Biden-Harris Are Progressive Allies, Trump-Pence Are Adversaries

While some progressives have critiqued Biden and Harris's nuanced past, they both embrace progressive ideas while Trump and Pence oppose them.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris (Source: Biden Campaign). President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of Indiana speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore)

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris (Source: Biden Campaign). President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of Indiana speaking to supporters at an immigration policy speech at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Gage Skidmore)

After months of speculation about who former Vice President Joe Biden would select as his running mate, and what it would mean for the success of the Democratic presidential ticket, we now have an answer. Joe Biden didn’t just fulfill his promise to name a woman as his VP pick, he went a step further and made history by announcing Senator Kamala Harris, the first black woman and South Asian American to become a vice-presidential candidate.

While there have been cheers from Democrats, many Americans generally, and even people around the world, about the selection of Harris, there has been some disquiet from individuals who were hoping that Biden would consolidate his outreach to the progressive wing of the party by selecting an individual who embodied those ideals. The reality is that, while Harris might not be the candidate some progressives had hoped for, they should not be discouraged, as she is a progressive ally who doesn’t just talk the talk but walks the walk.

The main criticism that has been leveled against Harris is her prosecutorial record, particularly as Attorney General of California, where some say she was tough on crime, pro-police, and too slow on backing criminal justice reform. Specifically, critics have cited her apparent refusal to support a bill that called for a special prosecutor to investigate fatal police shootings. Additionally, concerns have been expressed about her lack of support for legislation that would’ve made it mandatory for all police officers in California to wear body cameras, although she did support a body camera program.

However, it would not be fair to entirely characterize Harris’s record as DA and California AG in this manner. There were a number of times where she was arguably a trailblazer, leading the way where other DAs and AGs were hesitant to act. Two examples are the prison diversion programs she introduced to help shield young people from a life of crime and the racial bias training that she implemented for police officers. These ideas showed that, while there is room for some criticism regarding her prosecutorial record, the truth, like her political career, is more nuanced and progressive than it might first appear.

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While some of her record is problematic in light of recent events, they are in the past. We have to look to the present and to the future now. When this year’s protests against police brutality erupted across America, Harris called for chokeholds and no-knock warrants to be banned, calling for the methods that are used for public safety to be re-examined. For the 2020 presidential elections, who would be better for America? Kamala Harris, who was potentially too tough on crime half a decade ago, or Donald Trump, who is currently running amok as a lawless president.

Harris might not have been the first-choice candidate for progressives, but she embodies many of their values, having fought for those values since taking office in the US Senate and previously. In 2019, Harris had one of the most liberal voting records of any US Senator. She has supported healthcare reform, even calling for Medicare for All during the Democratic primary. Harris has argued for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, seeking to end the turmoil DREAMers have faced in recent years and to allow them to take the final step to becoming Americans.

Harris has backed the Green New Deal and worked with Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on environmental legislation. During the coronavirus outbreak, Harris has advocated for emergency Universal Basic Income to be implemented for those who have been financially crippled by the mismanagement of the ongoing crisis by the current occupant of the White House. Biden and Harris have shown a willingness to make clear strides in their policy platforms and in the positions that they’ve taken in office to work on ideas, progressive or otherwise, that would have a significant, positive impact for the people who sent them to Washington D.C. and for all Americans.

Just as the concerns that progressives initially had about Biden’s nomination proved to be overplayed, as has he adopted liberal proposals put forward by his primary rivals and created a unity task force, the concerns about his pick for VP might be equally pessimistic. After all, a candidate doesn’t need to be a card-carrying progressive to support the movement. Take a look at the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That piece of legislation, which was a historic step in the fight for equality, was not pushed through Congress by a member of the far left of the Democratic Party, but by Lyndon B. Johnson.

Critics can look to the past to try to discredit Harris, but doing so has two key problems. First, it shows a complete disregard for the way in which she has embraced progressive movements as they have swept across America, from climate change to healthcare to protests against police brutality. Harris has shown that she isn’t a traditional politician who is bound by one political ideology for her entire career. Rather, she has demonstrated a willingness to adapt and move forward, as needed. In some ways, this ideological flexibility could be even more of a positive, as it could allow her to swing between the two wings of the Democratic Party, bridging the divide between the establishment and progressives.

Second, criticism of Harris only serves to benefit Trump’s re-election efforts, as the only way to be certain of defeating the current incumbent is for all individuals, Democrats and independents and ‘Never Trumpers’, to unite behind the Biden/Harris ticket. It cannot be stressed enough that those who do not rally behind the Democratic ticket in this election will be contributing to giving Trump a second term.

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No one needs to falsely assert that Joe Biden or Kamala Harris are their perfect candidates. In a country of over 328 million, it is surely impossible to find two individuals to put on a presidential platform who will appeal to all members of their own political party, as well as those who are independents or swing voters. However, it has to be recognized that both Biden and Harris have shown their commitment to unifying their party and the country by listening to the movements that rise up and call for change, should that change be in the national interest. Trump and Pence have shown they are only interested in one thing – working for themselves and for the elites in America. Biden and Harris have made it clear in their campaign messaging that their administration would ‘fight for the soul of the nation’.

In November, there will be two, and only two, realistic options on the ballot paper. Americans can choose between 4 more years of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, continuing to make the United States a more divisive and authoritarian nation that persecutes minorities. Or voters can ensure the reins are handed to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, allowing them to start mending the damage that’s been done by the current administration and, thereby, pushing for a positive, forward-thinking vision.

Anyone who has been appalled, offended, or enraged by the outrageous behavior of the Trump administration needs to unite behind the Biden/Harris ticket. Failing to cast a vote, or giving support to any third-party candidates, will only help to re-elect Donald Trump, giving him unrestricted and uncontrolled free reign to continue treading on the rule of law and the US Constitution. Giving electoral support to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in November will help to ensure that they can start to put America back on the right track, for the benefit of all Americans.

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Opinion // 2020 / Donald Trump / Election / Joe Biden / Kamala Harris / Mike Pence / Progressives