August 12th, 2020 by Michael Barnard
For months, Kamala Harris has been appearing in the photons and sound waves of CleanTechnica. Her climate change plan was assessed when she was putting herself forward for the presidential nominee, and it was ranked #1 here on CleanTechnica after thorough analysis. More on that in a minute. She was compared to other candidates in numerous ways, and Zach Shahan and I discussed her on CleanTech Talk several times. Last Friday, Zach and I spent another 90 minutes going deep and wide on US politics on the verge of the VP announcement and the DNC convention.
And today, Kamala Harris was named as Joe Biden’s VP running mate. Zach had a difference preference, but you’ll have to listen to the podcast (publishing soon) to hear his arguments for that person. This is all about my preference, the one I’ve had for months: Kamala Harris.
I would have been happy to see her as the presidential candidate if that had panned out. But that ship sailed and I was satisfied with the choice. Biden is a centrist Democratic politician, and as the party has sensibly tacked left to follow the world, Biden is now a center-left leader.
But Harris now has a big target painted on her back, the biggest one of her life. And she has to round out the Biden ticket to pull in more people. What strengths and weaknesses does she bring with her?
She had the best climate change plan of any candidate, per my assessments over the course of the primaries. As I said in print last year, Republicans were likely to lose the Presidency over climate change alone. Biden’s plan was among the weakest, so this burnishes his credentials with those of us who care. And 69% of US voters do want the government to do something about the human causes of climate change, per 2018 Monmouth polling.
Reform of the criminal justice system is a huge issue this year. Harris was the second-most powerful justice official in the USA with her role as Attorney General of California. Biden has a nuanced approach to funding transformation of police for the better, and police reform is a wicked problem, given overlapping challenges. Harris is better positioned than almost anyone to do well on that file.
Harris is best known for being tough on polluters in California. That’s incredibly important after the environmental degradation of the Trump years, as federal laws are refurbished and enforcement refurbished. People want the government to be tough on environmental crimes, especially ones harming lower socioeconomic classes — often communities of color — which are disproportionately impacted by industrial pollution.
Harris has a national profile due to her run for the Democratic nomination, as well as high-profile statements and questioning from the Senate floor on key topics. A lot of people had a lot of time to look her over, and there’s a lot of video of her in the debates. She’s charismatic, very bright, and an excellent speaker, and she developed a following for those reasons. She has name recognition already, unlike some previous VP picks. Who was Tim Kaine again?
She brings national geographic coverage. Biden is from Pennsylvania originally and still seems a bit heartland. Plus, he’s been on the East Coast in Washington, DC, for decades. Getting some West Coast into the mix is good.
Harris is a US Senator, so she has federal experience as well as very significant state experience.
Her Senate seat is easy to fill with another Democratic candidate. California is safe, so Senate chances won’t be impacted.
Oh, she’s also bringing demographic diversity to the ticket. She’s younger, has Black and Indian sub-continent ethnic origins, and is female. Pretty much not Joe Biden in those regards. She’s the face of the future of America. The Democratic Party and Biden have been polling very strongly with women and people of color, but this puts a stronger lock on it, and perhaps most importantly, should help to get out the vote.
Her record on crime includes a fair amount of leaning into the “tough on crime” efforts that Democratic politicians up to Bill Clinton embraced in the 1990s. In California, many of the systemic failures of policing have her fingerprints on them as well. It does give her, once again, better insights on these matters, but it’s part of her legacy. That’s true for Biden as well.
She doesn’t particularly bring a swing state to the table. California is an absurdly safe Democratic state, so her time there doesn’t make a difference in that regard. The West Coast is Democratic more than not. So, the geographic coverage is a bit weak sauce.
Misogynists who can’t image a woman behind the desk in the Oval Office, should that eventuality come to pass, will get their panties in a twist. But they mostly weren’t going to be voting for Biden anyway.
Racists who can’t imagine another person of color behind the desk in the Oval Office, should that eventuality come to pass, will get their panties in a twist. But they mostly weren’t going to be voting for Biden anyway.
She dated Willie Brown, a former California State Assembly member and former Mayor of San Francisco, when he was estranged from his wife decades ago and was twice Harris’ age. That’s going to be dragged through the mud, especially since he claims to have helped her get positions earlier in his career. Lots more misogyny will surface. Expect a lot of ugliness on right-wing social media. I’ve already seen it on Quora.
Overall, I think the pros vastly outweigh the cons. Obviously, the Biden campaign did too. While Harris is not considered part of the “progressive arm” of the Democratic Party, I think a lot of progressives will look at her and see signifiers of progress that they can happily get behind. Gender and ethnicity are there, of course, but so is cracking down on pollution and a rock-solid climate plan.
It’s going to be easy for her to talk in deep and meaningful ways about police reform, but that also means she might have to work to achieve more digestible messaging for the electorate.
Biden and his team selected well.
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