Did Joe Biden Pick the Right Vice President?
This decision has a complicated influence on the election — and there’s no turning back
Today, Joe Biden, the presidential candidate and nominee for the Democratic Party, picked his running mate — California Senator Kamala Harris.
Americans have been waiting for weeks — even months — for Joe Biden to announce his Vice President, so this was a crucial milestone in his campaign. Democrats and Biden supporters had various preferences for the VP pick. Some favored Susan Rice. Some crossed their fingers for Kamala Harris. Some hoped for Stacey Abrams. Others may have wanted another politician entirely.
But now that the decision is made and Harris is officially Biden’s running mate, the question lingers: did he make the right choice?
Well, there are multiple answers to this question. So let’s break it down.
Harris will make a fantastic Vice President in many ways. Here are her pros.
1. She is very principled and holds people accountable.
Harris has a history of holding people accountable for their actions and for being very principled and responsible. She was previously the Attorney General of California, and her background in law has obviously fared well for her. She is intelligent, quick-thinking, and confident, which goes a long way in a politician. Don’t believe me? Watch her challenge Brett Kavanaugh (the SCOTUS judge accused of sexual assault) in his court hearing. This skill will take her far, and as a country, we will reap the benefits. Harris will hold Biden accountable for the promises he is making to the American people and the policy changes he plans to enact. This will also be particularly helpful in the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic — Harris’ commitment and diligence will benefit us in her approach to coping with the coronavirus. She will not let us down.
2. She is committed to diversity, equity, and human rights.
Harris’ background and upbringing, as she has expressed, have had a huge role in shaping her beliefs about equity and rights. Harris is the child of two immigrants, and grew up middle-class. She often describes on social media and in interviews how these experiences have influenced her passion for diversity and balanced representation in the legal and political system. This is a particularly good quality — it’s no secret that American politics (and really, life) has a history of being racist, white-centric, and classist. Harris is the type of politician who will be active in confronting these deep-rooted issues to make positive change. She is also committed to other issues, like LGBTQ equality and ending the immigration crisis, that will advance human rights and equality and seek to undo Trump’s damage (yay!).
3. She recognizes the role that politics and economics have in systemic racism.
On Harris’ website (which was previously her campaign website, though now it is written within the lens of being Biden’s running mate), she has a whole section dedicated to “advancing racial equity in the new economy.” In the description, she basically details the role that politics and economics have in systemic racism. Clearly, she understands that this country is built for white people’s success (and especially rich white people) and that the inequities that persist among us are the result of an oppressive, corrupt system. This is a plus — we are in dire need of a VP who will recognize systemic racism for what it is, and actively work to combat it. Many American politicians in the past have either denied or doubted the existence of systemic racism, or they have chosen to ignore it without making it a priority. This needs to change.
4. She believes and supports survivors — including Tara Reade.
Harris has had a history of condemning sexual assault, rape, sexism, and misogyny in general. In her exchange with Brett Kavanaugh at his sexual assault hearing, she was very strategic and firm about her feelings towards him (and clearly believed Dr. Blasey-Ford). Even when Joe Biden was selected as the presidential nominee for the Democratic Party and Tara Reade came out with her allegations against him, Harris stated that Reade “has a right to tell her story.” Weeks before, when other women came out with sexual misconduct allegations against Biden, Harris is also quoted as saying, “I believe them.” This means that she is not supporting Joe Biden at survivors’ expenses. Yes, it seems a bit counterintuitive and convoluted that she is his running mate, despite “supporting” survivors and advocating for them. However, Harris has distinctly confirmed that she believes survivors, and did not change her narrative to capitalize on the possibility of being Biden’s VP. It’s not a perfect situation, but as a survivor myself, I have faith in her.
5. She is more progressive than Biden.
Harris’ campaign was significantly more progressive than Biden’s, although the two do tend to agree on a majority of big issues. However, I like that Harris is progressive. It means that she is in a place to influence Biden’s policies in a positive way that can work towards reforming the American political, economic, and social system. And what if something happens to Biden? Harris is intelligent, well-spoken, and decisive on all of the progressive agendas that she supports. We’ll be in great hands (in that respect) if she has the chance to step into presidential leadership.
6. She is passionate about education — which is great for a whole list of reasons!
Harris’ campaign earlier this year was hugely focused on education. For one, Harris wants to decrease student loan debt and increase the amount of young people who have the resources and ability to attend college. The student loan debt crisis is gigantic, and Harris’ commitment to address this was comforting and hopeful. And even aside of college education, Harris has always been outspoken about her respect for teachers and American public schools. With the pandemic changing the format of learning and the structuring of school systems, and with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos threatening to defund public schools and further destroy them, we need someone in office who will care and appreciate public schools and dedicate our resources to supporting them — and that’s Harris! As a senator and as a former presidential candidate, Harris also spoke out about her intentions to increase teacher salaries and benefits (which is long overdue for teachers in this country). Another plus!
