NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Kamala Harris increasingly viewed as Joe Biden’s most likely vice presidential pick

With a lit­tle over six months until Elec­tion Day, spec­u­la­tion over who for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden will choose as his run­ning mate con­tin­ues to run ram­pant both inside and out­side the top tiers of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty.

At the begin­ning of this month, Biden announced a com­mit­tee ded­i­cat­ed to help­ing him make a vice pres­i­den­tial pick, and he has recent­ly used his campaign’s pod­cast, “Here’s The Deal,” to inter­view poten­tial can­di­dates.

While no deci­sion has been made yet – and will like­ly not be made for some months – report­ing from inside the Biden team seems to indi­cate that Kamala Har­ris is the lead­ing con­tender for the job. Inter­views of dozens of Biden allies, advi­sors and donors by Politi­co sug­gest that the junior U.S. Sen­a­tor from Cal­i­for­nia is streets ahead of oth­er can­di­dates, with some see­ing Sen­a­tor Eliz­a­beth War­ren of Mass­a­chu­setts as the only oth­er like­ly choice.

Sen. Harris addresses the California Democratic Convention in 2019

Sen. Har­ris address­es the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­c­ra­t­ic Con­ven­tion in 2019 (Pho­to: Gage Skid­more, repro­duced under Cre­ative Com­mons license)

There is much to rec­om­mend Har­ris as a vice pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. As the daugh­ter of immi­grants from Jamaica and India, Har­ris’ name on the tick­et would allow the Biden cam­paign to stand in clear con­trast to the nativist white nation­al­ism that Don­ald Trump and Mike Pence rep­re­sent.

Har­ris is (unlike Biden) a tal­ent­ed and dynam­ic cam­paign­er; her pri­ma­ry campaign’s open­ing ral­ly attract­ed more atten­dees than even Barack Obama’s 2007 announce­ment, and she has already been work­ing to pro­mote Biden and down­bal­lot Democ­rats across the coun­try.

Per­haps most entic­ing­ly of all for Democ­rats who want to see their nom­i­nees take the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion to task, she is a high­ly tal­ent­ed debater.

Joe Biden found that out to his cost in the first round of pri­ma­ry debates when she slammed him for his record of oppos­ing deseg­re­ga­tion poli­cies (although all is now for­giv­en, accord­ing to friends of the Biden fam­i­ly).

In the gen­er­al elec­tion she would get to spar with the cur­rent Vice Pres­i­dent, Mike Pence. Talk­ing to Politi­co, South Car­oli­na Demo­c­rat and Har­ris ally Bakari Sell­ers open­ly rel­ished the prospect of a Har­ris vs. Pence tele­vised debate.

If the Democ­rats win in Novem­ber, Har­ris could be a very com­pe­tent Vice Pres­i­dent. She has expe­ri­ence in exec­u­tive roles – as San Fransisco’s Dis­trict Attor­ney and California’s Attor­ney Gen­er­al – and in the Sen­ate.

She is also a pop­u­lar fig­ure across a broad swath of rank-and-file Democ­rats, and would be a pow­er­ful advo­cate for Pres­i­dent Biden’s agen­da.

Har­ris has been work­ing to expand that appeal. She alien­at­ed some pro­gres­sives dur­ing her pres­i­den­tial run by adopt­ing half-haeart­ed pol­i­cy posi­tions (her health­care pro­pos­al was par­tic­u­lar­ly lack­ing in its log­ic), but has recent­ly used her posi­tion in the Sen­ate to work with pro­gres­sive cham­pi­ons includ­ing Bernie Sanders and Ayan­na Press­ley of Mass­a­chu­setts (a mem­ber of “the Squad”) to craft a series of bills to help those impact­ed by the COVID-19 cri­sis.

Har­ris’ real advan­tage over her com­peti­tors comes from her close rela­tion­ship with the Demo­c­ra­t­ic party’s elite ech­e­lon of pow­er-bro­kers and donors.

