Back on May 4th, I pointed out that one of the biggest tells in determining who a running mate could be is found in Wikipedia.
If you look at the history of Vice Presidential picks over the last several elections, you’ll see that nominees’ picks will have Wikipedia pages that are heavily edited in the days or even weeks leading up to the pick. Kamala Harris — or someone who believed she was a favorite to win — has been editing her page for months, making changes here and there to tidy up the page.
After all, when a running mate is picked, what’s the first thing most people who aren’t heavily tuned into politics do? They search Google, and in cases like this, Wikipedia is at the top of the search results. It’s the very first place people go to learn about this political figure. So that page has to be as neat and clean as possible.
In the months since I did that bit of research, very little has changed. Contenders have come and gone. Only in recent weeks did we see Karen Bass and Susan Rice show up as possible alternatives to Harris.
I did have people tell me up and down that it had to be Rice. More than one explained that what Biden needs is a “reassuring mother” type of running mate who can calm people down during this time of crisis. The problem with that analysis is that the crisis we are currently in may not (and, if the current numbers we’re seeing around the country hold up, will not) last all the way through the November election.
So, Biden will have used his pick of a running mate to do a job that may no longer be needed as the election draws near.
So, instead, we get Kamala Harris, who is admittedly a very historic pick. Harris is certainly not a reassuring voice. Her demeanor is not one that is calming and soothing. She is a prosecutor. She is a fighter. She is going to go out and attack anything that moves in order to defend the campaign. When you have someone like Trump, whose only mode appears to be to attack enemies, you’re going to need someone who can fight back.
The decision to pick Harris, then, was a tactical one that showed the Biden team is not confident the virus will be around forever and that the economy won’t be down forever. Harris is the type of pick who will take a talking point and beat Trump with it over and over, which is especially helpful when the top of her ticket is unable to go out and be a confidence-inspiring candidate.
Let’s face it: Biden isn’t all there, and his recent interviews show it. He doesn’t appear on television much, he doesn’t do interviews that aren’t carefully curated by his campaign, and he doesn’t even really appear in ads. He is a candidate who is largely absent from the campaign trail, and we all know it’s not because of COVID-19.
But Harris can be a surrogate directly representing the ticket and go on the offensive, and that’s the play here. Biden needs someone who can attack Trump since he himself cannot coherently do it.
There is a catch to all of this, though, and that is the collective groan I’ve heard from several very progressive friends. Harris is not only not progressive enough for them, but her years as a prosecutor have made it easy to call her a “cop,” and her habit of locking up single black mothers over truancy violations is one of many that worries them.
At the same time, though, Biden’s other options were not great. Say what you want about Bass’s politics, but her biggest problem is that she is a Nancy Pelosi ally, someone the House Speaker wanted in order to have some sort of control over the White House. Likewise, Rice is first and foremost an Obama loyalist whose job would be to help maintain the Obama legacy, which many progressives feel did not go far enough and needs to be torn down in order to build a better progressive America.
Harris is progressive enough that you can get the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bloc in line (and, let’s face it, anyone running against Trump is going to get the Democrats’ support), but is she enough to truly unify the party behind her if Biden wins? I’m not quite sure.
Another interesting question, though, is over whether or not this pick indicates who is in charge of Biden’s campaign. It’s long been known that Harris was his preference, and there were a lot of people trying to dissuade him. This could be Biden reasserting himself and taking control of his campaign… or it could be a concession to let him feel like he’s in control while the people who run his campaign continue to build it into something he may not have intended when he started his run.