I thought it should be her long ago. I thought that if I were Biden, I would choose Harris. I also believed that Joe Biden would have to do something to placate moderates, and while Senator Harris is not a moderate in any coherent sense, she runs in that lane, especially with regard to presentation.
The very things that hampered her campaign for president are the things that will help her now. She wasn’t progressive enough for the lily-white voters and youngsters that dominate the two earliest contests in the nomination process. She was so panned, you’ll recall, that she dropped out before any votes were cast. Suppose that she had survived at least until South Carolina. There is no doubt in my mind that she would have emerged as a serious threat to Biden’s ambitions, and at the very least, merited with electoral support the spot which strategy will now help her to claim.
Joe Biden is savvy. He’s been around this game a long time. He knows how to send a signal without hurting himself with the opposite signal. Harris is progressive enough that the people who will actually vote will be more than satisfied with her issue positions. Harris presents as centrist enough to avoid energizing Trump’s base. Remember that the entire Biden campaign in the primary was premised upon the idea that real black voters were not as progressive as some of those who claim to speak for them. Biden bet the farm on the idea that these older voters he has known for his entire career are not ready to stake their lives on Bernie Sanders, and his radicalism. That turned out to be a highly prudent bet. And yet, identification is still going to be massively important to ensure the black turnout which Biden needs to blunt any surprises from any secret caches of Trump supporters that the president may find.
I also think that the reports of soft Latino support in younger demographics for the Biden ticket are highly exaggerated. First of all, the commentators grossly overestimate the extent to which these younger voters will actually turn out to vote, irrespective of race. Secondly, I think as August becomes September, many of these younger people will come around to Biden, and to Harris. This should continue into October.
My analysis is strategic only, but if the ability to govern is in the minds of some of the voters, I would point out that Senator Harris has held statewide elected office in California, a state that could be its own country, as well as having experience as a United States Senator. She is well-prepared, should something terrible and unforeseen happen to Joe Biden.
The biggest reason not to pick former national security advisor Susan Rice is that much of the criticism of President Obama in foreign policy involves the murky events at the embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Some of it was unfair, but nearly all the decisions probably passed through the hands of Susan Rice. My advice to Biden is not to hand Trump a clever chant, or a narrative, or— with apologies to the former president— a reminder of the Obama presidency. Additionally, the voters themselves will not in the main be familiar with Dr. Rice. You don’t need to be introducing a new figure to your voters at the time when you need to generate enthusiasm.
The voters who pay close attention already know Senator Harris, and some of those who don’t at least have a rough idea about her. It is here that I will mention that she is attractive and youthful looking, even if she is not as young as she may appear. She’s quite a lot younger than Joe Biden. He has already stated that he hopes to be a transitional figure between the leaders of the past, and the leaders of the future in the Democratic Party. I don’t see a better way to do that than Kamala Harris.
Jason Kettinger is Associate Editor of Open for Business.
Image Credit: Lily Adams (Twitter: @adamslilly).