Was Kamala Harris the best pick as Biden’s running mate?


Fact Box

  • On August 11, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. Biden tweeted his approval of Harris as 'a fearless fighter for the little guy, and one of the country's finest public servants'.
  • In 2017, Kamala D. Harris was sworn in as a United States Senator for California, the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in history. She serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Judiciary, and the Committee on the Budget.
  • In 2019, GovTrack Analysis ranked Kamala Harris as “most liberal,” even outranking far-left Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
  • Harris is the 12th most famous Democrat and 15th in popularity.
  • Female vice presidential candidates appeared on major party tickets in 1984, 2008, and 2016. Each time the ticket lost.

Jennifer (Yes)

The addition of Kamala Harris to the Democratic Ticket has added excitement to the Party's fortunes moving toward November, invigorating party supporters' ambivalence to the candidacy of Joe Biden. At 55 years of age, Harris is uniquely placed to bolster the ticket with energy, experience, and the same hard-nosed approach she had for then Supreme Court nominee Justice Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearings.

Also notorious for her unflinching grilling of now running mate, Joe Biden, over his support of school busing, Harris has transcended the objections of even his most diehard supporters. This candidate's uncompromising willingness to ask the tough, unpopular questions will serve Biden's campaign well. As the first woman of color to ever be selected as a running mate to a presidential contender on a major party ticket, Harris's candidacy promises to send a strong and unequivocal message of change.

Imminently experienced as Attorney-General for the U.S.'s most populous state, California, and a Senator of renown, Kamala Harris has distinguished herself in a field of other highly competent candidates. It's these credentials that bolsters the Biden campaign, as Harris brings together a well-oiled online outreach machine. Amid a pandemic, this factor promises a decided edge. Her 'digital army'—also known as the #KHive—stands ready to reach millions of disenchanted voters seeking a viable political home. Since her election to the Senate in 2017, Harris has distinguished herself as a leader on racial justice issues, making her the right addition to the ticket at precisely the right moment. 

Bill (No)

Kamala Harris is not the best pick as Biden's running mate for several main reasons. First, she's a non-moderate California liberal who cannot help the Democrats win any rust belt swing states. Second, she didn't connect with voters as a Presidential candidate during the debates, insinuating her future running mate was a racist, and saying she believed his accusers about his inappropriate touching. Third, her record as California's Attorney General has been characterized as anti-progressive and harmful to African Americans. Lastly, her opposition to religious freedom is off-putting to most constituents. 

The 2020 election will likely hinge on key swing states Donald Trump previously carried in 2016. Harris is unlikely to help Biden turn these states blue in November. A critical factor in Trump's success in these pivotal states is his ability to appeal to non-college-educated voters—in Ohio alone, this demographic comprises 55% of the electorate, and nearly two out of three voted for Trump in 2016. The Midwest is home to many unionized auto workers; Harris's support for Medicare for all will be a tough sell with these voters who enjoy generous employer-funded health plans. 

Perhaps the best indicator of Harris's appeal to voters is her experience as a Presidential candidate in 2019, which was flatly disappointing, as well as her financial management being a 'disaster.' She rapidly squandered her position as a top-tier candidate and steadily lost support as the campaign wore on. Another indicator that does not bode well for Harris's value to Biden is her troubling record as Attorney General of California. Her consistent opposition to criminal justice reform is unlikely to win support among the key African American constituency that Biden needs to win the November election.

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