Joe Biden Picks Kamala Harris as Vice President - Rolling Stone
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Biden Picks Kamala Harris for VP

The California Senator becomes the first woman of color on a major party’s presidential ticket

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JUNE 27: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during a television interview after the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate on June 27, 2019 in Miami, Florida.  A field of 20 Democratic presidential candidates was split into two groups of 10 for the first debate of the 2020 election, taking place over two nights at Knight Concert Hall of the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, hosted by NBC News, MSNBC, and Telemundo. (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

Kamala Harris

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images

The wait is over.

Joe Biden on Tuesday announced that he has chosen Kamala Harris to be his running mate, tapping his former primary rival for the 2020 Democratic vice presidential nomination.

The daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother, Harris began her political career as San Francisco’s district attorney in the mid-2000s and emerged on the national political landscape when she barely won the race for California attorney general in 2010. She was viewed then as a liberal star on the rise, the model of a “progressive prosecutor” who put in place innovative programs like Back on Track, which helped first-time, low-level drug offenders reenter society and avoid prison. But more recently, as the debate around policing and the role of prosecutors has evolved, Harris’ record has faced greater scrutiny, whether for her harsh treatment of truant students as D.A. or for a foreclosure-fraud settlement she negotiated as A.G. that consumers and advocates say could have been stronger.

She was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 and landed prestigious assignments on the Judiciary, Intelligence, and Homeland Security committees. Drawing on her courtroom experience, Harris quickly grew her profile with her withering interrogations of witnesses in high-profile hearings — ideal fodder in the era of bite-sized clips on social media. Her questionings of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, current AG William Barr, or future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh have amassed tens of millions of views online.

As a presidential candidate, Harris showcased that ability to create viral moments in the early months of the 2020 campaign. The most memorable of these moments was an exchange with the man who is now her running mate, when, at the first Democratic debate, she lacerated Biden onstage for his past positions on public-school busing policy. But Harris flailed on the campaign trail. She struggled to find a consistent campaign message, was hampered by an indecisive campaign team, and changed her position on major policy questions like whether to embrace Medicare for All or a public-option plan.

Caught between the Democratic Party’s liberal and moderate flanks, unable to win over the party’s loyal voting bloc of older black voters, Harris dropped out of the presidential race in December before a single primary or caucus vote was cast. And yet by April, she was appearing in fundraising appeals for Biden’s campaign, stoking rumors that she would be picked as his running mate.

President Trump’s reelection campaign and his allies previewed their attacks on Harris within minutes of Biden’s announcement that she would be his running mate.

An online ad released by the Trump’s campaign claimed Harris “ran for president by rushing to the radical left” and said voters rejected her because she was “phony.” A Trump campaign spokeswoman said Harris “will abandon her own morals, as well as try to bury her record as a prosecutor, in order to appease the anti-police extremists controlling the Democrat Party.” Yet at the same time, America First PAC, the pro-Trump super PAC, focused on Harris’ law-enforcement record and called her “the tough-on-crime prosecutor who has incarcerated hundreds of thousands of black men.”

Various Trump loyalists shared brief clips of Harris’s fiery exchange with Biden last year over school desegregation policy while promoting the meme that Biden is too senile to be president. Trumpworld, in other words, has taken an all-of-the-above approach, assailing her for being cozy with democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders and for enacting draconian policies as a prosecutor, casting her as both too liberal and not liberal enough.

When asked about the pick at a press conference later on Tuesday, Trump said he was “surprised” Biden picked someone who fared so poorly in the primary, before listlessly attacking Harris for her “nasty” behavior during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, and for going after Biden in the primary debates “even more than Pocahontas,” sliding in a tasteless jab at Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The president also made clear that he plans to paint Harris as a radical, apparently reading off a bulleted list as he tied her to raising taxes, universal health care, and other progressive positions. “She’s known as being the most liberal person in the U.S. Senate,” Trump said, either ignoring or forgetting several members of the Democratic caucus who are far more liberal that Harris.

Biden said during a March 15th debate that he planned to pick a woman to be his vice president, and as Black Lives Matter demonstrations spread across America this summer, pressure mounted for that woman to be a woman of color. Everyone from former VP contender Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) to Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, to, most recently, a group of more than 100 powerful black male leaders, publicly implored Biden to tap a black woman to be his running mate.

The selection of Harris comes after weeks of remote and in-person meetings with a handful of finalists. On Monday, The New York Times reported that the four-person committee Biden assembled to assist in the selection process had disbanded, and that the campaign would announce the former vice president’s selection some time in the middle of the week.

The middle of the week has arrived, and the ticket to take on Trump is now set.


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