This is the top story from our daily newsletter published on August 11, 2020. To have this and more delivered directly to your inbox scroll down and enter your email or click here to sign up. Cover: CC BY-SA 2.0 Gage Skidmore
What Both Sides Think About Biden’s Pick: Joe Biden named California Sen. Kamala Harris as his vice presidential running mate on Tuesday. If elected, Harris will be the first woman, the first Asian American and the first Black vice president. Here is what each side is saying:
On the Left: The New York Times news team framed Harris as a “former rival who sharply criticized [Biden] in the Democratic primaries but emerged after ending her campaign as a vocal supporter of [his] and a prominent advocate of racial-justice legislation after the killing of George Floyd in late May… She brings to the race a far more vigorous campaign style than Mr. Biden’s, including a gift for capturing moments of raw political electricity on the debate stage and elsewhere, and a personal identity and family story that many find inspiring.” The Washington Post’s news team called it “a historic decision that elevates the first Black woman and first Asian American woman to run for vice president on a major-party ticket at a moment when the country is grappling with its racial past and future… The decision is the most consequential of Biden’s presidential campaign and has major implications not only for the November election but for the future of the Democratic Party.” CNN’s news team writes that, “In selecting Harris, Biden adds to the Democratic ticket a former primary rival who centered her own presidential bid on her readiness to take on Donald Trump and show Americans she would fight for them. She rose to national prominence within the Democratic Party by interrogating Trump nominees during Senate hearings, from former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.” Now, in the op-ed section of the New York Times, Frank Bruni titles his piece: “Kamala Harris Is the Future, So Mike Pence May Well Be History.” In the post, Bruni says, “Harris is a distinguished public servant with a résumé — U.S. senator from California, state attorney general — unquestionably suited to this exhilarating and daunting opportunity, which she has earned. She is also an agent of contrast, emphasizing the difference between the Republican ticket and the Democratic one, between Trump’s politics of division and Biden’s politics of inclusion.” In the Washington Post’s op-ed section, E.J. Dionne Jr. writes that “Harris was the safest, most experienced and most tested choice Biden could make.” Similarly, in an op-ed post titled, “Kamala Harris met the most important qualification for Biden’s running mate” the Washington Post Editorial Board says that “From the moment former vice president Joe Biden became the Democratic Party’s presumptive nominee for president, one qualification has loomed as most important for his running mate: that she or he be prepared to serve as president. Sen. Kamala D. Harris, the California Democrat whom Mr. Biden announced Tuesday as his selection, meets that test.” In an op-ed from the British outlet, The Guardian, Richard Wolffe echoes this sentiment in his piece titled, “In this dystopian world, Kamala Harris sails above the presidential bar.” Wolffe says “Harris reflects something we take for granted in this circling of the drain we call politics in the Trump era: she looks and sounds presidential because she is.”
On the Right: Fox News’ news team led with the headline, “Biden taps Kamala Harris as running mate, setting aside tensions from primary.” In the article, Paul Steinhauser and Alex Pappas frame Harris as a “politically shrewd California senator with a law enforcement background that has caused some tensions with the progressive left… [The decision] indicates the former vice president is setting aside their friction from the primary campaign. Harris memorably drew sharp contrasts with Biden when she challenged him on the debate stage over his past resistance to federally mandated desegregation busing.” In a news article from the Washington Examiner, Naomi Lim writes that “Harris will likely encounter the same challenges ahead of the general election as she did during the primary before she dropped out in December. While the member of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees rose to national prominence for her incisive questioning of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, her bid was hindered by inconsistent performances on the campaign trail. She also struggled to counter criticism regarding contradictions in her prosecutorial record and her positions on policies such as Medicare for all.” In an op-ed article for the New York Post, that was also syndicated on Fox News, Michael Goodwin writes that “Harris is an underwhelming VP pick by Joe Biden.” Goodwin says “Harris checks off two big boxes for 2020 Dems — gender and race. But the moment, if not the actual choice, feels underwhelming,” for a few reasons. First, “Although Biden largely owes his nomination to the turnout of black voters in the South Carolina primary, being Barack Obama’s vice president could not by itself guarantee him sufficient loyalty and turnout in November. He needed to shore up his party’s most important and reliable bloc, so the intrigue was really about which black woman he would select. The second subtext is Biden’s obvious mental and physical frailties, with more than one observer noting that there was a good chance that the running mate could become president within a first term, should the Dems prevail. The president-in-waiting, as even Biden supporters put it.” In an opinion article from the Washington Examiner Becket Adams takes issue with The New York Times and AP’s characterization of Harris. Adams says both outlets describe Harris as a “pragmatic moderate” whose record on issues such as healthcare and law enforcement has been “relatively centrist.” Adams says, “If Harris is a “pragmatic moderate,” then those words no longer mean what they are supposed to mean… Harris’s track record as a “pragmatic moderate” includes supporting late-term abortion, co-sponsoring both Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, and calling for repeals of tax cuts. The senator even tried to impose a religious litmus test on Catholic judicial nominees. And this is to say nothing of Harris’s long record of prosecutorial abuses.” Adams ends by saying, If Biden’s running mate is a “moderate” with a “relatively centrist record,” I would hate to see what the New York Times and the Associated Press consider “liberal.”
Flag This: Through our research and analysis, here is thee most important takeaway from the Harris pick for both sides. For Democrats and left-leaning outlets, Harris is the party’s torchbearer. As mentioned by both the Washington Post and The Guardian, Harris is “presidential”. Given Biden’s age, and comments that he’s made about being a one-term president, Harris’ significance lies in the fact that she is being groomed to assume the mantle of the Democratic party in four years from now, or maybe even sooner. For Republicans and right-leaning outlets, they acknowledge this and take issue with how Harris is being represented by outlets like the New York Times and Associated Press. For conservatives, Harris is an example of how the Democratic party is drifting further left. She might not be Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, but that doesn’t mean she’s a “pragmatic moderate” or “relatively centrist” as the noted above. For Republicans, Harris symbolizes a slow slide towards the progressive wing of the Democratic party that could hypothetically offer up a Kamala Harris-Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ticket in 2024. To summarize, as with all elections, and politics in general, the Harris pick personifies the fight for America’s ideological future. Does Harris represent a stepping stone towards a “progressive, communist, socialist” version of the United States as Republicans believe? Or does she represent everything the United States stands for in regards to being the child of immigrants who has a shot at the White House? The upcoming election is no longer just a referendum on Trump’s first four years, and whether or not voters want four more. It’s now about where we see our country in a decade and beyond.