There is one piece of American news this week that has reverberated across news outlets all over the world. And no, I’m not talking about Donald Trump’s response to Michelle Obama that he would not be in office if it weren’t for the failing of her husband’s administration: we’re trying to ignore that one. I’m talking about Joe Biden, the Democratic Presidential Nominee announcing that as well as pledging to appoint a Black woman to the Supreme Court, has now announced Senator Kamala Harris (pronounced “comma-lah”) to be his running mate for Vice President. Kamala Harris, who has defined her political career around her campaigns for justice, will be the first African-American woman and first person of Asian descent to be nominated as VP. With Biden saying throughout his campaign that he is just a “transitional” figure, this nomination of Harris gives us a glimpse of what we hope American politics and the White House might look like in the future.
The response to Harris’ nomination has been incredibly positive; for example, Jameela Jamil, a feminist, actor and activist for inclusivity responded to the announcement on her Instagram where she has a following of 3.3million with “a strong, smart, South Asian and Black woman in the Oval Office? Yes please. Also… so much Maya Rudolph coming to our screens. Win win win.” For those of you who don’t know, Maya Rudolph, best known for her role in Bridesmaids as Lillian, plays Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live (an American late-night live television sketch and comedy show) and found out about the VP announcement whilst on air: she responded to the news in the witty way you would expect – “that’s spicy”.
The timing and the choice of Kamala Harris for VP to many seems perfect, with the growth and power of the Black Lives Matter Movement, America needs a government that represents its beliefs; and who better than a woman of Jamaican and Indian heritage who participated in civil rights marches as a child and as a young woman. However, not everyone is on the same page. Harris was previously San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorney general, and was shown in her original Democratic Nominee Campaign that this was so that she could reform the criminal-justice system from the inside. However, the way she aggressively pursued cases without the commitment to reduce mass incarceration, something that is a key part of the antiracist movement, undermined this original ideology. Some people still aren’t convinced of this new relationship, as in the first Democratic debate she ‘forcefully slammed Biden’s history of working with segregationists and opposing school busing’. She said, “It was hurtful,” to hear Biden speak of his relationships with those senators as she told the story of a little girl who was in an early wave of children to integrate schools in California, ending it with the words: “That little girl was me.” Her popularity increased after this debate, but eventually had to drop out of the race due to the lack of financial funds. On announcing this she stated “… I want to be clear with you… I am still very much in this fight”: she was not wrong there.
This turbulent year has shown that a huge part of activism is about having the capacity to change and adapt to the times. And although there is some doubt amongst Americans that because of her past Harris is the right choice, many have huge faith that she does in fact have this capacity to change and adapt to what the people need in her new role. A supporter of the nomination, Shaun King, an American writer, civil rights activist and co-founder of Real Justice PAC tweeted that “Kamala Harris is the most progressive VP nominee in American History”. This is probably why Donald Trump is already trying to question Harris’ eligibility to run for VP because of her parents’ immigration status at the time of her birth: a tactic he played with Obama for years saying that he was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii and therefore ineligible to serve as president. For some unknown reason he changed his opinions and stated in his 2016 campaign that Obama is actually an American, perfect timing Donald, perfect timing.
How will this new duo succeed in ending this unthinkable era of Trumpism? Well, with women generally having higher rates of voter turnout than men, the significance of the gender gap in American politics is even more poignant at this time as women are more likely to support the Democratic policies, even regardless of the candidate! For example, more women than men favour policies such as access to health and child care, which are linked to Democratic party policies. Jotaka Eaddy, a former advisor to the N.A.A.C.P. and political strategist said that “Black women represent sixteen million voters in this election…We are the highest and most loyal voting block in the Democratic Party”. Eighty-two percent of Black women voters think gun laws should be stricter, and their leadership in the BLM movement shows how important the issue of police violence is for them in upcoming policies. With the race for the Democratic Candidate eventually decided by Black voters (61% of the voters for Biden in South Carolina were African-American), a Biden-Harris campaign that shows a real commitment to issues that Black women care about could truly be the end of Trump’s overstayed (un)welcome in the White House.
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