Joe Biden announced his choice for Vice-President in a historic ticket. He decided on California Senator Kamala Harris. Full disclosure, I was a tad surprised by this and expected Susan Rice. Why? There is a lot of foreign relations that need rebuilding after the new administration takes over. And yes, at this point I expect the Democrats to win. There are many reasons for that and will have a piece on this in the near future. The politics of this choice make sense, as well as relationships that matter a lot to the Biden’s.
Harris met Biden’s son Beau when both were Attorney Generals. Harris rose through California politics as first the City Attorney in San Francisco and then State Attorney General. Back in 2012, when I met her at the Party State Convention, she was already considered a rising star within the party. People were talking about her as a possible presidential candidate. That was the talk back then, and as a budding political reporter, I filed that in my mental notes.
That relationship with Beau means a lot to his father. Personal friendships matter a lot in the world of politics. This is usually ignored, but like everything else, this is social capital. She also crosses a few other boxes for the Vice-President pick. She is smart, she is also not just African-American (that is the way she has been introduced in California politics for many years). She also is both an Indian-American and a Jamaican-American. She is also the daughter of immigrants. These are a lot of boxes for the diverse base of the Democratic Party.
There are other boxes that Harris checks, and these are not making some progressives happy. She is a moderate within the party. I agree that this means she is to the right of progressives, but her selection is meant for the blue wall in the midwest. Whether people like it or not, that is the electorate that both gave the House to Democrats in 2018, but also the electorate that came out during the primaries. So it should be no surprise, once you think about it, that Harris checks that particular box.
In the age of Black Lives Matter, she is a former prosecutor. Her history in California will likely cost some votes, especially among young progressive California voters. They will not be enough to cost the state to Democrats. This is a deep blue state. But her history is a good thing for people in the Midwest growing nervous over protests, rising crime rates (and there is some reality to this), and other law and order matters. President Trump claims he is for law and order. Harris can point to her record. This is where progressives are not going to be too happy with her and some will sit out the election. Granted, some were probably going to sit it out anyway.
She is a centrist, with all that this means. In fact, a tad to the left of the current center. Meaning this kills some of the arguments from Trump that Biden is surrendering to the radical left, whatever that is. Realize, anybody who Is not Republican sees Democrats as far left, and radical at that. Because of Biden’s age, there is a chance that she will become president within the term. This is not unlike the vice-presidential choice in 1943 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose Harry Truman. This also goes for Donald Trump, who is also up there in years. So this year the vice-presidential choices are extremely consequential. We could be talking of either President Mike Pence or President Harris if either of the two presidential candidates should pass in the office. This happened last with FDR from a heart attack, and his choice in 1944 was very consequential for American history.
Who Will Like This Ticket
Many progressives don’t like this. I understand. Harris is a Center-left politician if I am to be kind. The Democratic Party is still led by the Neoliberal wing of the party. There is a new generation of progressive politicians running the old guard out of Congress, but the realignment will take time. They are also taking over city councils and statehouses. Taking the presidency without this hard work would mean little real progress. Congress has a lot of power to determine what happens at a policy level, which many people don’t understand. So yes, a few progressives are mopping. As I have told a few, if in the midst of this crisis if they still don’t get it, they never will. The current presidency is not just bad for the country. It is downright toxic. This ticket is attractive to the same electorate that gave the House to Democrats. This is the same electorate that will ultimately decide the general election. Why? It’s the electoral college, which gives a lot of power to voters in ten states. You could even argue, this is too much power.
But the primaries! Yes, there were issues with the primaries. However, there is another problem. You want a more progressive candidate, you need to vote. We know from surveys that the young are the most progressive generation in recent history, but they also don’t vote. This is not new. For many reasons Americans generally speaking, don’t vote until they are thirty years old on a regular basis. There are some exceptions to this rule. For example active duty military votes in much larger numbers. So do military dependents.
Do you know who votes regularly? Older Americans vote and their interests are different than those of the progressive youth. Even if they are more progressive, they tend to care about social security and medical issues. There is some crossover with younger progressives, but student debt and the cost of housing tend not to dominate the politics of older Americans. So the electorate that actually shows up will trend more towards the modern center of the political system. Granted, this center is far to the right on an international standard. And this is doubly so in the rust belt, where workers have lost a lot and were attracted to a populist who promised to make all good.
The suburbs in the Midwest, and south, gave the House to Democrats in 2018. This is precisely the voting block that matters in 2020. It does not matter if California and New York, and other coasts give Democrats the popular vote. This ticket will be attractive to people that live in more conservative purple states. Progressives who live away from these areas of the country need to figure out how to make progressive politics attractive and they were at some point. Wisconsin was once at the forefront of progressive politics, for example.