What Harris really brings to the table
I’ve had my eye on Kamala Harris for some time.
On Dec. 3, 2019, in a column I didn’t end up finishing, I wrote just that. At that time, I realized that I had been keeping tabs on Harris, a Democratic U.S. Senator from California, since the Senate Judiciary Committee held its confirmation hearings for future Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh the previous year.
At those hearings, she was expressive without being over-the-top. She was thoughtful without being too rehearsed. She was dialed in and buttoned up. I am sure there are plenty of people who will say things like, “She’s always been that way,” and “It’s just her nature.” Those things may be true, but it takes something special to pull off nuances like them on a big stage in front of people who both love you and hate you.
She did it again, if you remember, during the June 2019 Democratic presidential debate in Miami when she addressed former Vice President Joe Biden, the man who could end up being her running mate. At that time, she recounted a story of a little girl who was bused to a white school in Berkley, California, in the 1970s as part of that city’s efforts to desegregate schools. It ended with a stunning-slash-epic mic drop line: “And that little girl was me.”
What do I like most about the fact that Harris, after verbally body slamming Biden during a nationally televised debate, is now among the top tier of Democrats being discussed as his running mate? Exactly that.
Harris is a 55-year-old Black woman -- the daughter of a Indian mother and a Jamaican father -- and that carries a lot of pull for a ticket headlined by a 77-year-old white man. Harris as a vice presidential candidate could go a long way in helping Democrats’ efforts to harness the intense national energy focused on ending police brutality, economic inequality and systemic racism.
But Biden has a number of incredibly thoughtful and well credentialed women of color he could ask to be this country’s third ever female vice presidential candidate. Choosing Harris, I think, says the most about the type of leadership this country would have starting in 2021 if Biden is elected. Why? Well, I think it shows that Biden is willing to bring into his orbit those with different life experiences, those with varied perspectives and those willing to speak up to disagree.
We’ve seen the disaster of a White House filled with “yes men” and “yes women.” Such an environment leaves no oxygen for the life needed to see different angles, alternative outcomes and even possible solutions. We need all those things, particularly now, as we continue to navigate a world with Covid-19. With a devastating and easily transmissible virus, we need a wide world view leading our government to figure out the best way to avoid further damage to the economy and set up a plan that educates our kids without endangering their health.
Instead of a room filled with people who look the same and got there in very similar fashion, voices from those who have lived the laws and policies of this country -- so
meone who can speak to the experience of desegregation instead of just the concept -- is going to be absolutely critical as we continue to wrestle with the massive reckoning facing us on everything from social unrest to devastating health disparities to economic uncertainty.
Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd named Max. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, publishes periodically. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.