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Harris' selection illustrates the choice in 2020

Politics is about contrasts and choices. Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket well illustrates the contrasts and choices of the 2020 election.

It is an election about either clinging to a sentimental but disingenuous vision of the past or embracing change and working toward a better future, without feeling threatened by it. It is about settling for an America that has provided greater opportunity for some or seeking an America that provides opportunity for all.

President Donald Trump will once again have on his ticket Vice President Michael Pence. The former governor of Indiana is a proud conservative, but a leader in a Republican Party which, instead of trying to adapt and sell conservatism to a United States that is undergoing rapid demographic change, targets its message to an increasingly older and predominately white political base. The party is not unlike Indiana itself, both about 89% white.

Pence is part of an administration that has vilified immigrants with ugly rhetoric and uglier policies, separating families at the border and trying to strip dreamers — brought to the nation as children but otherwise law-abiding residents — of their dreams.

It is only “illegal immigrants” who are the problem, comes the retort. But when President Trump refers to not wanting people from s-hole countries, when he tells American-born members of Congress who are the children of immigrants, to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came,” all immigrants, and children of recent immigrants, get the hateful message.

Senator Harris of California is a child of immigrants; her mother emigrated from India, her father from Jamaica. Black and half Indian-American, she embodies the changing demographics and growing diversity of the country. She has moved from San Francisco district attorney, to attorney general of California to the office of U.S. senator.

She is ambitious. She is ready.

And the criticism she faced from the current president was predictable.

"She was very very nasty, to — one of the reasons that (pick) surprised me, she was very — she was probably nastier than even Pocahontas to Joe Biden,” said Trump of Harris’ selection, once again throwing in an ethnic slur to describe another senator, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. “She was very disrespectful to Joe Biden.”

Harris’ sins? Tough questioning of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing and going hard at Biden during the Democratic presidential debates. Biden got over it.

This is how old America, male-dominated America, sought to marginalize strong women with ambition. They were vicious, rude — the b-word.

That Trump would fail to recognize the irony in criticizing a woman vice presidential pick for being nasty and disrespectful in her approach shows that he is so comfortable with the old double-standard he doesn’t even see it.

While the symbolism is rich, the substance of the selection is informative of Biden’s thinking. In Harris, he selected a running mate that shares his center-left politics. A seasoned politician who directed an attorney general’s office in the nation’s largest state, Harris, 55, is well prepared to lead as president if necessary. That is an especially serious consideration given that Biden would be 78 when sworn into office. If elected, he could choose to serve but one term, and Harris would likely inherit frontrunner status to be his successor as Democratic nominee.

As a former prosecutor, Harris recognizes that laws must be enforced, and police are needed to do the enforcing. Neither Biden nor Harris will embrace any radical “defund police” approach but will work to see that policing is done fairly, impartially and within the law.

While Harris’ approach to health care policy was convoluted during her own brief run for the presidency, expect her to be a team player in pursuing Biden’s plans to expand and improve upon Obamacare in pursuing universal coverage, while developing a public option and allowing employer-based private insurance plans to continue to play a major role.

The growing progressive element of the Democratic Party may find the pick tepid, but it will help energize the Black vote and increase support from suburban woman. Hillary Clinton underperformed with both groups in 2016, contributing to Trump’s electoral college victory.

“I view myself as a transition candidate,” Biden said earlier in the campaign. With this pick, that time of transition moved closer to a future with a woman, perhaps a woman of color, in the White House.

 

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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