Kamala Harris, 55, has cemented her position as an American political trailblazer. Born in Oakland, California in 1964, to a biologist mother and an economist father, Kamala Harris would go on to become the District Attorney of San Francisco, the Attorney General of California twice, and Senator for California before launching her own campaign for the presidential nomination for the Democrats in 2019. Despite failing to land the nomination, Joe Biden selected her as his running mate in November’s election, and in the process she became the first Asian-American, the first Black woman, and only the third woman after Ferraro and Palin, to be selected for the Vice Presidential slot.
That little girl
“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me.” Speaking about her experiences as a Black and Asian-American child born into an age of segregation and desegregation, Harris is candid of her life. She speaks openly of attending civil rights protests in a stroller as a child, and is clear about how politics permeated her early years. She cites influence from not only these events but also her Indian grandfather, P. V. Gopalan, a high ranking government official and a leading light in the Indian independence movement, who impressed upon her progressive views of democracy and of women’s rights.
Harris graduated from Howard University and after passing the bar, became a prosecutor. In 2003 she was elected District Attorney of San Francisco, and whilst effective in increasing the area’s conviction rate from 52 to 67 percent in three years, her opposition to the death penalty became a controversial issue. Despite this, she was elected, as California’s first Black woman to be Attorney General. Whilst successful in securing mortgage settlements for homeowners and making criminal justice data more available to the public, critics argue that whilst in office Harris shifted her earlier convictions, declined to support ballot initiatives to ban the death penalty and declined to support legalising cannabis possession.
In 2015, Harris announced her candidacy for Senator of California in the upcoming election, winning the 2016 race by a landslide. Appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, she became famed for her sharp questioning of officials, notably grilling Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing. She announced in 2019 her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency. Her most notable moment was her skewering of Joe Biden, describing his opposition to busing as “hurtful”. Opponents criticised her inconsistent stance on healthcare and her tough-on-crime approach whilst Attorney General. She fell away in the polls and ended her campaign in December 2019.
A heartbeat away?
In March of 2020, Harris endorsed Joe Biden for President, and following his primary success, he became presumptive nominee for the Democrats. In August, Biden announced her selection as his running mate, calling her “a fearless fighter for the little guy”. If Biden is elected President, it is clear that she would make history. Yet, owing to his age, Biden sees himself as a would-be ‘transition President’ and would not contend in 2024. In essentially anointing Kamala Harris as his successor, Biden’s greatest legacy may be his influence in the future direction of the party. Whether successful in November, Kamala Harris is now in pole position to lead not only the Democratic Party, but the country itself.
IMAGE - Flickr (Lawrence Jackson/Biden for President)