On Tuesday, Joe Biden announced that he had chosen Kamala Harris to be his running mate. The selection of Harris, a 55-year-old United States Senator from California, was received well by many Democrats, but met with criticism from both conservatives and segments of the progressive left.
For mainline Democrats, Harris represents a combination of both youth and experience while also keeping the ticket demographically balanced. Harris is the first Black woman on a major party ticket in the country’s history.
At the same time, many Democrats argue that Harris’ no-nonsense, sometimes confrontational style, along with a set of values based on fairness and equality, makes her naturally suited to be Trump’s foil.
“One of the principal tasks of a running mate is to play a lead role in bringing the case against the other ticket, particularly in the vice-presidential debate,” wrote David Axelrod, the former chief strategist for President Obama’s election team.
“A former prosecutor, Harris is known as a fierce interrogator on Capitol Hill and proved herself, at times, to be a sharp-edged debater during the campaign.” Axelrod added that in choosing Harris, “Biden signaled that he is focused like a laser on November, and he views Harris as the best bet to win.”
Conservatives, meanwhile, have sought to paint Harris as a politician with clear links to the far left. The Republican National Committee sent an email out to supporters following the announcement in which it argued that Biden and Harris were in “lockstep when it comes to their radical left-wing agenda.”
President Trump said he was surprised by Biden’s pick, characterizing her past interactions with Biden during the Democratic primaries as “nasty” and “disrespectful.”
In 2019, Harris criticized Biden’s record on racial equality during the presidential primary debates, calling his past comments on a willingness to work with those he disagrees with to get things done in Congress, including segregationists, as “hurtful.”
Progressives aren’t thrilled
Although Democrats seem broadly supportive of the pick, some on the progressive left were not as excited.
Among progressives, despite Harris’ rating as a “strong Democrat” per her voting record as compiled by Progressive Punch, a platform that tracks progressive votes, others are critical of Harris’ past role as a criminal prosecutor.
Some suggest this is evidence that Harris is insensitive to issues surrounding criminal justice reform, an important issue for progressives.
For Briahna Joy Gray, the press secretary for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign, Biden’s pick of a former “top cop” shows “contempt for the base.”
According to Biden’s campaign website, Biden believes that the number of incarcerated individuals in America should be reduced and that the “criminal justice system cannot be just unless we root out the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the system.”
Harris worked as a prosecutor in California starting in the 1990s, later becoming the 32nd Attorney General of California in 2011, a position she held until 2017.
The Biden-Harris relationship
As progressives and conservatives take aim at Harris for her alleged deficiencies, some wonder whether Biden and Harris will be able to form a strong working relationship given their past disagreements.
Reports indicate that some in the Biden camp were critical of Harris when deliberating over her candidacy for the job.
According to a report in Politico, when a member of Biden’s vice presidential search team asked Harris about her attack on Biden’s record over race, she laughed it off and said that it was just politics, adding that “she had no remorse” over the exchange.
The article also stated that Biden was close to announcing Harris as the pick at the beginning of August, but there were lingering issues over trust that needed ironing out before the choice was finalized.
According to Aaron Blake, a senior political reporter for The Washington Post, although the suggestion that Harris should feel compelled to apologize for the criticism is likely rooted in a double standard for female politicians, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential issues that need smoothing over between Biden and Harris for them to govern effectively as team.
[Just because the debate got heated] doesn’t mean this isn’t something Biden and Harris won’t have to account for moving forward. Politicians do say lots of things in those debates, but when they attack their opponents in such terms, we should be able to take them at face value,” wrote Blake.
In addition to attacking Biden’s record on race, Harris also said she believed Biden’s accusers on inappropriate touching, allegations Biden has acknowledged while asserting that his intentions were innocuous.
As for the later accusations that Biden sexually assaulted a female staffer in the early 1990s Harris was more careful in her remarks, telling reporters that although she felt his accuser, Tara Reade, “has a right to tell her story,” she’s also known Joe Biden to be “somebody who really has fought for women and empowerment of women and for women’s equality and rights.”
Have a tip or story? Get in touch with our reporters at firstname.lastname@example.org