Editorial: Kamala Harris tried to take out Joe Biden. Now she's his VP and Trump should be afraid

The Sacramento Bee Editorial Board, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Op Eds

Kamala D. Harris did it.

Whether you love her or doubt her, you have to hand it to her: She has repeatedly proven she is an unstoppable politician with a talent for making history.

From her very first race, when she defeated her former boss to become the district attorney of San Francisco, Harris has defied expectations. This made her a standout candidate in the eyes of Joe Biden. And neither her failed presidential campaign nor her determined attempt to end Biden's career during the first Democratic debate in June 2019 could halt her historic momentum. She lost the primary but won the spot of running mate on the 2020 ticket.

Perhaps the elbows she threw at Biden only proved that she has what it takes to go up against the likes of President Donald Trump in the fierce and ugly election to come. Whatever the calculation, Biden -- picking his vice president from among a group of distinguished and experienced women -- chose her.

Biden's message to the nation is clear: In America, we can disagree passionately. We can argue and even do or say things that hurt those we love. Yet we must ultimately reconcile our differences and push, together, in a better direction.

Neither candidate on the Democratic ticket is without fault. Both did a good job of pointing out the other's failures and weaknesses during the campaign. Trump will make great use of debate clips of Biden and Harris shredding each other's records on racial justice and criminal justice.

In truth, Biden and Harris have found themselves on the wrong side of key issues in the past. Both must confront the valid criticism that they did not always use their power to do what, here in 2020, many consider righteous and just. Biden, for example, pushed the 1994 crime bill that encouraged states to hand out tougher sentences and build more prisons.

When she was a district attorney, Biden said during the debate, Harris' office made serious mistakes that drew criticism from a judge and led to over 1,000 cases being dropped or dismissed. Harris also stayed neutral on some crucial reforms at critical moments during her career.

This duo won't defund the police or upend the capitalist system, despite what Republicans will say. Biden-Harris won't overthrow the dominant paradigm or overturn the status quo in fundamental ways. This is a straightforward Democratic establishment ticket.

Yet Biden's historic choice of Harris does recognize and honor the fact that Black women are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. This gesture does not remedy the injustices of the past but, for many, it represents a significant step toward progress. It also brings to the 2020 race a powerful energy and momentum with which Trump will struggle to compete.

Yes, Joe Biden befriended segregationists during his decades in the United States Senate. And faced with the most important decision of his life, he put a Black and Indian woman on the most consequential presidential ticket in history. His willingness to make a partner of one of his harshest critics demonstrates his courage to confront hard truths and to embrace change.


Yes, Harris too often took the side of the police over the side of justice. If she becomes vice president, she must use her knowledge and experience to push for transformative and permanent changes to criminal justice and policing. She will owe a debt to those see her as a beaming agent of progressive change even though her track record has often disappointed such hopes.

However, this election will not be a verdict on the imperfections of Joe Biden or Kamala Harris. The 2020 election will be a judgment on Donald Trump, who is going out of his way to undermine American democracy with his own brand of right-wing authoritarianism and blatant racism -- a man whose failure to respond competently to the coronavirus pandemic has cost more than 164,000 American lives.

The question now is whether the future of America looks more like Kamala Harris or Donald Trump.

Defeating Trump will be no easy task, and Harris must now make good on her pledge to prosecute the case against the president's reelection campaign. Trump will do or say anything to win, and he wasted no time in unleashing a nasty Twitter attack on Harris, branding her as "radical."

If that's true, why did Trump donate thousands of dollars to her 2014 attorney general campaign? We look forward to the explanation.

This editorial board has been plenty critical of Harris. We cast early doubts on her presidential prospects. We also saw Karen Bass as the best Californian for the VP slot. We've watched Harris' rise closely and are all too aware of faults and mistakes. She is, after all, only human.

When she launched her campaign in Oakland in January 2019, we asked whether "her deeds can live up to her words." This daughter of California fell short in her campaign, but now Biden has placed tremendous faith in her. For the good of the nation, let's hope she validates it by rising to the formidable challenges ahead.

(c)2020 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

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Ed Gamble Gary Markstein Bob Gorrell Brian Duffy Dan Wasserman Steve Breen