With former Vice President Joe Biden as the presumptive Democratic nominee, the 2020 Veepstakes have begun in full swing. Some likely contenders include California senator Kamala Harris, Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, Nevada senator Catherine Cortez Masto, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer, Florida representative Val Demings, and former Georgia state house minority leader and 2018 gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
With all of the names being floated and all of the questions being asked of the potential pick—should Biden pick a black woman? A progressive? A Latina? Some names get derided for being a bit too obvious, such as Kamala Harris. Despite being chided as the “easy pick,” Harris offers Biden key unique strengths that could help the former vice president unseat Donald Trump this November.
A Generational Change for the Democratic Party
Kamala Harris, at 55 (but 56 by election day), stands, in comparison to most Democratic Party leaders in 2020, as a fresh, young new face for the party. Current Democratic leaders post-Obama are on the older side, with Biden himself being 77, Speaker Nancy Pelosi at 80, and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders at 78, to name a few. While there is nothing inherently wrong with having older party leaders, the Democratic Party stands to benefit from having a next generation of leaders ready for higher office as the 2020s begin.
The modern GOP, on the other hand, has a slew or new faces for the 2020s including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy at 55, Florida senator Marco Rubio at 48, Missouri senator Josh Hawley at 40, Arkansas senator Tom Cotton at 42, Iowa senator Joni Ernst at 49, Texas senator Ted Cruz at 49, Florida governor Ron DeSantis at 41, and former South Carolina governor and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley at 48. They are ready to take the leave once President Trump leaves the limelight.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Democratic Party is run by septuagenarians and octogenarians, actively fending off any potential Gen X or Millennial up-and-comer. In fact, the 2020 Democratic Primary outside of the final four candidates—Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Bloomberg—were very much quite young and diverse. Some fresh faces that ran in 2020 that might take another stab at running in future cycles include New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand at 53, New Jersey senator Cory Booker at 51, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro at 45, former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg at 38, and, of course, Kamala Harris. Other did-not-runs in 2020 who might run in another cycle include Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer at 48, Stacey Abrams at 46, Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth at 52, and perhaps some names we haven’t even heard of yet.
Choosing a younger face such as Harris would elevate a younger generation of Democratic Party members to a national profile that prepares the Democratic Party for the future.
Much-Needed Elevation of Black Women
Biden would stand to benefit from selecting Harris as doing so would show that Biden is making efforts to put results on the table for black women in the Democratic Party. Many high-profile victories in the Trump-era (and before), such as Alabama senator Doug Jones’s 2017 upset against controversial former state supreme court justice Roy Moore, the 2019 Virginia state legislative elections, the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, and the 2019 Louisiana gubernatorial election, to name a few, have come by-and-large thanks to juiced-up turnout from black women.
For decades, if not centuries, black women have not seen their leaders represent them, with the Senate having only elected two black women senators (Carol Moseley Braun in 1992 and Kamala Harris in 2016). Should Biden choose Harris and be elected president in November, Harris would be the highest-profile black woman in American history.
Should Harris be selected, there is an argument to be made that she could potentially raise black turnout for Biden in November. As is commonly said, primary performance or past performance doesn’t equal future performance, and Biden’s success with black voters in the primary isn’t a sure shot to translate into the fall. Biden would stand to benefit from raising black turnout from Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016, where black turnout fell in crucial Wayne and Milwaukee Counties central for Democratic performance in Michigan and Wisconsin respectively. Decreased black turnout also led to the first time the margin fell for a Democratic candidate in Philadelphia since 1988. Raising black turnout would help Biden in the Midwest, but raising black turnout would also help Biden in other swing states with sizeable black populations such as North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas.
A New Frontier for Asian-Americans in American Politics
For as much attention Harris gets for potentially becoming the first black female VP, Harris would also become one of the highest, if not the highest, profile Asian-Americans in American history. Harris’s mother is of Indian descent, born in Chennai. Having Harris on the ticket offers Asian-Americans, as well as black Americans, the opportunity to see themselves represented on the national level. Of course, the label Asian-American in and of itself contains a broad and vast diversity underneath, but Harris would nonetheless become a large step forward.
There are a good few swing states that might benefit from increased margins for Democrats and turnout with Asian-Americans, potentially. Some of these states include Nevada, Arizona, and Texas, all of which have seen their Asian-American population rise over the years.
Harris has Focused on Timely Issues
With all of this being said, the idea that a candidate of a certain race would ipso facto increase turnout of said demographic group is overly simplistic and a bit rude to voters of color. Each and every one has various issues and situations important to them. But this very reason is perhaps why Harris has smartly decided in recent months to laser focus on racial inequity issues.
In recent weeks, Harris has brought light to racial injustice and inequity by demanding an independent investigation into the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man in Georgia who was shot by a white father and son on a jog. She has also advocated for the establishment of a task force to investigate disparities in racial and ethnic disparities and introduced legislation that is intended to assist minority-owned businesses money to help stay afloat during the pandemic.
Furthermore, Harris knows that Biden would benefit from an olive branch to the progressive wing of the Democratic party led by Sanders and Warren. Harris, working with Sanders and Massachusetts senator Ed Markey, introduced legislation that would give Americans $2,000 checks monthly for the duration of the pandemic. Harris knows that working with progressives such as Markey, Sanders, and Warren would go a ways in ameliorating the tension between the moderate and progressive wings.
The Obvious Pick for a Reason
Harris is seen as perhaps an almost-too-easy pick for Biden for vice president as the 2020 election turns to the general election season, however, such a sentiment perhaps skims over the various upsides she would bring to the ticket. Harris’s focusing on issues that matter to progressives and voters of color, offering generational change, and representing a key step forward for both black women and Asian-Americans all aid her credentials. So, maybe Harris is the easy pick, but is that such a bad thing?
Outstanding writing Jon. You’ll do well in future writings. You very eloquently stated what all Senator Harris brings to the political table. We certainly hope that your words are prophetic when it comes time for the decision to be made. We’ve got to get it right for this election for our country to begin its critical healing process.