During the last debate in the Party’s primaries, Democratic candidate Joe Biden had pledged to choose a woman to compete with him as his deputy, in case he wins the Party’s ticket for the presidential elections to be held on 3 November 2020. With the protests taking place in the US in the wake of the killing of African-American George Floyd in late May 2020, pressure mounted on Biden so that the candidate of his choice would be an African-American.
After a campaign of scrutiny and examination of the records of more than a dozen female candidates for the position, on 11 August 2020, Biden announced his selection of the Senator for California and his former rival in the Party’s primaries Kamala Harris as his deputy, as she was the candidate for the position with the fewest flaws.
With this choice, Harris is the first black woman, the first female American of Asian descent, and the fourth woman to run on a major Party’s ticket in the US after Geraldine Ferraro ran in the 1984 presidential elections, Sarah Palin in the 2008 presidential elections, for the vice presidency, and Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party’s ticket for the 2016 presidential elections.
Reasons for choosing Harris
The conditions in the US less than 90 days before the US presidential elections in terms of the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the decline of the US economy to rates not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s, the protests against US police violence against African Americans, and the increase in the manifestations of the spread of racism among the US community, which became the electoral issues on the basis of which the US voter would vote on 3 November 2020, have driven the Democratic candidate who has long experience in dealing with foreign policy issues, that do not lead the priorities of the voters in those elections, to choose a female deputy who has experience in dealing with issues of the US interior, especially those that concern the Democratic Party’s voter base, independent voters and Republican voters who reject President Trump’s way of dealing with those issues.
Compared to her competitors for this position, Harris is the most qualified for dealing with those issues due to her experience in racial justice issues. Previously, she was the Attorney General of California, the former District Attorney of San Francisco, and a staunch supporter of US police reform. In the wake of Floyd's murder, Harris worked on drafting the Police Justice Act that establishes a national standard for police use of force and broadens investigative powers for prosecutors.
In light of Biden's focus on foreign policy issues if he wins in November 2020, he needs his deputy to possess the bureaucratic skills and achievement that would enable her to make progress in the domestic files. Through her experience from the congressional committees in which she served, and the relationships she formed during her membership in the US Senate, Harris can assume the tasks of negotiating with the US Congress, as the main partner to deal with her, on domestic policy issues.
In addition to the above, Harris enjoys popularity after her Senate interviewing of several of President Trump's candidates for senior positions in the US administration, notably former and current US Attorneys General (Justice Ministers) Jeff Sessions and William Barr, and Supreme Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh, during the Senate hearings before approval of their assumption of office, which qualifies her to compete against US Vice President Mike Pence during their debate in October 2020, and to outperform him as well as criticise President Trump, especially his statements about the possibility of rigging in the US elections, with her ability to speak and debate given her experience as a former attorney general.
With her withdrawal from the primary elections of the Democratic Party, and while the vetting process of Biden's campaign was underway to choose the female candidate for the post of Vice President, Harris raised large amounts of money for Biden. She held joint fundraising campaigns and meetings with Biden on issues on the agenda of the US electorate, such as racial disparities during the coronavirus crisis and the protection of the Affordable Care Act.
Harris' nomination on the Democratic Party’s ticket alongside Biden will increase the possibility of raising funds for the election campaign. One day after she was chosen, Biden raised 26 million dollars, which demonstrates the growing strength of the campaign in fundraising as the presidential elections approach.
The impact of Harris' selection on Biden's chances of winning
According to the view of many analysts of US politics, by choosing his former rival to compete with him on the Democratic Party’s ticket in November 2020, Democratic candidate Joe Biden has enhanced his chances of winning those elections, as he guarantees that he would get the votes of black voters and that their rate of voting on election day would increase despite the spread of the coronavirus after the decline in their voting rates in the 2016 presidential elections, compared to the levels achieved by former President Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. Black voters are expected to account for nearly 13 percent of the electorate who will vote in the November 2020 elections. In addition, they form a voting bloc in the main swing states contested by the Democratic and Republican candidates. For example, in Florida and Michigan, they account for 13 percent of the electorate, in North Carolina for 23 percent, in Pennsylvania for 11 percent, and in Wisconsin for 5 percent.
In the wake of Biden’s choice of Harris, the results of a poll conducted by Politico on the day after her selection showed that 53 percent of voters agree with this choice, which is a high percentage compared to those who disagree, who account for 29 percent. Approval of this choice is higher among Democrats (84 percent), as well as black voters (79 percent). A large percentage of the independents (44 percent) also agree with Biden's choice, while 27 percent reject it.
By choosing Harris, Biden also aimed to win the votes of female American voters, especially the independents who helped secure the Democratic Party's majority in the House of Representatives in the November 2018 midterm congressional elections, and the election of a historic number of women to Congress. Many analyses argue that women may be the decisive factor in the victory of the Democratic candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. Biden’s choice of a black woman ensures that women will vote for the Democratic Party in the upcoming elections.
Considering Biden’s advanced age and the fact that if he wins, he would be the oldest president in US history at the age of nearly 78, many of the younger voters would be less enthusiastic about him than their parents and grandparents. Besides, his credibility among young and coloured voters because of his controversial political positions on ethnic and racial issues in the past reduces the chances of their voting for him. However, the selection by the Democratic candidate of 55-year-old Harris for the post of Vice President would mobilize the category of young voters to vote for him.
According to the results of the Politico poll referred to above, Biden's choice of Harris as his deputy is supported by 56 percent of voters under the age of 35 years, 61 percent of voters aged between 35 and 44 years, and 55 percent of voters aged 65 and above. However, the choice of Harris is not supported by a majority among voters aged between 45 and 64 years.
Despite the high level of support within the Democratic Party for Biden's choice of Harris to compete with him on the Party’s ticket, she was not the favourite choice of the group of progressives and liberals within the Party. Harris is not regarded as progressive by prominent progressives such as Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Karen Bass, or as moderate by figures such as Susan Rice or Senator Amy Klobuchar. They argue that Harris' choice indicates that Biden is likely to rule as a moderate, despite his recent efforts to win over the former voters for progressive Senator Bernie Sander. On the other hand, some liberals see Harris' choice as a serious disappointment because of her record as Attorney General and her wavering support for the Medicare for All programme.
Although many studies indicate that the electoral impact of the vice presidential candidates is somewhat limited, the choice by Democratic candidate Joe Biden of the Senator for California - i.e. the state with the largest number of electors in the Electoral College that chooses the President - black, Asian-American Kamala Harris would enhance Biden's chances of winning the presidential elections in November 2020, as it increased Biden's superiority over his Republican rival Trump in national opinion polls.
Biden’s choice of Harris reveals that he is running a different presidential campaign from President Trump’s re-election campaign. The selection is aimed at winning over black, coloured, Latino and other ethnic minority voters within the US community to vote for the Democratic Party’s ticket in the elections, while President Trump’s campaign is betting on the voting mass of American whites who voted for him in November 2016, and has done little to broaden his electoral base.
Considering the advanced age of the Democratic candidate and the multiple speculations about his health, his choice of Harris indicates the possibility that she would play a major role within the US administration, with the expectation that the leadership weight with regard to many internal files would rest on her shoulders in light of Biden's focus on US foreign policy issues, especially that if he wins, Biden is not expected to run for a second term in 2024, and that Harris would be expected to be the Party's candidate in those elections.
* Researcher in US Affairs.
EPC | 20 Oct 2020
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