At the end of his prolonged vetting of running mates, Biden went with a choice that checks all the right boxes for him — Kamala Harris.
The California senator was always one of the front runners and the extended vetting period gave the Biden team plenty of time to digest her negatives and weigh them against her pluses. Progressives might not like her tenure as California attorney general, but more recently she has marched in the protests spurred by the killing of George Floyd and she has called for overhauling policing.
The Biden campaign in talking points released after the announcement also highlighted the friendship Harris shared with Biden’s late son Beau, the former attorney general of Delaware: “The two grew close while fighting to take on the banking industry. Through her friendship with Beau, she got to know Joe Biden. From hearing about Kamala from Beau, to seeing her fight for others directly, Joe has long been impressed by how tough Kamala is.”
While I think all the women under consideration by Biden have demonstrated over and over again how tough they are, it’s a quality that can’t be underestimated when facing the expected nasty onslaught from Trump & Co.
Harris, 55, makes history as the first Black and Asian woman on the presidential ticket of a major party. And with that breakthrough will come a breathtaking whirl of vitriol.
Leading feminists have been preparing for the expected onslaught of sexism and racism and are launching an initiative titled “We Have Her Back.” Ms. magazine says the group is “the brainchild of top feminist thinkers: Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center; Ilyse Hogue of NARAL; Valerie Jarrett, Alexis McGill Johnson and Melanie Newman of Planned Parenthood; Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families; Cecile Richards of Supermajority; Jess Morales of Rocketto; Hilary Rosen, Stephanie Shriock and Christina Reynolds of Emily’s List; and Tina Tchen of TimesUp.”
Days before Biden’s announcement, “We Have Her Back” sent a letter to editors, producers, and anchors citing the media’s history of disappointing coverage of women running for office. The letter urged the media do a better job this time, saying: “Women have been subject to stereotypes and tropes about qualifications, leadership, looks, relationships and experience. Those stereotypes are often amplified and weaponized for Black and Brown women. Attempts at legitimate investigations of a candidate have repeatedly turned into misguided stories that perpetuate impressions of women as inadequate leaders, and Black and Brown women as worse.”
Sexist coverage of women candidates is well documented. Too often, women candidates get dinged for being bossy, ambitious, aggressive and other terms that are deemed pejorative when applied to a woman but not to a man. They get called out for how they treat staff (Amy Klobuchar and the comb) and for talking crassly (Susan Rice) in ways that would not get into news stories about male candidates. Not to mention the coverage of how they dress.
As Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post wrote a few days before Biden announced his pick: “Memo to Joe Biden’s running-mate-to-be: Congratulations for standing on the cusp of history!
‘Now, get ready for an onslaught of online misogyny unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”
But I’m hoping for an equally strong onslaught by groups like “We Have Her Back” to call out sexist and racist coverage and create a backlash against the misogyny that has become far too common place since misogynist-in-chief Trump moved into the White House.
Whether Harris is your favorite our not, whether she’s not progressive enough for you or is too progressive, whether her background in California and in the U.S. Senate embraces your viewpoints or not, wouldn’t you rather see a Biden-Harris victory than four more years of Trump-Pence?