Who On Earth Is Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential Pick?

The Handbook
12th August 2020

The race is now officially on, former US Vice President and 2020 Presidential challenger Joe Biden has chosen his running mate for what will likely be the most important (and potentially messiest) American Presidential race in history. Meet Kamala Harris…

After weeks of umming-and-ahhhing, the Biden team yesterday announced that they’ve nominated Harris to run alongside Biden and simultaneously make history as the first black woman to run for the second highest job in US politics.

Okay, so I’ve literally never heard of her. Has she come from nowhere?

No, Kamala Harris is one of the most high profile women in US politics and you’ve been hiding under a rock! Alongside the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Harris has massive name-recognition in the US. As well as being a highly visible Senator, famed for her parliamentary cross-examinations, Kamala Harris ran against Biden for the presidential nomination.


There was a debate in the primary process when Harris ‘owned’ Biden, criticising his political positions in the 70s (oh, yeah, Biden is SUPER old) on school bussing, a racial flashpoint in the US. But all’s fair in love and war and both candidates are clear that it’s ‘love’ from here-on-in with the hatchet well and truly buried.

What’s her back story?

Born in California to immigrant parents, her mother was Indian and her father Jamaican (which also makes her the first South Asian to run for VP), Kamala Harris is currently a California Senator. The 56 year-old was elected to America’s upper house in 2016, before which she was District Attorney for San Francisco and served as Attorney General of California.

Harris was brought up by her mother, after her parents’ divorce. Hindu Shyamala Gopalan Harris was a cancer researcher and civil rights activist, who fostered her daughters’ appreciation of their black heritage and Harris attended Howard University, one of the America’s preeminent historically black colleges.

Quite the CV!

She’s an experienced pick, and she’s a formidable debater which means that the VP debate, against Trump’s running mate and coronavirus response head honcho Mike Pence, is likely to really pop. But her real advantages will likely be in office where her skills as an operator will come into their own.

A heartbeat from the presidency is kinda real when the president is heading toward 80!

Yeah, and Kamala Harris probably has the experience and gravitas to become US president if the nearly-octogenarian Biden pops his clogs while in office. There’s also a lot of chat about Biden only running for one term and making way for new blood in 2024, and Harris may well be a shoe-in for that eventuality.

Do we know what their relationship is going to be like?

Likely very close. Each Vice President and President have a different dynamic, but when Joe Biden was VP to President Obama they famously had an incredibly close relationship (Obama was insistent that the pair have lunch together at least once a week however busy things were). It seems likely that Biden will want to recapture that.

So what are her policies?

Well now they’re whatever Biden’s are, but she’s broadly progressive. On healthcare as a presidential hopeful she signed up to Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill, though later watered it down a bit. She’s on the left when it comes to issues like gay marriage and the death penalty (at least, the left for America, ie mainstream European!), though she’s drawn fire for not going further and on many issues has displayed a pragmatism that may have harmed her presidential bid but may come into its own in the White House.

Who did she beat to the VP nomination?

Unusually Biden announced before he became the Democratic party’s nominee for president that he’d chose a woman as running-mate. And the shortlist was impressive, including front-runners in the form of former primary runner Elizabeth Warren, rightful Georgia governor Stacey Abrams (look it up, you’ll be furious), former White House insider and UN Ambassador Susan Rice and Californian Representative Karen Bass.

And how has Trump reacted?

I thought we might get to the end of this article without mentioning his name! President Trump has called her ‘nasty’, which is his default term for any woman he disapproves of. It’s likely she’ll draw a lot of fire from the current White House, but she’s certainly a big enough presence to counter it. Trump’s comment was particularly referring to her positions against Biden in the primary process, so that’s likely to be their first line of attack.

Is she a good choice?

Let’s see. The VP pick tends to only matter when it’s a poor choice (think of John McCain’s ill-fated decision to run with Sarah Palin) but the election is generally won on the strength of the presidential candidates themselves. But does she look good on paper and based on experience to-date? Yes, so far so good…

But who knows? Perhaps her nomination is a good opportunity for Trump to ditch Mike Pence, pin the whole coronavirus debacle on him, and choose a female running mate himself?

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