Sen. Kamala Harris greets the crowd at a campaign rally in Ankeny, Iowa, on Feb. 23. (Los Angeles Times)
La Cañada High School

Opinion: The case for Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s VP

Kamala Harris has been an obvious choice for Joe Biden’s Vice President and he was even photographed with talking notes on Sen. Kamala Harris as a prospective vice presidential running mate. Senator Harris gained national attention in her run for the nominee and even collected a few viral soundbite moments along the way. But that’s not where her legacy began.

Sen. Harris started her political career as the District Attorney of San Francisco before becoming the first person of color and the first woman to serve as California’s Attorney-general. Finally, she became what we know her as today: the second African-American woman and first South Asian-American senator in American history. 

Kamala Harris, like many other prospective vice presidents, supports democratic socialist policies for healthcare, college, climate change and refers to the wall as “Trump’s medieval vanity project.”

Ultimately, what separates her from the rest is her prosecutorial experience and her policies to reform the criminal justice system. In light of the murder of George Floyd and the international movement that it sparked, Joe Biden’s vice presidential pick should be relevant to what Americans care about at this moment.

As District Attorney and Senator for one of the most diverse and liberal states in the country, Sen. Harris’ record shows a long history of combating institutional racism. She implemented the first implicit bias training for police officers, created transparency in police records and forced officers to wear body cams. Her reform of California’s policing system became a model for other states to follow.

She started a truancy initiative to combat gang violence and the prison pipeline and corrected a huge backlog on rape kits. But her record is not entirely that of a “progressive prosecutor.”

An Op-Ed in the New York Times, released in Jan. 2019, outlined all of the ways in which Kamala Harris has been on the “wrong side of history.” This piece exposed incidents where Sen. Harris withheld evidence that led to wrongful convictions, her refusal to take stances on certain issues regarding police brutality, her defense of the death penalty, her prosecution of marijuana possession cases and how her truancy initiative disproportionately impacted low-income people of color.

This ultimately gave her the nickname, “Top Cop” as she campaigned for the Democratic nomination in 2019 and, along with campaigning issues, led to her downfall. 

Admittedly, Kamala Harris’ record is not perfect and seems very hypocritical when taken out of context. We take for granted the fact that in most of the positions in her career she was the first. The first woman or the first person of color or both.

Her career and all of the change she created exists because she held some moderate stances and moved incrementally, much like Joe Biden. 

In 2020, however, there is more opportunity for what were once radical ideas and Sen. Harris has shown that she is in touch with that.

Today, Sen. Harris is leading the charge for fundamental reform to policing in our country.  Senator Booker and Harris proposed legislation that would ban chokeholds, limit “qualified immunity” for police officers, create a national misconduct registry and end the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases.

The bill is aimed clearly at preventing recent tragedies like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Tony McDade from happening again and making sure that officers are held accountable for their crimes.

Specifically, Sen. Harris has been advocating for re-defining the way in which officers are prosecuted when a shooting occurs. Rather than prosecutors arguing whether it was “reasonable” she believes that the question should be whether it was “necessary.”

She has also defended the message of “Defund the Police,” for money to be reallocated from police departments to other community resources like mental health and education. All of these fundamental reforms are dramatic changes to a clearly unjust system that reinforce the value of her experiences in criminal justice and policing reform. 

Because of the swift action Harris has taken in combating police brutality since national Black Lives Matter protests broke out, she has become a major leader for racial justice in this country. Joe Biden’s vice president should embody the vision of the future and be emblematic of the Democratic Party’s voters.

Black women have long been the backbone of the Democratic Party because of voter turnout and Southern electoral votes. Choosing a black woman, who is as qualified and energizing as Kamala Harris, would not only secure this base but would represent the true Democratic Party. 

Another issue that arises with Sen. Harris is her relationship with Joe Biden.

In the first Democratic Debate, she called him out for his stance on busing and received a lot of backlash from her own party for it. Although there is reasonable fear that Trump will use this moment against Biden if he chooses Sen. Harris, a conflict in the primaries is not out of the ordinary.

Biden himself called Obama “naive” when he was campaigning in 2008 before being chosen for Vice President. Ronald Reagan chose George H.W. Bush as his VP despite his previous comments that Reagan was campaigning on “voodoo economics.” Although her moment with Biden has been labeled as an attack, it is truly just a disagreement that has happened throughout presidential history. 

In fact, her debate moment with Biden is representative of the type of candidate she could be in the 2020 campaign. She is a better debater than Biden and is able to produce viral moments that he can not. This is evident not only in the Democratic debates but in her Senate hearings where she assertively questioned William Barr, Brett Kavanaugh and Jeff Sessions.

Senator Harris would be a strong and historic vice president that Joe Biden needs on his side, not only to debate Mike Pence but also to energize voters that just don’t find old white men that exciting.