In March 2018, during a hearing on Capitol Hill, Senator Kamala Harris repeatedly and bluntly asked then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions if he had met with Russian businessmen during the 2016 presidential campaign. Several evasions, Sessions raised his voice and said, almost pleading, “I can’t accelerate that fast, it makes me nervous.”
A few months later, Harris interrogated aspiring Supreme Justice Brett Kavanaugh in the same style: a single short, direct question, interrupting the questioner who rambled on without answering. Kavanaugh ended up losing his temper at that hearing, screaming and crying.RELATED
In one of the first debates of the Democratic primary came the most successful moment of Harris’s failed presidential campaign: when he cornered Joe Biden for praising racist senators and for opposing the practice of bringing schoolchildren from across the country. poorer neighborhoods to richer neighborhoods to integrate the schools, which even after it was illegal were still segregated by race. Harris studied in her college’s second integrated class, and she rode the bus every morning to a neighborhood that was richer and whiter than hers. “I don’t think you’re racist, but …” he told Biden in that debate. Biden, after suffering in response, ended up giving up his turn: “My time is up.”
For most of his career, Harris has been a prosecutor, first for San Francisco and then for the entire state of California. She was the first woman elected as attorney general. Frequent interrogations in the United States Senate from ongoing investigations and hearings have made her famous and shaped her image since she was elected in 2016. She is now the only black senator and the second in the entire history of the country.
Harris comes to the front lines with an image of a combative woman still rare in US politics, a country where a decade ago Michelle Obama was caricatured as “an angry black woman” and where Hillary Clinton constantly struggled to soften her image (one of the moments that helped her in the 2008 Democratic primaries that she ended up losing was when tears came to her in an electoral act).
“It is difficult to know how much things have changed,” explains Kelly Dittmar, professor of Politics at Rutgers University and director of research at the Center for American Women and Politics, which makes the most complete follow-up of the candidates in the country. “Some voters will reject her ambition or consider her tone threatening even though it really isn’t… especially because of the stereotypes that exist about black women in America. What may be important this year is that there are more commentators, journalists and activists willing to react against sexism and racism ”.
The first thing Donald Trump said when he learned of Harris’s election as vice president was that the senator was “nasty”(“ Cruel ”or“ unpleasant ”) with Judge Kavanaugh. But in the Republican campaign there was concern about the new force in Biden’s campaign against Trump and against Vice President Mike Pence, whom Harris faced in the only debate of the vice presidential hopefuls, on October 7 at the University of Utah.
Harris, 56, has the strength and freshness that neither his running mate, who is 77 years old and has been in Washington for four decades, nor his rivals have.
In some respects, Harris resembles Barack Obama, with whom he has had a close relationship since he ran for the Senate in 2004. One of the things they have in common is a more multicultural and international personal experience than most of their colleagues in Washington.
Harris was born in Oakland, Northern California, to immigrant parents, college professors. In the 1950s, her father emigrated from Jamaica and her mother from South India, and they met as students at Berkeley. Her mother, Shyamala Gopalan, was the one who raised her two daughters, Kamala and Maya, almost alone, after divorcing when they were young, and became a renowned breast cancer researcher. All three also lived in Montreal, Canada, because of the doctor’s work in a hospital there.
Like Obama, Harris has a more complex racial identity than other African-Americans: His mother was Indian, although in the 1960s there was little subtlety in California and she was considered black. Harris now defines it as “brown”(“ Brown, ”the adjective often used in the United States to include Latinos, Asians, and others of various backgrounds within the country’s complex racial diversity).
Kamala was educated in colleges where most of the students were white until she went to Howard University in Washington, which was born like others. college to host African-American students. During her career, she has also heard comments that she is not “black enough,” as Obama was. During his presidential campaign, a rapper said that African-Americans would never vote for her and even attacked her for being married to “a rich white lawyer,” Doug Emhoff.
That complex racial identity did not prevent his family from suffering discrimination in California in the 1960s and 70s, then a very conservative state. Harris recalls how his mother’s “strong accent” was laughed at or identified with less intelligence in his community, and how strangers assumed his mother was the cleaner rather th an the university professor.
