Yesterday, the presumptive democratic nominee for US President – and official Trump nemesis – Joe “Our Last Hope” Biden, announced Kamala Harris as his vice presidential candidate.
The internet exploded, the slogan #yesweKam was born (thanks Kerry Washington), and a surge of hopeful momentum was ignited.
It was an historic moment. Kamala becomes the first ever woman of colour on a presidential ticket, a moment made even more profound in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, and a renewed focus on racial justice which the incumbent president has so far failed to adequately address. (Which is putting it mildly).
So, whilst we celebrate this seminal moment; here’s everything you need to know about the potential vice president of America: Kamala Harris.
Kamala Harris, 55, was born in Oakland California in 1964 and is the daughter of two immigrant academics, an Indian-American mother and a father from Jamaica. She attended Howard University and pursued a career in criminal justice before becoming only the second Black woman ever elected to the Senate.
She lives in California with her husband, lawyer Douglas Emhoff and, whilst the couple have no children of their own, she is stepmother to his two children from a previous marriage. She says she is called “Momala.”
She has often drawn on her background when making impassioned speeches, highlighting her personal investment in racial and social justice. In a heated debate with Biden himself- her now running mate- she challenged him on his association with segregationists in the senate and spoke up about a little black girl who was in only the second class to be racially integrated in her school. “That little girl was me,” she said.
Becoming the first woman of colour to be picked as a VP, is hardly big news for Kamala. This isn’t the first time she’s made history or broken boundaries.
She was the first woman of colour – first woman at all – to become district attorney of San Francisco, and later Attorney General of California.
“I wanted to become a prosecutor,” she has said, “because I believed there were vulnerable and voiceless people who deserved to have a voice in that system.”
In 2016, she was elected the first African American senator of California, becoming only the second Black woman ever selected to the Senate. But as she said herself “My mother had a saying: ‘You may be the first to do many things, just make sure you’re not the last.’”
The No BS Senator
Kamala serves on four senate committees and is an incredibly vocal and active political figure. She came to attention largely because of her strong, unabashed questioning. Her legal prowess aiding her in becoming the no BS senator, who has taken down many a politician with her steely gaze and unrelenting interrogation.
She famously grilled controversial Supreme Judge candidate Brett Kavanaugh on abortion, asking him if he knew of any laws “that the government has power to make over the male body?” He was unable to answer the question.
Kamala announced her candidacy on Martin Luther King Day in 2019, paying homage to Shirley Chisholm, the first Black candidate to seek a major party’s nomination.
She was briefly a frontrunner and garnered praise for her sleek and erudite debate performances, as well as her bankable wit and personality. She even, rather ironically, tussled with Biden at many of these debates, and presented herself politically as somewhere between the two leading candidates- the uber-progressive Bernie Sanders and the more moderate centrist, Joe Biden.
Unfortunately, she was forced to withdraw from the race in late 2019 citing lack of funds. She endorsed Joe Biden in March and almost immediately became a frontrunner for his VP pick.
Queen of the clapback
One of the most exhilarating aspects of Kamala’s own run for the White House, was her rapport with Trump. Her quick-talking wit and no-fools-suffered demeanour was the perfect foil for the current president, and many were enthused at the prospect of a Trump vs Harris debate.
Whilst that never happened in any formal capacity; the two have been sparring in the media and on twitter (where else?) for years. She has called his border wall “a vanity project” and compared him to the hapless man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz; “you know, the really small dude?” Shortly after the VP pick was announced, Trump’s team released an attack advert, calling her “phony Kamala.”
When she bowed out of the race at the end of 2019, Trump tweeted sarcastically “Too bad. We will miss you Kamala.” HRH Kamala Queen of the clapback simply retorted; “Don’t worry Mr President, I’ll see you at your trial.” #burn.
What to expect from Vice President Kamala
Kamala has been a vocal feminist; taking aim at the gender pay gap and has been extremely passionate about being pro-choice. She is pro gun control, affordable health care and is a climate change advocate- partnering with everyone’s favourite Congresswoman, the notorious AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) on environmental legislation.
But her key policies have been criminal justice reform and racial justice. Part of her presidential manifesto included measures to “stand up for Black America” which included an end to mass incarceration and helping students from historically black colleges to be debt free. After the killing of George Floyd, Kamala returned to the senate with a revitalised fervour and an eloquence and passion that was electric.
“The fact is, black Americans want to stop being killed,” she said, in one matter-of-fact speech which typified her direct candour. She introduced police accountability legislation known as the Justice in Policing Act earlier this summer and tried to make lynching a federal crime though she has faced criticism from more progressive circles on her record as a prosecutor. During this time she increased cash bails for certain crimes and refused to investigate certain police shootings as recently as 2014-decisions which directly negatively impacted many African Americans.
Though she may be quick with a clapback and a putdown, Kamala is not a fan of slogans over policy, saying she would rather something was “relevant” than a “sonnet.” Her views may be progressive, but she’s far from radical. “I’m not trying to restructure society,” Ms. Harris said last summer in an interview with The New York Times. “I’m just trying to take care of the issues that wake people up in the middle of the night.” In fact, though she has marched this summer, she prefers actual legislative change to placards and protest: “When we want to reform systems, it shouldn’t and it can’t only be from the outside on bended knee or trying to break down the door,” she has said.
Joe Biden was extremely thoughtful and vocal about the importance of picking the right vice president. After all, he is the first presidential candidate in 20 years to choose a running mate after serving as the vice president himself, under Obama.
He said the the most significant part of picking the right candidate was the fact that they should be able to step up to the top job- President- in case of emergency.
The fact is, if Biden wins in November, he will become the oldest president ever to hold office. Many assume that, should he be elected, he would be unlikely to select a second term (he would be 82!) which leaves the door open for Kamala.
Could we be looking at a Kamala 2024 candidacy? Let’s get through November first….