Wave Staff and Wire Report
WILMINGTON, Delaware — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden joined vice-presidential running mate Kamala Harris on the campaign stage Aug. 12, reflecting in large part on the significance of selecting Harris as the first Black woman to be named to a major party presidential ticket.
Clad in a face mask and remaining socially distant, Biden positioned Harris as a historic vice-presidential candidate whose racial and ethnic background as a child of Jamaican and Indian immigrants mirrors the ever-increasing diversity of America.
“Her story is America’s story,” Biden said as he introduced Harris, a U.S. senator from California. “And this morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up, especially little Black and brown girls who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities.”
“But today, today just maybe they’re seeing themselves for the first time in a new way: as the stuff of president and vice presidents.”
Harris, a former presidential candidate herself, accepted Biden’s sentiments graciously, pausing early in her speech to thank the generations of people who paved the way for her unprecedented candidacy.
“I am so proud to stand with you,” Harris told Biden, “and I do so mindful of all the heroic and ambitious women before me whose sacrifice, determination and resilience makes my presence here today even possible.”
“This is a moment of real consequence for America. Everything we care about — our economy, our health, our children, the kind of country we live in, really — it’s all on the line,” she added. “I’m ready to get to work.”
Biden’s announcement Aug. 11 that he’d selected Harris as his vice-presidential running mate drew swift reaction — predictably positive from Democrats; critical from Republicans — from observers from across the political spectrum.
Former President Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black president, said Biden’s selection of Harris was inspired.
“I’ve known Sen. Kamala Harris for a long time. She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake,” Obama said in a statement.
“Joe Biden nailed this decision. By choosing Senator Kamala Harris as America’s next vice president, he’s underscored his own judgment and character,” Obama said. “This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing.”
Conversely, President Donald Trump tweeted a campaign ad following the announcement, painting Harris as part of the “radical left.”
“Biden calls himself a transition candidate,” the ad said. “He is handing over the reins to Kamala while they jointly embrace the radical left. Slow Joe and phony Kamala. Perfect together. Wrong for America.”
Trump also criticized Harris during a press briefing after the announcement, painting her as hostile to gun rights and friendly to criminal illegal immigrants. “I would have thought he would have gone a different way,” he said of Biden.
Biden’s selection makes Harris the first Black person and first person of Indian descent in America to appear on a major-party presidential ticket (several African-Americans have been nominated for president and vice president on smaller party tickets). If elected, she also would be the nation’s first female vice president.
Biden, former vice president under Obama, had promised to pick a woman as his No. 2 and was under pressure to select a woman of color amid racial unrest that has metastasized into rioting in several U.S. states.
Harris first ran for office in 2003, defeating an incumbent district attorney in San Francisco after accusing him of not sufficiently addressing a crime increase. She ran for California attorney general six years later, narrowly beating Republican Steve Cooley, a popular district attorney from Los Angeles.
She won her first U.S. Senate race in 2016, becoming the first person of Indian American descent to serve in the Senate and the nation’s second black female senator, (following Carol Moseley Braun, D-Illinois).
While Biden and Harris were warm and congenial Aug. 12, the relationship hasn’t always been as cozy. Harris confronted Biden during the first Democratic primary debate in June 2019 about his record on race. She also attacked him for promoting his work with segregationists during his Senate career and for opposing federally mandated busing in the 1960s and 1970s.
But she couldn’t hang on to the momentum, ending her presidential campaign in December. She endorsed Biden following his commanding Super Tuesday performance.
Before selecting Harris, Biden also considered nominating Obama’s former national security adviser Susan Rice, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth, California Rep. Karen Bass and Florida Rep. Val Demings.
Following Biden’s announcement, Rice said in statement: “Senator Harris is a tenacious and trailblazing leader who will make a great partner on the campaign trail. I look forward to supporting the Biden-Harris ticket will all my energy and commitment.”
Bass also praised Harris. “Her tenacious pursuit of justice and relentless advocacy for the people is what is needed right now,” she said.
Biden and Harris will formally accept their nomination at the virtual Democratic National Convention on Aug. 17-20.