Biden Picks Kamala Harris
Joseph R. Biden Jr. selected Senator Kamala Harris of California as his vice-presidential running mate on Tuesday, embracing a former rival who sharply criticized him in the Democratic primaries but emerged after ending her own campaign as a vocal supporter of Mr. Biden and a prominent advocate of racial-justice legislation after the death of George Floyd in late May.
Ms. Harris, 55, is the first Black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party, and only the fourth woman in history to be chosen for one of their presidential tickets. She brings to the race a far more vigorous campaign style than Mr. Biden’s, including a gift for capturing moments of raw political electricity on the debate stage and elsewhere, and a personal identity and family story that many find inspiring.
Mr. Biden announced the selection over text message and in a follow-up email to supporters: “Joe Biden here. Big news: I’ve chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate. Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.”
In case you’ve blocked out the memory of the endless Democratic primary,1 Harris was briefly a contender for President. She raised lots of money and briefly surged in the polls after attacking Biden on busing. But poor organization, an unfamiliarity with the issues and on-stage destruction at the hands of Tulsi Gabbard based on her record as a prosecutor dashed those ambitions.
Her choice is hardly a surprise. Harris has been the leading contender since the primary ended. In fact, I predicted a Biden/Harris ticket a year ago2. Biden was going to pick a woman of color. He was going to pick someone younger. Harris is fairly within the Democratic mainstream and is a team player. For all the grousing of progressives about her record and all the kvetching of fossilized stalwart Democrats about how she didn’t apologize for a perfectly reasonable hit in the July debate, she was still the most likely choice. And given the recent surge in crime, the “Kamala is a Cop” line probably made her more viable rather than less. For all the hoopla of the last few weeks, this decision was almost certainly made weeks if not months ago. The rest was building up some tension so Biden/Harris could — however briefly — take the spotlight from Trump.3
While Harris’s record will cause some grousing among progressives, I expect the vast majority will easily line up to vote for her. And, together with Biden, the “law-and-order” credentials on the ticket should serve as a counterweight to Trump’s most recent attacks on the Democrats as being the source of the recent inner-city chaos. I am not convinced that she is either qualified or suitable, having only served a partial term in Congress and being most famous for an aggressive line of questioning of Brett Kavanaugh that ended up going precisely nowhere. And that concern is going to weigh more heavily given Biden’s age and the likelihood of him finishing a first term, let alone a second.
However, vice-presidential picks rarely matter. Everyone was convinced Bush the First had blundered with Quayle but, in the end, he won. Many people lost their minds when Sarah Palin was nominated4 But the conservative base loved her, and McCain wasn’t going to win anyway. What a VP pick is usually about is solidifying the base and balancing the ticket. Their duties are, typically, to raise money, generate some enthusiasm and not say anything particularly stupid. Harris will do that just fine, whatever I or anyone else thinks of her prosecutorial excesses. And ultimately, this election is going to be about Donald Trump, with Biden and Harris only playing bit parts.
In the end, the primary has left us where we were a year ago: All that digital ink and strum and drang ended with Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and a somewhat progressive agenda that — even if Biden wins — is unlikely to be implemented. The Democrats have completed their first goal: not nominating a lunatic. Now the challenge is to complete their second goal.
Only 83 days left until we can put this all behind us.