Sleepy Joe.” Harris has already made a case for Trump’s defeat, allowing Biden to focus more on legislation and policy and less on attacks from Republicans. 

Harris was known during the Democratic presidential primary for wearing Converse sneakers and dancing with staff and supporters in unscripted moments, bringing enthusiasm to some Democrats who oppose Trump but aren’t yet energized to vote for a candidate they feel may be out of touch with their concerns.

Harris has recharged a tired and long campaign, and with the Democratic National Convention this past week, more energy and funding will likely go to the Democrats. The Democratic Party will need to carry this energy through to November if they are to have a chance at winning the election.