Harris does have her criticisms and flaws, though. Let’s look at some of her cons.
1. Harris has historically supported tough-on-crime policies in her past as a prosecutor (aka, she was against prison reform).
This is a pretty big one. Harris used to be a prosecutor in the state of California (a district attorney for years) and in her role as a prosecutor, her beliefs about crime were extreme. Harris usually favored tough-on-crime policies like mandatory sentencing, long sentences, harsh conditions for prisoners, etc. This has definitely been a conflict for some members of the Democratic Party — specifically those who lean very far to the left or identify as being very progressive — because prison reform has lately become more of a focus for liberals, especially with systemic racism informing many of the stark disparities we see in criminal convictions and the demographic numbers of people in prison. Although Harris has tried to somewhat backtrack her past in tough-on-crime policies, many people are still doubtful of her competency and character in respect to this issue.
2. Harris (and Biden) doesn’t always “do the math,” per se.
While Harris has many amazing aspirations as a politician, she doesn’t always have a plan for achieving these goals. For instance, on her and Biden’s campaign website (which was previously hers when she was running for president individually), most of the issues they explore are important and well-organized — however, they don’t give details for how they will implement these changes. Harris and Biden discuss protecting the Affordable Care Act, universal healthcare, decreasing costs of medical care, student loan forgiveness, making college free, prioritizing public schools, confronting the COVID-19 crisis, building a more equitable economy, et cetera. However, there is hardly enough calculation and planning to support these goals. They talk a lot about how they are going to extend support to the people that need it, though they don’t go in depth about where they will get this money (will it come from raising taxes, cutting military budget, a wealth tax, or what?). I mean, don’t get me wrong, I support all of these issues and I’d love to see them succeed. But in order to make that happen, there needs to be a solid plan for how to come up with the money and safely dedicate it to these issues.
3. Harris’ progressive beliefs may not align with the moderates and the independents.
Since Harris is more progressive than Biden, this may change the trend of Biden’s supporters. I absolutely love Harris’ dedication to political, social, and economic issues and I think she’ll be a fantastic VP — but I’m also a liberal democrat and progressive. Since this election is so crucial to the future of the United States and preventing further damage to our nation, though, we want to be uniting as a party. Can Kamala Harris unite us? Can we put our differences aside and realize that she wants the best for Americans, too? I guess that’s for us to decide. She is from California, one of the bluest of the blue states, and she’s very progressive, unlike other politicians (like Stacey Abrams, Susan Rice, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg) who appealed more to moderates, independents, and even Republicans who were choosing not to vote for Trump. The bottom line is, we cannot afford for our party to be divided at this point in time if we are expecting a victory in this election, which is why Harris’ position on the political spectrum may be a downside.
So there you have it — Joe Biden’s Vice President pick, broken down into pros and cons. I can be sure that a lot of issues were missed; politics is complicated, and there isn’t enough space or time to articulate every single issue, positive or negative, in one article. Every American also comes from a different background, and depending on the person, some issues are more important than others. But this is a big decision, and it’s worth a discussion — and a fair amount of thought — to process how Biden’s VP choice will impact the democratic party and the election in general.
So what’s the verdict?
Well, that’s for everyone to decide for themselves. I’m biased, but as a liberal myself, I believe it’s in all of our best interest to get behind the Democratic party right now if we want to have any chance at defeating Trump, whether we’re 100% supportive of Kamala Harris or not. For the record, though, I think she’ll make an amazing president. She has shown a lot of promise as a politician, and if she continues to galvanize the public with her confidence and passion, our party can go far in accomplishing our goals and deconstructing the damage that has been done during these last four years — and even long before Trump. (I’d hope that she grows in the prison reform area, though.) Harris also has a good relationship with Biden and has always been vocal about supporting him as the nominee and ensuring that we won’t have to endure another 4 years of Trump’s America. She is also assertive, self-assured, and goal-oriented, which will also fare well for the party.
Even for those who haven’t previously been fans of Harris, it’s important to remember that no politician is perfect, but that despite the flaws, now is the time to unite in the pursuit of equity, success, safety, and health for everyone in the United States.
And at the end of the day, we’re in need of radical change and reform in this country. Obviously, Trump’s America has created a drastic amount of suffering, damage, and destruction, but the issues we grapple with are also deeper than Trump himself. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, misogyny, classism, student debt, underfunded education, climate change, gun violence, healthcare, and more are deep-seated issues that have been running rampant since the dawn of the United States, and change is long overdue. This election will be vital in determining whether we’re close to taking the necessary steps toward that change.