Bottoms was my top pick! I like the fact that she was quite green and authentic. I also felt more passion from her on the issue of race in America than her more scripted former co-contender, Kamala Harris. Nevertheless, the race is set, and it’s just left to be seen who reaches the line first in November.
Those of you who read often would know that I have long since been conflicted about women in these positions of firsts. Some people believe that the optics of it makes for self-esteem markers for future generations and general forward movement for women. While I am not going to pretend that imagery and position can be trivialized, I think I have been in the woman struggle enough to feel as though a woman for a woman’s sake gets us nowhere.
Having stated that as my broad philosophy, I am by no means stating that Kamala Harris is a woman for a woman’s sake. Mrs Harris comes to the ticket of the presidential race with an impressive career background. Due to the way that American politics is constructed, we also know her views on many areas of significant national import, including family and abortion rights.
On the downside, when talking about those issues, she comes across as heavily scripted in her messaging. She sought to become less scripted toward the end of the campaign and whether she can sustain that in the vice presidential slot is left to be seen. There are also unresolved issues which emerged in her presidential bid.
Organizational issues eclipsed her raw political talent at points in the campaign. She also seemed to struggle to keep the interest of funders to drive her campaign. Of course, more of the Democratic Party resource will be available to Harris, but she still has to be able to conceive her messaging and be seen to ably manage her staff over the weeks ahead.
The biggest issue of all will be how she navigates around the test issue of her perceived record in the prosecutor’s office and California’s high rate of black male incarceration. I remember feeling as though Harris did not spend enough time teasing out her message around this issue and what she wanted her take away message to be, especially to Black voters.
There is nothing wrong with authenticity in politics. At the time the laws were passed that incarcerated so many Black people, Harris was fledgling in her rise. While she has to guard against seeming to trade success for doing right, there is nothing wrong with her explaining that she was helpless if she was. Another way to start the discussion is to claim change of views and growth.
I have heard this type of approach being used, but not by people close to the Harris campaign or associated with it directly. This negotiation and how it does not become a hindrance for the ticket will take some time and refining. The massive Black Lives Matter protests that have coalesced across North America, and indeed the world over the last weeks have helped.
In a real way though, this is as much blessing as curse for Harris because people will look to her as the next. She will be expected to be the symbol of the political change that people are looking for. This became a challenge for Obama during his presidency. Some people quickly felt Obama became a ‘sell out’ or disloyal to the black cause. What has changed with Harris is that the tide and room for the black cause to be a front burner issue for the Democratic Party has swollen, but I do not think it should be overstated.
The biggest error the Biden-Harris ticket could make is to assume that the word is done and Trump will just unravel into an easy loss at the polls. As dangerous and offensive as we perceive Trump to be, there is an entity more sinister – Trump supporters. These individuals are not just going to change their biases and do what is right at the polls.
In the same way that some voters are energized to see a mixed woman join a major party ticket, others are energized to vote against her. Black voters still want to be clear about Harris’ views on incarceration, oration, and second chances. There is work to do. Between COVID-19 and November there will be lots to read, digest and watch as North America figures out the country it wants to be in the third decade of the 21st century.
Marsha Hinds is the President of the National Organisation of Women.