You know it’s only going to be a matter of time before US President Donald Trump comes up with cutting Twitter moniker for Senator Kamala Harris. The US senator holding one of the two California seats was chosen on Tuesday evening by “Sleepy” — Trump’s words, not mine — Joe Biden as his running mate in November’s president election.
And given that if he wins the race for the White House, he’ll be 78 when he takes the oath of office, there’s every chance he’ll be a one-term Democratic president — making his selection of the 55-year-old black woman all the more significant.
Come 2024, would America be ready then for its first female president, or Americans be ready for a black and Asian woman as Commander-in-Chief?
But that is talk for the future, more than four years away. Right now, what matters for Biden and Harris is the next three months, with the US electorate mailing in their postal votes or heading to the polls come November 3 — and no, it can’t be delayed or postponed given the musings of President Trump, lagging in all opinion polls by close to double figures with less than 12 weeks to go.
By choosing Harris on his ticket, Biden and his handlers have opted for a woman who takes few prisoners, is forthright in her opinions and represents the progressive wing of the party that is the antithesis of where the Republican party now stands. But just don’t refer to her as a female Barack Obama
Normally, both Republican and Democratic conventions offer a prime-time platform to hype campaigns and candidates. Now, in this era of COVID-19, a disease that the US has failed miserably to contain and in a nation that has by far both the highest number of deaths and infection rates, those party conventions will be virtual affairs.
Unifying figure for the party
Come this weekend, when the campaign Zoomfest for the Democrats takes up internet space and time, Harris will be promoted as a unifying figure for a party that has spent much of the past four years wondering what, where, how and why did things go so wrong for the last woman in a very senior position to up against the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
But this time around it is and will be different. Biden has built a commanding lead over the incumbent without having to essentially leave the basement of his Delaware home. It almost seems as if saying little and being seen less is a winning formula this time out.
But by choosing Harris on his ticket, Biden and his handlers have opted for a woman who takes few prisoners, is forthright in her opinions and represents the progressive wing of the party that is the antithesis of where the Republican party now stands. But just don’t refer to her as a female Barack Obama.
One reporter made that mistake while Harris was campaigning herself for the Democratic nomination that Biden so easily coasted claimed, and the former California Attorney General — she had been touted as a possible Supreme Court nominee — testily responded: “I have my own legacy.”
Ticks all the boxes
Yes, indeed she does. For the better part of two decades in the public eye the stepmother of two children — she likes to be called ‘Momala’ — has set new firsts: the first black woman to be elected district attorney in California history, first woman to be California’s attorney general, first Indian American senator, and now, the first black woman and first Asian American to be picked as a vice-presidential running mate on either party ticket.
She was born in October 1964, the eldest of two children to Dr Shyamala Gopalan, a cancer researcher from Chennai, and Donald Harris, a Jamaican economist.
They met at Berkeley and shared a passion for civil rights and often took Kamala along in a pram to protests. Kamala means “lotus” and is another name for the Hindu deity Lakshmi — and the empowerment of women. Her parents, however, divorced when she was seven, and she and her sister Maya grew in a small apartment in the liberal city.
According to her biography, Kamala did visit Chennai as a child and was influenced by her grandfather, a high-ranking government official who fought for Indian independence, and grandmother, an activist who travelled the countryside teaching impoverished women about birth control.
Her mother later went to McGill University in Montreal, with the girls visiting regularly and absorbing Canadian political culture, its rejection of gun ownership and its acceptance of universal health coverage.
She attended university in Washington initially with a degree in politics and economics, then a law degree from San Francisco before entering the bar and joining the Oakland presecutor’s office in 1990 and focusing on sex crimes.
In 1994, Harris began dating Willie Brown, 30 years her senior and speaker of the state assembly. A year later, he was elected mayor of San Francisco, the relationship ended and she joined the local district attorney’s office.
By 2003, she made a bid for the top office in the state, defeated the incumbent in a run-off and became the first woman to hold the top legal office in the progressive state. Conviction rates soared — but she did lose the support of police for failing to pursue death penalty sentences against convicted killers of officers.
One of her most popular measures, however, was to pursue truancy cases against those who missed school. Four years later she narrowly won re-election in a race that took three weeks to decide, winning by just 0.8 per cent.
She maintains a close friendship with the Obamas and in 2014 married Doug Emhoff, a corporate lawyer with two children from his previous marriage.
Two years later, she took the junior senate seat for California, becoming a strident voice in Washington, making a lasting impression for her cross-examination of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and the Mueller investigation.
If, come November, she does indeed become the vice-president, one of the first orders will be to make sure the official residence at 1 Observatory Circle will have a large shoe cupboard — she is an ardent collector of Converse sneakers.