Biden confidant and ally Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) opined on Tuesday without revealing the identity of Biden’s pick that Biden’s choice “will literally make history and change the trajectory of history.” He was right about that. Moreover, in selecting Harris, Biden demolished the misogynistic memes and condescending statements circulating about her “ambition.” Yes, an ambitious, powerful woman is just the sort of person Biden wants to associate with.
Biden said he wanted someone to help him govern and who was “simpatico” with him. Harris certainly checks both boxes. They are both center-left Democrats. She has been immersed in criminal justice matters her entire life. And she was front and center during the Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd.
The adage still holds that a vice president cannot win an election, only lose one. Certainly, Harris will not lose any voters for the ticket. She will be prepared for the debate. We know she can throw punch after punch. (Just ask Attorney General William P. Barr and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh.) The media vetted her for a year during her presidential run. She is expert and effective on TV. She is unlikely to be tripped up by an aggressive interviewer or a heckler.
The irony is that the woman considered “too risky” for the presidency is actually the safe choice for VP. She comes with no surprises. She is versed in foreign policy. She is not running for office for the first time. Perhaps now, Democrats and Republicans alike will understand that raw political talent, brains and, yes, ambition are what you look for in national leaders.
Two things will change immediately for the Biden team.
First, if Biden wishes, he can delegate the daily barrage of rebukes against his opponent to her. Biden now can rise above the fray, leaving Harris — who seems to tie up President Trump in knots like no one else (he once called her “nasty") — to taunt, fact-check and condemn their opponent effortlessly. The difference between a charismatic, whip-smart and media-winning woman and the slow, dull and laughably sycophantic Vice President Pence will highlight the chasm between these parties.
Second, the media will engage in a mad rush to define, dissect, inspect and criticize Harris — likely not for her views or her record, but for her likability, her “team player” quotient, her compatibility with Biden, her physical appearance, her seriousness or lack thereof, and on and on. They will comment on her clothes, her smile and her hair. The intense vetting process is normal and expected, especially regarding her votes on positions; however, we can expect a whole different level and type of personal character assassination. Even at a climactic moment for the political inclusion of African American women, we will likely find it difficult to quash the tired double standards and just plain dumb commentary that women have put up with for years.
The road to this pick was not pain-free. In retrospect, the Biden team should have aggressively shut down chatter about “ambitious” women and made a focused attack on the double standards that both supporters and the media reinforced. The Biden team should have rebuked the excessive emphasis on loyalty (that no male VP candidate has been subjected to), the put-down that Harris “rubs people the wrong way" and the reporting that other VP candidates were “nicer” and more “likable.” In the end, however, the greatest rebuke to all that condescension is the pick itself. Biden picked the boldest and, yes, most qualified candidate.
Seeing a woman in the White House may indeed change the way voters perceive women in politics. She may not be in the chair behind the Oval Office desk, but she will act alongside the president as a decision-maker, executive partner and political mobilizer. Perhaps we have seen the end of overwhelmingly White and male presidential tickets.