If the Democratic leaders on the ticket learn from each other, they can find a way to win
Presumptive U.S. Democratic nominee and former Vice-President Joe Biden has picked Kamala Harris, Senator from California of Indian descent, as his vice-presidential running mate, a fillip to his party’s connect with African-Americans, the Indian-American community, women and its core base of mainstream liberals. Ms. Harris — her late mother and cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan hailed from a Chennai-based family, and Jamaican father Donald Harris, a retired Stanford professor — made a name for herself as a tough lawyer, politically ambitious enough to throw her hat in the ring as a Biden challenger in the Democratic primaries. In a close parallel to former President Barack Obama picking his Democratic primaries rival Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State, Mr. Biden chose Ms. Harris from amidst a cohort of strong candidates, including former NSA Susan Rice and Senator from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren. In picking Ms. Harris, Mr. Biden has consolidated his position at the helm of the Democratic Party mainstream, ensuring a convergence of views with his vice-presidential nominee on race relations, policing and criminal justice reform, immigration, the health-care insurance industry and education policy. The timing of her selection could not be better — as an outspoken leader on racism and a woman of colour, the symbolism of Mr. Biden picking her will offer hope to many, including ‘Black Lives Matter’ activists.
Ms. Harris will not only bring to the Biden ticket her broad appeal across the Democratic spectrum, but at 55, will help tip the overall age profile of a potential future Democratic White House in the right direction. However, if her 2020 presidential campaign was indicative, she will need to up her game on critical talking points including her record as a prosecutor in her home State, and on specifics regarding the complex question of health-care reform. More broadly, she and Mr. Biden will have to be prepared for an unusual campaign endgame scenario, with less than three months before Election Day and the COVID-19 pandemic slashing a swathe of economic misery. Will they be able to go beyond the standard Democratic campaign playbook and adroitly craft a fresh approach to take on a politically weakened President Trump, who will nevertheless likely come out guns blazing? Have they pondered the deep lessons of Ms. Clinton’s loss to Mr. Trump in 2016 and come up with robust ideas to alleviate the economic pain of working-class Americans perceived to be the result of policies supporting globalisation and immigration? Will she be able to go toe-to-toe with incumbent Vice-President Mike Pence and yet avoid alienating independent and undecided voters? If the two Democratic leaders on the ticket learn from each other, there is a chance that they might arrive at a winning formula.