Radical? Inspirational? A token choice? What’s the truth about Kamala Harris?

In an effort to dent Biden’s popularity with African-American voters, Harris accused Biden of past opposition to ‘bussing’ – a policy introduced to racially integrate public schools.

“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bussed to school every day,” Harris said, before delivering the killer line: “That little girl was me.”

She later endorsed Biden for president, however, and though they might not be pals, it seems unlikely that Biden would pick someone with serious beef against him. That said, the public might take some convincing, and Republicans certainly won’t let it lie.

She will want a pro-environment campaign

Without doubt. We’re not talking Extinction Rebellion levels, but Harris’s policies and track record will add environmental weight to Biden’s campaign. As District Attorney in San Francisco, she formed an environmental justice unit aimed at investigating eco-crimes that affected low-income people. As Attorney General of California, she took on ExxonMobil and Chevron. She also refused donations from gas and oil companies when running for the presidential nomination. 

Her environmental policies in that race were centred around the Green New Deal and her pledge to see it passed, even if it meant getting rid of the filibuster to do so. 

“From wildfires in the West to hurricanes in the East, to floods and droughts in the heartland, we’re not gonna buy the lie,” she said when launching her campaign. “We’re gonna act based on science fact, not science fiction.”

In short, she has green credentials but isn’t seen as radical. The growing importance of eco issues with US voters could make putting her name on the ticket a smart move. 

She’s an historical choice

You can’t really argue with this. Only two women in US history have previously been appointed as presidential running mates by a major party – Geraldine Ferraro (D) in 1984 and Sarah Palin (R) in 2008 – and Harris is the first VP candidate from a minority background. So, firsts have been achieved, barriers broken and so on. Will her getting the job lead to the kind of social and political change that goes down in history? With her fairly middle-of-the-road views, that’s much more debatable. 

She’s an inspirational choice 

Again, it depends what Biden’s looking for.

If he’s looking for someone to upset the Republicans, then you could make the claim that she’s a smart choice. The stream of abuse since her appointment, much of it racial and misogynistic, and some of it coming from Trump, proves she’s feared on the right. Trump has even launched one of his false ‘birther’ conspiracies. The panic has set in, for sure, but was she the only running mate who could have achieved this effect? Maybe. Maybe not.

If we’re being literal, as the first woman of either black or South Asian heritage to get this far up the US political food chain (and only the fourth woman at all, when you include Hillary Clinton), then she could well inspire a lot of people who might find, or think of, themselves as marginalised. But that’s not Biden’s concern – he’s all about November.

However, if we’re talking about a radical, out-of-the-box, left-field, Trump-slaying masterstroke by Team Biden, then it’s a no. Her differences are mainly symbolic, which isn’t to belittle them, but dig deeper and you’ll find a solid centrist politician, albeit one with seemingly few skeletons in her closet (not that such things seem to be a barrier to success these days). 

This doesn’t make her a bad choice – she’s a very good operator who’s already battle-hardened after the nomination debates and clearly gets the Republican goat, and it’s arguable who else would have been better. But inspirational isn’t the word. She’s different but not that different. 

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