Wednesday, August 12, 2020

It’s On

Charles P. Pierce on the selection of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s vice president.

Long about 4:20 ET Tuesday afternoon, Mike Pence of Indiana felt a cold chill Down There and he didn’t know why.

Joe Biden returned to the inevitable by selecting Senator Kamala Harris to be his running mate. This decision put Pence in a nutcracker. Either he has to debate Harris on television—and he’s seen what happened to witnesses before Senate committees when Harris’s turn came around to question them—or he won’t get the chance, because this selection has to make some of the cutthroats on the other side wonder if dumping Pence for, say, Nikki Haley, is the proper countermove. (Narrator: They won’t, but you know some of them are thinking about it.) Frankly, given the choice between public evisceration and public defenestration, I don’t know which way Pence would go. Maybe he should poll on it.

The pick makes all kinds of sense. It always made all kinds of sense. It energizes the most loyal segment of the Democratic base. It honors the election of Barack Obama and the legacy of Biden’s work in that administration, while simultaneously acknowledging the reality, seen now in the streets, that, despite the fond anesthetic rhetoric of conservatives, the election of Barack Obama did not solve entirely systemic racism in this society. It puts a prosecutorial edge on the campaign that any campaign against the current president* needs. It injects the campaign with hot molten steel. At the same time, Harris is a genuinely charismatic person. And it demonstrates that, unlike the incumbent, Joe Biden can handle tough criticism like an adult. Nobody was tougher on him during the campaign than Harris was. (Her summoning up his history on busing was the single most memorable haymaker of the entire cycle.) The pick says as much about him as it does about her. There won’t be anyone tailoring intel reports to avoid presidential tantrums.

(Also, Harris’s election would enable Rep. Katie Porter to run for Senate in California. Bonus!)

There is some baggage in Harris’s past as a prosecutor, and as an attorney general, which gives me pause, and which is why I didn’t vote for her in the primaries. But given the way events have unfolded over the past several months, and given the way the entire dynamic of the election has changed so utterly, the logic behind choosing her grew more compelling, not less. I kept coming back to the times I sat in at various hearings in which she challenged the members of the administration* that has led the nation into disaster, and she did so before they led the nation into disaster. She has receipts to carry us into the next decade.