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A Historic Yet Conventional V.P. Decision: Ms Kamala Harris

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November 3, 2020, will see United States of America’s 59th quadrennial presidential elections and the candidates are more than ready to win the voters over. Among the democrats stands Mr Joe Biden, who till now, tried to stay out of the press, to the best of his abilities. For the more, the news cycle was filled with President Donald Trump, COVID-19 death tolls and economic misery, the better it was for Mr Biden’s campaign.

Breaking his silence on August 11th, Mr Joe Biden announced Senator Ms Kamala Harris as his running-mate for the 2020 presidential elections. This was the first big call that Mr Biden had to make, as his choice for vice-presidency was certain to say a lot about how he would make decisions in the White House. This judgement also indicated the ideological leanings of a future Biden administration.

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Ms Kamala Harris

With this decision, Kamala Devi Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother, has become the first black woman and the first Asian-American chosen for a major-party national ticket. This revelation was more than ground-breaking but also a predictable one. This is because Ms Harris has come to high office through a reassuringly conventional route: she was the chief prosecutor in San Francisco, state attorney-general in California and is now a US senator. In picking her, Mr Biden signals a return to competent governing.

Following a model in which running mates are not just governing partners but also political understudies of sorts, picking Ms Harris has brought a generational balance to the democratic ticket. While the Trump campaign was hoping for a crazed leftist, Ms Harris is not that. Ideologically, both Mr Biden and Ms Harris are open to progressive ideas. They move with the party but remain firmly planted in the centre. Polls show, that people tend to like them and they connect well with voters.

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Previously, Ms Harris also ran an unsteady presidential campaign that ended before the first primaries. Even after facing that debacle, she remains among the best-known black women in American politics and has continued to appeal to both moderates and liberals. Her proponents hope that her career in law enforcement will help her face the unique challenges of the moment. Ms Harris also often cites her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, as a particular source of inspiration and drive, and has discussed how her mother was discriminated against for her accent and often side-lined for promotions.

However, Ms Harris has frequently faced criticism by progressive activists for not espousing enough about her biracial identity. Despite her being open about her Indian heritage, popular framing has often excluded it: In 2016, Harris was time and again referred to as “the second black woman to be elected to the U.S. Senate.” That’s why some still fear that in today’s political landscape, she can only represent either Black America or Asian America, but not both.

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Left: Mr Donald Trump; Right: Ms Kamala Harris

Nevertheless, a large majority of citizens believe that being a Black and Indian American places Ms Harris in a position and allows her to tell stories which could potentially bridge together communities of colour and help them understand how they are interconnected. In a state where Indians are still the punchline on cartoon reruns and all the anxiety about racism that prevails in America at the moment, picking the first African-American woman and the first Asian-American seems like a remarkable choice and a sign of progress.

Now, talking about her dynamic with President Donald Trump, Ms Harris has called his border wall a ‘vanity project’. Most recently she criticised Mr Trump for ordering an aggressive military response to peaceful protestors in Washington for a photo-op, remarking “this is not the America that the people fought for”. In a time when young protestors, filling the streets of every American city, continue to face the ever-increasing police brutality, Mr Biden and Ms Harris have emerged as valiant figures offering sympathetic words and proposals for the youth. Whereas for Mr Trump they remain, “slow Joe and phoney Kamala”.

What is more appalling is that some in Biden-world deem Ms Harris “too ambitious”, a criticism that has more than a whiff of sexism about it (every successful politician is ambitious; nobody seems to mind ambitious men). While her previous presidential campaign and changing political ideology, suggests a lack of fixed ideas; more importantly, it also suggests a kind of flexibility that can be a useful attribute in Washington deal-making. In the end, Mr Biden’s announcement has undoubtedly cemented a path towards her presidency.

As for now, she is “ready to get to work”.

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