Shyamala, who died in 2009 and has been his point of reference, taught him that “the fact that something is difficult is not an acceptable excuse,” according to Harris in The Truths We Hold, his autobiography / campaign book. The family was integrated hand in hand with civil rights activism. One of the places Harris cites about his childhood is Rainbow Sign, a black cultural center in Berkeley from the 70s where he remembers the impact that singer Nina Simone had on him.
Even today Harris is used to explaining her own name (it is pronounced “KÁM-ala” or, as she says, “like the punctuation mark” in English, it is very common in India and means “lotus flower”). She’s also used to it being a cause for mistrust: A few hours after Biden’s announcement, a Fox News host, Tucker Carlson, scoffed at his name when a talkative on his show asked him to make an effort to pronounce it right.
When asked what it’s like to be “first”, Harris tends to joke that she is “the first ‘fill-in-the-space'” in various categories and replies that “a man” could do his job too. If elected, she would be the first vice president of the United States. Also the first Indian-American person to hold the position. Her husband would also be America’s first “second gentleman”.
Professor Dittmar talks about “identities” of Harris, who has “unique experiences”, different from other African-American or Asian-American people. “This is going to help to have a more subtle view on racial identities,” he says. “Her own experience as the daughter of immigrants adds value to the campaign.”
Mark Hugo López, director of global migration and demography at the Pew polling center, also explains to elDiario.es that the fact that Harris has the immigrant experience can connect in particular with Latino voters, as “children of immigrants” within the challenge They have campaigns to mobilize new voters in particular.
The trump card for the Democrats may be Hispanic women. “Latinas go to the polls more than Latinos,” he says.
What they have noticed in Pew is that Hispanic voters were less interested and informed by the Democratic primary than the rest of the population. In the 2018 legislative elections, they voted more than ever, almost at the level of a presidential one. According to Pew’s estimate, 32 million Latinos will be able to vote on November 3, more than any other minority in the country, but in 2016 fewer than half went to the polls.
Pew data indicates that the majority of Latinos will vote for Biden and 30% will vote for Trump. There is a gap between men, more Republicans, and women, more Democrats, and that gap is getting longer.
López also recalls that in 2016 Democrats lost in part because black participation declined, particularly in key suburbs. Mobilization has not been the same since the Obama campaign in 2008 and 2012, and it remains to be seen whether Biden and Harris will resurrect that enthusiasm.
Beyond his personal history, what Harris also has in common with Obama is his restraint and his political pragmatism. Like Biden, Harris identifies more with the center of the party. On some issues it has shifted its positions to the left under the influence of politicians like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, but it does not aspire to revolution. “I am not trying to restructure society. I’m just trying to attend to the issues that wake people up in the middle of the night, ”he said. in an interview in the New York Times during his campaign in the primaries.
As a California prosecutor from 2011 to 2017, he harshly prosecuted crimes that have led to the mass incarceration of black men or defended their children’s absences from school as parental fault. One of her worst moments in the primary debates was when she was unable to defend why she had been so harsh in punishing marijuana possession with jail terms.
Your gender may attract more female voters, the most Trump-reluctant of all ages and races. But it can also alienate other voters. 35% of voters believe that a man is better at managing national security matters, according to Pew.
Another poll It showed during the primary campaign that more than 20% of Democratic voters believed that a woman had a harder time beating Trump.
Harris is used to what it means to be a woman in public office and to being commented on about her looks or relationships. Her friend Obama said at a public event in 2013 that she was “the most beautiful attorney general” in the United States and encouraged the audience to cheer her on it (then called her to apologize). Harris continues to defend himself against the idea that he thrived on his brief love affair in the 1990s with Willie Brown, a powerful San Francisco mayor who was a mentor to many candidates, including the current governor of California.
Sarah Palin, the Republican who ran for vice president in 2008, is now advising Harris not to let Biden’s campaign “drown out” her or build her image, and to connect with voters and journalists in her own way: “Remember that they have chosen you for who you are ”, he advises.
Harris will be the number two of a president who will take office at the age of 78 and who will be 81 when it comes to running for re-election. Therefore, Harris is already the future of the Democratic party and a natural candidate for president in 2024 or 2028. In 2016, a few days after Trump’s election, Harris was one of the people Obama cited as a good candidate for the elections. 2020.
This summer, during the selection process for aspiring vice applicants, several people around Biden suggested she was “too ambitious” for the position. Biden’s campaign manager replied in public that “ambitious women make history, change the world and win.”