You May Have Heard
So … you may have heard. Joe Biden recently picked California Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate. Former President Barack Obama said of the Harris pick, “She is more than prepared for the job.” This historic pick builds on the legacy of great women who came before her like Charlotta Bass and Shirley Chisholm.
I know she’s Senator Kamala Harris, but I call her Kamala. It’s not out of disrespect. It’s actually quite the opposite. At the same time, it would be unfair to her to put her on too high a pedestal. I’ll just introduce her as a woman who has had some great successes.
Is She Progressive?
So who is Kamala Harris? To begin to answer this, let’s start with one of her rivals. Niki Solis, who is currently the chair of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office Racial Justice Committee, often battled Harris as a public defender while Harris was the District Attorney of San Francisco. Solis recently wrote plainly Kamala Harris ‘was the most progressive DA in California.’ Solis had no problem naming initiatives like Back on Track where Kamala Harris played a major role. Back on Track, which still exists today, is a diversionary program that serves as a pathway for many young adults to avoid felony convictions and incarceration. You can learn quite a bit about a person from their rivals. This says quite a bit.
A recent analysis of her 2019 record in the senate shows she, at least in that year, was more liberal than Bernie Sanders. This is based on an “ideology score” rigorously calculated by govtrack.us. In fact, this score has her as the most liberal U.S. Senator in 2019.
Silicon Valley and Wall Street
You can imagine if a politician wants to be successful in California, he or she is probably going to put some effort into getting along with Silicon Valley. This is definitely true of Kamala Harris. Powell Jobs, the billionaire philanthropist and wife of the late Steve Jobs, tweeted “made a great choice!” in response to the Harris pick.
I could argue Kamala’s relationship with Big Tech could be one of the areas in which you could contrast her with someone like Elizabeth Warren. Given it’s well-known Elizabeth Warren expressed interest in breaking up tech giants, I don’t think I need to explain that any further.
Let’s be honest. What Wall Street executives say about a running mate matters. I’m not just referring to Michael Bloomberg’s recent glowing praise of Harris. Wall Street executives such as Marc Lasry, Blair Effron, Ray McGuire, Jon Henes, Mike Kempner, and Charles Myers are just a few names from the long list of executives who expressed their pleasure with the Biden pick.
In Closing … A Fundamental Question
It’s great to have a historic VP nominee, and it’s even better to have someone who gets so many nods of approval from so many sectors within our nation.
We can’t talk about Kamala, though, without asking a fundamental question:
Why are women and people of color underrepresented in U.S. politics?
Fortunately, a Visiting Law Professor currently at the University of Ottawa, Gina Bates recently published some very insightful research on this topic. Bates began her discussion with the fact women and people of color have been doing as well as their white male counterparts in recent elections, so, again, why the underrepresentation?
Bates’ research focused on something called the pre-primary period– the time when prospective candidates test the waters, decide to run, and establish their viability. This is the time, according to Bates, when strategic discrimination presents itself. Strategic discrimination occurs when an individual hesitates to support a candidate out of concern others will object to some aspect of the candidate’s identity. As part of her research, she conducts three survey experiments showing Americans consider White men more electable than equally qualified Black women, White women, and less significantly, Black men.
- Joe Biden picks Kamala Harris as his running mate. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/11/politics/biden-vp-pick/index.html. Last accessed: 8/15/2020.
- In Historic Pick, Joe Biden Taps Kamala Harris To Be His Running Mate. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/11/897427306/in-historic-pick-joe-biden-taps-kamala-harris-to-be-his-running-mate. Last accessed: 8/15/2020.
- Public defender: I worked with Kamala Harris. She was the most progressive DA in California. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2020/08/10/kamala-harris-progressive-pioneer-san-francisco-da-column/3334668001/. Last accessed: 8/15/2020.
- Wall Street executives are glad Joe Biden picked Kamala Harris to be his VP running mate. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/11/joe-biden-vp-pick-wall-street-executives-are-happy-about-kamala-harris.html. Last accessed: 8/15/2020.
- Kamala Harris More Liberal Than Bernie Sanders, Senate Record Analysis Shows. https://www.cnn.com/2020/08/11/politics/biden-vp-pick/index.html. Last accessed: 8/15/2020.
- Kamala Harris is the choice Joe Biden needed to win over Silicon Valley. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/8/11/21364027/kamala-harris-joe-biden-vice-president-silicon-valley-donors-tech. Last accessed: 8/15/2020.
- Biden’s Smart Pick for Vice President Tells Us a Lot. https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2020-08-12/mike-bloomberg-biden-is-smart-to-pick-harris-for-vice-president. Last accessed: 8/15/2020.
- Kamala Harris isn’t the first Black woman to run for VP. Meet Charlotta Bass. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/08/12/bass-kamala-first-black-vp/. Last accessed: 8/15/2020.
- Bateson, Regina, Strategic Discrimination (May 15, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3412626 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3412626