The Daily Gamecock

Column: Harris' nomination matters, but won't change minds

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's pick of Kamala Harris for running mate will do little to change the polls this November.

In any other year, the selection of Kamala Harris for vice president would change an election.

I don’t care about Kamala Harris. I don't mean this in a negative way. I'm a Democrat, and when Joe Biden first announced his running mate, it was a blip on the radar with the absolute chaos enveloping us on a daily basis in these times. Kamala Harris does not change my opinion of Joe Biden. It was expected for him to pick a Black woman, and with so many people on the right accusing him of being a puppet for the progressive left, it was the smartest choice. Choosing the most moderate out of his short list of candidates could assuage the fears of independent, moderate Democrat and anti-Trump Republican voters.

For the foreseeable future, Biden and Harris will get criticized by moderates and Republicans for being too progressive, and truly, I don’t think it would’ve mattered who Biden chose. The criticism would’ve been the same on that front. Right now, it seems that criticism hasn’t really affected voters much: most people approve of Harris as Biden’s pick, and Democratic and independent voters overwhelmingly approve of her in the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. 

Depending on the values of swing voters and dissatisfied Republicans, Harris might be the tipping point for those people to vote for Biden, as both recent CNN and Pew Research Center polls suggest that current Trump voters are slightly more likely than Biden voters to change their minds before the election.

However, the vice president doesn't seem to be a true deciding factor in the election. In another poll, 58% of registered voters who would vote for Biden said their vote was more of a vote against the current president than really for Joe Biden. Harris is unlikely to change that. 

Does Harris being Biden's VP still matter? Absolutely. It says quite a lot that there are far more opinion pieces debating her moderation or progressiveness, her record as prosecutor or her remarks while running for the presidency than the fact that she’s the first African American and South Asian woman to be on the ticket of a major political party. She’s the third woman in history to hold the title of a serious potential vice president.

It’s refreshing that her accomplishments, her resume, and even her mistakes and perceived character flaws are being discussed rather than the sole fact that she’s a Black woman running for office, as it should be. This solidifies the fact that Black people and women, especially Black women, in politics should be and are becoming the norm, rather than treated like stark outliers.

Are her mistakes and perceived character flaws enough to make especially progressive voters not vote for Biden and Harris in November? Eh. There is a serious discussion to be had about her policies as attorney general of California, but considering how Trump and Pence compare, at least to leftist voters, the choice may not be a very difficult one. Taking the entirety of the Democratic party into account, her popularity hasn’t  changed much over the past year and a half.

Harris’ nomination still matters, if not to me personally. Seeing someone who is like you, and who has ostensibly been through some of the same life experiences as you, running for and being in political office is a different feeling than merely seeing someone who empathizes with you. And luckily, a lot more groups of voters have that opportunity than they did in the last election cycle.

That doesn't mean that every Black or South Asian person, or any woman, will automatically vote for Harris, like some politicians and pundits unfortunately assume. But, her nomination means that one of the two major political parties now far better represents those who live and vote in America.


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