Joe Biden’s cam­paign (and indeed, his whole career) has always been tight­ly aligned with estab­lish­ment pol­i­tics. Mem­o­rably, dur­ing the pri­ma­ry, while his top rivals promised to rein in the excess­es of large cor­po­ra­tions, Biden open­ly declared that “no one’s stan­dard of liv­ing will change” under his pres­i­den­cy.

Har­ris (unlike Biden’s oth­er poten­tial run­ning mate, War­ren) is a dar­ling of many of these inter­ests. One Biden cam­paign big-mon­ey fundrais­er described her as “a stand­out in terms of… keep­ing donors warm.” Oth­er top donors have described Har­ris as “a team play­er” as far as the par­ty estab­lish­ment is con­cerned.

Har­ris has the best odds of being picked by Biden, but ulti­mate­ly the deci­sion to join the tick­et will be hers – not Joe Biden’s or any donor’s.

And she may not decide to take the job.

Kamala Har­ris is a woman who likes to con­trol her own des­tiny and is famous­ly hard to pres­sure into any role she does not want.

The best exam­ple of this is from 2014, when Pres­i­dent Oba­ma offered her the role of Attor­ney Gen­er­al. The role would have been a major boost for her career, and yet Har­ris chose to turn it down. She remained Attor­ney Gen­er­al of Cal­i­for­nia, and went on to win a seat in the U.S. Sen­ate in 2016. She used that posi­tion in the Sen­ate to launch her unsuc­cess­ful bid for the pres­i­den­cy in 2019.

Unlike Stacey Abrams, the oth­er promi­nent African-Amer­i­can in the run­ning for the vice pres­i­den­tial pick, Har­ris has not cam­paigned for the job, and reports of her tak­ing “house­clean­ing steps” for her future career do not indi­cate how she envi­sions that career unfold­ing; her options include the vice pres­i­den­cy, a pow­er­ful posi­tion in the Sen­ate, or anoth­er top job in the Biden cab­i­net.

Har­ris may well desire to set her own course and not be steered by oth­ers – even if they are offer­ing her one of the biggest plat­forms in Amer­i­can pol­i­tics.

Har­ris is keep­ing her options open.

She has kept a core group of advi­sors from her cam­paign who have been instru­men­tal in sub­tly influ­enc­ing the con­ver­sa­tion around Joe Biden’s pick.

In one case, Har­ris’ team report­ed­ly man­aged to get the promi­nent civ­il rights activist Rev­erend Al Sharp­ton to back down from a deci­sion to pro­mote Abrams as the best choice to be Biden’s run­ning mate, and it is like­ly that even more behind-the-scenes machi­na­tions have gone unre­port­ed.

Whichev­er path Kamala Har­ris decides to take, the pub­lic is not like­ly to find out for months yet. Joe Biden has no rea­son to rush into a deci­sion on his run­ning mate, and is right to take a great deal of care and con­sid­er­a­tion in reach­ing it — it is, after all, a deci­sion that has a good chance of deter­min­ing who the first female pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States will be.

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3 Comments

  1. Kamala Har­ris is the far the most tal­ent­ed and charis­mat­ic choice for Vice Pres­i­dent. She is a star and Biden would be advised to select her. I think he has already by mak­ing the remark, “I am com­ing for you kid”. She will have Biden’s back and would be his attack “dog” who Trump, Pence, Barr et al are all afraid of.

    # by Andrew A. Campbell B :: May 14th, 2020 at 12:31 PM
  2. On paper, she can real­ly enhance the tick­et. The prob­lem is that she did not light any sparks on the cam­paign trail.
    Next, if she is a ris­ing star in the par­ty, the Vice Pres­i­den­cy may not be the smartest move, real­ly, the only Demo­c­ra­t­ic VP in my life­time to advance was John­son, who hat­ed the posi­tion of VP and I under­stand, con­sid­ered resign­ing.
    Run­ning for gov­er­nor of Cal­i­for­nia would prob­a­bly be a bet­ter step­ping stone for her.

    # by Mike Barer :: May 14th, 2020 at 6:18 PM
  3. Har­ris is prone to say any­thing; that’s why Biden won’t pick her; she’s too flighty and kind of an air­head

    # by John Jay :: May 16th, 2020 at 9:27 PM