Given the state of the polls, that looks like a wise assessment. But Biden — who appears aware of who made him the nominee and why — has demonstrated a commitment to making his campaign and administration reflect the makeup of his party and the country. His selection of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) to be his running mate is the most visible and important sign of that commitment, but it’s not the only one.
A look at some of the other things that happened on Tuesday shows just how dramatically the Democratic and Republican parties are diverging, both in what they believe and in what they represent. Whatever you think of their policy agendas, we have one party that is diverse and progressive, and growing more so on both counts, and another party that is not only almost all white but is being dragged down by extremists and loons.
Tuesday’s biggest news was of course the announcement of the first woman of color on a major party presidential ticket, and potentially the first woman and first person of color to serve as vice president. But consider some election results the same day:
- In Georgia’s extremely conservative 14th Congressional District, Marjorie Taylor Greene — a supporter of the lunatic far-right QAnon conspiracy theory who has posted racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Muslim videos online — won a Republican runoff, all but guaranteeing that she will be heading to Congress. On Wednesday morning President Trump tweeted his congratulations to Greene, calling her a “future Republican Star” and “a real WINNER!” Greene is one of a number of QAnon supporters who have won Republican primaries this year, including the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in Oregon and House nominees in Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas. QAnon supporters believe Trump is a messianic figure battling an international conspiracy of satanic pedophiles.
- In Minnesota, Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar easily beat back a challenge by a well-funded primary opponent. Some had suggested that the members of “The Squad” — Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — were vulnerable to challenges from the center, and if any of them were defeated it would signal a diminution of the left’s stature within the Democratic Party. All won their primaries by significant margins (Pressley did not face a challenger). That’s in addition to dramatic victories by Jamaal Bowman in New York and Cori Bush in Missouri — both Black progressives who knocked off longtime incumbent Democrats.
- In the Minnesota Senate primary, Republicans nominated former congressman and conservative talk radio host Jason Lewis, who has a history of racist and sexist comments; he has claimed that Blacks have an “entitlement mentality” and lamented that it’s not acceptable to call women “sluts” anymore.
Meanwhile, on conservative television, where white identity politics forms the foundation of each night’s offerings, Harris’s ethnicity was the inevitable topic of the moment. The hosts struggled to find just the right way to criticize her, with each program offering a slightly different and inevitably awkward take on the subject.
“Biden’s big mistake of course was narrowing his choice on the basis of skin color,” said Laura Ingraham on Fox News. “On Planet Earth that used to be called bias or even racism.” Mark Levin, for some reason, tried to convince his BlazeTV viewers that “Kamala Harris is not an African-American … her ancestry does not go back to American slavery.” It was almost as though they had to talk about Harris’s race but couldn’t quite figure out how to turn it into an attack on her without sounding, you know, racist.
That very fact appeared to put Tucker Carlson, Fox News’s biggest star, on edge. Carlson got visibly angry at a Democratic guest who suggested that he might pronounce Harris’s first name properly. “So it begins, you’re not allowed to criticize KaMAla Harris, or KAmala Harris, or whatever,” Carlson said. “I love the idea that she’s immune from criticism!”
Of course, no one suggested anything of the sort, but the reaction is incredibly revealing. Conservatives constantly complain about how “political correctness” leaves them constrained and silenced, forbidden to say what they really think and speak their truth — and in particular, that if they do so they’ll be called racist. Carlson was enraged about something that hadn’t actually happened, but that he seemed sure was imminent. So the mere suggestion that he pronounce Harris’s first name correctly made him shout that he was being censored by the thought police.
We’re going to hear a lot of that in the days to come. The Republican Party — whose best idea to deal with its deficit among minority voters is promoting the sad candidacy of Kanye West to divert a few Black votes from Biden — is only becoming more insular and resentful. They feel any celebration of Harris’s historic candidacy as an attack on their own identity — yet more evidence that societal change and increasing American diversity is in truth a story of their victimization.
That idea may not hold the GOP in its grip forever; if Trump loses in November, the party could find a way to open itself up and appeal to more than its shrinking base of older white people. But for now, we have one party trying to reflect the reality of contemporary America and another party angrily wishing the country were something it is not today and will never be again.