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IU students, faculty react to Kamala Harris as Vice Presidential pick, discuss her skills



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Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, D-CA, speaks on the third night of the Democratic National Convention Aug. 19 from the Chase Center in Wilmington, Delaware. Tribune News Service

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his selection of California Senator Kamala Harris as his vicer presidential running mate Aug. 11.

“Joe Biden here. Big news: I’ve chosen Kamala Harris as my running mate,” Biden said in a text message to his supporters. “Together, with you, we’re going to beat Trump.”

Harris, a former San Francisco district attorney and former attorney general of California, is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party. She is also the fourth woman to be on a presidential ticket.

Gloria Howell, associate director for the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center, said she called her mom and grandma after she found out Harris was chosen. Howell, 31, said she knows some people want to see what happens if they are elected, but she thinks we should take the time to celebrate this historical moment.

“This is major,” Howell said. “This is a historical moment and I think we all to a certain degree need to relish in that.”

Carolyn Calloway-Thomas, professor and chair for the African American and African Diaspora Studies department, said Harris being chosen was a testament freedom still marching on.

“I think it is a symbolic reminder of the blood, the sweat, the tears, the toil and efforts of Black women’s struggle to be seen, heard and taken seriously in America, all the while believing and hoping that such a moment would come,” Calloway-Thomas said. “And it has.”

Allyson McBride, press secretary for College Democrats at IU, said representation is important and choosing Harris is a step toward including more women and people of color in government.

“That’s not her biggest selling point by any means, but it’s also really important for young girls to see that a woman can be vice president,” McBride said.

McBride, 20, said one strength Harris brings to the ticket is her debate skills. As a former prosecutor, Harris is able to make strong, well thought-out arguments, whereas Biden is more compassionate and less calculated about his word selection, McBride said.

“She definitely carefully thinks about her words and you can tell that when she delivers a statement, she thought about it,” McBride said.

Calloway-Thomas said in addition to knowing how to speak, Harris also knows how to persuade and present evidence.

Another way she appeals to voters is through her work with marginalized communities, Howell said. During her time as a senator, Harris has worked on issues such as due process for immigrants and was one of the many sponsors of a bill that made lynching a federal crime.

“I really do think she has a heart for people,” Howell said. “At the end of the day, I think she is an advocate and I think she will go to bat for those communities that don’t have that access to the table.”

The two candidates come from opposite coasts and appeal to different demographics. Also, Harris has proven that she can call Biden out for his previous work.

In the 2020 presidential campaign, Harris called out Biden in a Democratic Party presidential debate, asking him about his work with right-wing Southerners in the 1970s to oppose busing as a means of integrating public schools.

McBride said she believes this could be a positive thing because it shows that Harris can hold Biden accountable.

“She’s done it publicly, I think she’ll do it privately,” McBride said. “She’ll call him out when she thinks he needs to be.”

Howell said it’s important to hold each other accountable because it allows our country to improve.

“From a student organization all the way up to the White House, you want people to work together that are going to hold each other accountable,” Howell said. “It’s just like in a relationship, you’re not going to agree all the time but hopefully you can find some common ground to get to the common goal.”

Calloway-Thomas said Harris calling Biden out on this, implicitly calling him a racist, and then joining his ticket seems hypocritical. Since Kamala has been chosen to be the vice-presidential candidate, she has claimed she leveled that accusation at Biden simply for debate.

“People who believe that there should be a match between what you say and what you do would raise the question: where is your authenticity?” Calloway-Thomas said.

Calloway-Thomas saidshe recognizes this is a political arrangement and Harris joined the presidential ticket for the good of the Democratic Party.

Harris has also been criticized for her work as a prosecutor, such as prosecuting marijuana crimes and families, typically low-income families of color, if their child didn't show up for school. McBride said it is good for people to question Harris on her decisions, but to remember that as a prosecutor her mistakes are more public than those who have served as politicians longer.

McBride said she recognizes Harris described herself as a "top cop," despite Harris calling for reform in the police force. 

“I think with a lot of people that just doesn’t resonate well right now,” McBride said.

McBride said that even though the Biden and Harris ticket is not the “dream ticket” for liberal Democrats, it is better than voting for President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. She also said even though people may not find a candidate who fits their ideals perfectly, it is still important to vote.

“You should absolutely critique a candidate, but you should not abstain from voting,” McBride said.

Disclaimer: Allyson McBride writes for the opinion desk at the Indiana Daily Student.

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