Terry H. Schwadron
Aug. 13, 2020
Welcome to Kamala Harris — and to the Republican backlash, right on cue.
Give the Joe Biden campaign its props for coming up with a decision that seems to be sparking actual interest in its bid rather than simply to vote out the Donald Trump team. Clearly, the choice sets a notable commitment to diversity of several sorts, and Harris immediately seems to be creating new interest in the election.
At their coming-out announcement, Biden heeded my unspoken advice that he would acknowledge that he had been blessed with a rich set of choices — though he stopped short of saying that upon election, a new administration would be looking to more among the finalists as Cabinet or senior advisory roles.
We should be celebrating something other than the obvious racial and gender breakthrough here: We should delight in the fact that as a country, we have a real choice before us in this election, even if there are policy dents in any of the candidates.
The election is more than a referendum on Trump, of course. There is an alternative direction pending for an America that has been tipped too much towards the rich over the 99 percent, business over workers, white security over minority expectations and isolationist citizenship over a clearer view of immigration.
But even within moments of any initial gush over Kamala Harris, there was the shape of the opposition, at once racial, personal and misogynistic: Harris is a “phony” and too “nasty,” said Donald Trump, his go-to phrase for women who criticize, and said the decision wrongly omitted men. And he, Mike Pence, and other Republicans, mistakenly pasted on her an “ultra-leftist” label. Other Republicans called her out for undercutting Biden.
Other Trump sympathizers disgustingly made their comments more direct in terms of race and gender. Biden, anticipating it, called for all of us to reject that nonsense.
It does make you wonder whom Trump would have found other than leftist? Elizabeth Warren? Susan Rice? Karen Bass?
A Welcome Choice
Harris is a welcome choice, not just because she is smart and ready to challenge all comers and yet personally charming, not just because she is a good political choice (the line most heard among television commentators), but also because she could be president. She could govern, as part of a Biden team, or to replace Biden if something were to happen over four years to the oldest candidate for the presidency.
What I like about Harris is that she prepares, she takes in information, can process it and come up with a reasoned set of thinking delivered straightforwardly — even if we might not agree fully with the results. That alone would make this election, and this choice, more interesting.
Indeed, contrary to Republican attacks, Harris has often been criticized at various stages in her career for being too cautious and deliberate, and now, from progressives who see problems in her stints as prosecutor and California attorney general.
Her selection seems to be the result of just such a researched and nuanced process. It is worthy of mention, because that, after all, is what we really want in a government — an intelligent bunch of people who have informed themselves and come to decisions based on fact, influenced by diverse thought and shared values.
If there is any hope for bridging the enormous values gaps in our American society, it will have to be on the basis of shared fact-gathering and sharp, practical thought. That may be beyond us at this point, since partisans are too fixated on winning to care about how the case is made.
I want government policies that actually address what they are aimed at hitting, and a realistic outlook from leadership positions. What we suffer now is not only an egoistic Donald Trump personality, but a view of government that treats that personality like the sun itself around which all must orbit and support unthinkingly.
Team of Rival(s)
Yes, Kamala Harris jumped on Biden at that debate — with a good point that has prompted Biden and many others to reconsider the central place of race in our culture. Biden’s choice shows us that he can learn and adjust; Trump cannot.
So, it follows that Biden may well be able, for a time at least, prove to be better equipped to address the enormous tasks of researching and understanding ways out of the various messes in which we find ourselves. I don’t know if any of the questions these vice — presidential candidates were asked involved their ability to handle the traffic-routing duties that will be necessary to ensure that we can simultaneously handle pandemic, a collapsed economy, joblessness, racial discord, world isolation and an aggressive set of international foes.
I look forward to seeing how a Biden Cabinet would line up next to the Trump team, which has proved repeatedly and consistently to be as anti-government, anti-regulation, market-driven and politically minded as can be imagined.
Let’s not put too much on the selection of Kamala Harris for this one slot. We need a government of many more good thinkers organized into a team.