There will be a first round of commentary explaining what Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris, the “1st woman of color on a major ticket” as the New York Times puts it on its front page, means, followed by a round of damning the commentary for taking a woman, and then a black woman, to task, when “no one ever challenges a male candidate for vice president” like that.
But is Harris, as Chryl Laird argues, finally the recognition by the Democratic Party of its most loyal constituents?
Yet the significance of this decision and its meaning for Black women, the most loyal members of the Democratic Party, cannot be overstated. Black women’s commitment to the party has often gone unacknowledged, but they have been tirelessly loyal to the Democratic Party for generations.
Now comes the real, unanswerable question: Is the selection of Ms. Harris, despite her strong credentials, simply symbolic, a token gesture that will change little for Black women? Or does it truly recognize the importance of Black women for Democrats?
What, exactly, black women (assuming they’re a monolithic block) expect Harris or the Dems to “change” for them is unstated and isn’t exactly clear. On the other hand, is Biden’s selection of Harris just the opposite, as Ted Rall pithily argues in the Wall Street Journal?
By choosing Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, Joe Biden is sending a message to the progressive left base of the Democratic Party: Drop dead.
Before Kamala Harris was a twinkle in Joe Biden’s eye, or checked two boxes for the simpletons for whom racial and gender identity tells them all they need to know, she was Kamala the Cop. And she was headed for the White House as far as the Dems were concerned. She changed her rhetoric the way some people change their hairstyle, feigning concern for social justice as her victims sat in prison cells on death row. And no matter what, she just couldn’t lose that detestable prosecutor’s smirk, the one that says “I don’t care if you did it or not, I got you.”
Given Biden’s age and the normal vicissitudes of life, his vice president, or the person with whom he stands “side-by-side” if one prefers not to notice the whole “vice” part, Harris is positioned as well as a person whose own state wouldn’t vote for her as the favorite daughter to become president. President Harris. Would she be the first black woman president or the first woman of color president? Who knows what words will remain available in the lexicon by then?
But Perry Bacon Jr. at FiveThirtyEight says out loud what criminal defense lawyers have long known, not because we ask, take surveys or theorize for dissertations, but because we’ve spent our lives with people of all races, their families, their friends, their parents, like real people and not the cartoon characters white activists were taught in grievance studies class.
That said, blacks of all demographics are more supportive of Biden than their white counterparts, according to Morning Consult polling data. Young black voters are more supportive of Biden (and were more supportive of Clinton) than young white voters. Older black voters were more supportive of Clinton than older white ones in 2016 and now are strongly behind Biden. Black college graduates are more supportive of Biden than white college graduates. Nuances aside, the weakness of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party with black voters is a well-known phenomenon that people in the Warren and Sanders camps and anti-establishment liberal activist groups are openly grappling with.
All those white allies passionately fighting for racial justice are going to hate Harris, just as they hate Biden for not being Bernie (for the socialists) or Warren (for the identitarians). One rationale for the hate (they do so love to hate) is that they are certain that their vision of an equitable racial future is right and just, and these “establishment” Dems aren’t going to take them to the promised land.
The problem is that the promised land isn’t the Glorious Revolution where success is anathema, where no comrade will have more than any other comrade, where we all live in harmony, satisfied with our guaranteed basic income. They want their piece of the pie. They want to move on up. They want to wear mink coats and drive fancy cars. Turns out that black people are human beings, pretty much the same as white people who haven’t been indoctrinated into critical theory, and want to enjoy the American Dream that’s been denied them because of racism.
They want to eliminate racism. They don’t want to eliminate the rest of America, all the good things it offers. The trite old phrase, throwing out the baby with the bath water, might work here. Now, after all these years, after all these struggles to achieve equality, the last thing they want is to have the payoff taken away.
Will they care that Kamala Harris is a black woman? Some will, of course, but they didn’t care all that much that Barack Obama was a black man, only that he promised hope and change, and barely delivered. If they had to choose between the race and gender of a candidate, on the one hand, and a candidate who produced for them, who could push to end police abuse, who could help them out of their cycle of poverty so they, too, could get that apartment in the sky, they will take the person who offers them a future of opportunity.
Which Kamala will show up on the campaign trail has yet to be seen. But if she was brought onto the ticket for more than her race and gender, but to tell black people that the establishment Democrats reject progressives trying to take away their pie, she will contribute to the ticket. To the extent Biden might lack the fortitude to tell the protesters, rioters and looters to get lost, Harris’ one strength is that she has no qualms about using force to end the insanity.