Prof. David Monda of the City University of New York argues in this opinion piece why Kamala Harris could be an electoral risk to the chances of Democratic Party’s presidential candidate Joe Biden at the forthcoming American polls
An old Chinese adage states, “may you live in interesting times”. Ironically, interesting times do not always result in interesting results. Here are five reasons Senator Kamala Harris is a risky pick for Joe Biden.
Kamala comes with significant negative baggage from her time as the District Attorney of San Francisco and the Attorney General of California.
In both positions, she was perceived to side too closely with law enforcement while increasing the number of minority inmates in California’s already overcrowded correctional system. This negative tag ties her to the perception of contributing to the unparalleled escalation of prison populations in the United States. A system that has disproportionately incarcerated minority populations.
While being hard on crime runs well in the Republican conservative districts, this element of Kamala’s resume dampens the enthusiasm in the base of the Democratic party for her candidacy. This is in particular reference to the African-American and Latino communities that have historically been disproportionately over-represented in America’s correctional system.
Secondly, she was one of Joe Biden’s harshest critics in the earlier fight for the nomination of the flag bearer for the presidential ticket of the Democratic party. She called Biden a racist for his past statements on immigrants and a sexual predator for sexual harassment charges brought against him by several women. Clips from her attacks on Biden have made perfect campaign attack ads for the Trump campaign. The Trump campaign is bent on shaping the message that Biden has deep and worrisome moral and ethical shortcomings that make him unsuitable to be president of the United States.
Thirdly, there is a feeling in the Democratic party that there were superior candidates to Kamala. Two of those are Susan Rice, who was the US ambassador to the United Nations under President Obama, and Gretchen Whitmer, the current governor of Michigan. Susan Rice not only brought the foreign policy expertise to the ticket, she is a woman of color and fits the youthful age demographic to balance the presidential ticket.
Gretchen brings executive experience as governor, the added capacity to attract suburban white women to vote for Biden and the campaign machinery to win the 16 electoral college votes of the perennial swing state of Michigan.
Fourthly, the curse of history. As much as things change, they stay the same. No female running mate has ever succeeded (as a running mate) in getting a male presidential candidate elected president. Recent examples include the Walter Mondale-Geraldine Ferraro ticket in 1984 and the more recent John McCain-Sarah Palin ticket in 2008. The structures of patriarchy are still strong and well in these United States. This is one of the reasons Obama preferred a male running mate (Senator Joe Biden) to Hillary Clinton in 2008 and 2012.
Lastly, Biden’s age is going to be a major factor in this election. The Trump campaign is already defining Biden as the transition president. As it currently stands, it is not clear if he will be able to run for a second term in 2024. He will be 81 years old at that time. What does this have to do with his running mate?
Biden’s opponents will portray a Biden election as a Kamala first term due to Biden’s advanced age, concerns about his memory loss and suggestions he has dementia. The question for the voters will be, given Biden’s advanced age, is Kamala Harris the safe hands in which they want to entrust the American nation? In this heated campaign season, sexist, racist and nativist caricatures will be whipped up on Kamala’s presence as Vice President to instil fear in the minds of independent voters about what might happen if Biden is unable to complete his four year term.
While Trump is behind in the polls, polls are really only a snapshot in time. This will be a brutal, ugly, and drawn out campaign. 2016 was a warning shot against those that counted their chickens before they hatched and gave Trump no chance of winning.
Will Kamala Harris become the first woman of colour to be the American Vice President? We live in interesting times. Biden’s risk might not get rewarded.