By Alaina Perdon
Elm Staff Writer
After months of public deliberation, Democratic nominee Joe Biden announced his running mate for the 2020 election on Aug. 11. His pick, California Senator Kamala Harris, has placed the already controversial democratic ticket under heavy scrutiny by both political parties.
If elected, Harris will be the first female and African American vice president in history, a seemingly incredible milestone in the progressive movement. Yet, Harris’s policies may not be progressive enough to earn liberals’ votes.
Harris served as San Francisco District Attorney from 2004 to 2011, Attorney General of California from 2013 to 2016, and has represented California in the United States Senate since 2017. Many of her past political decisions contradict the values of today’s Democrats.
In 2010, Harris fought to block a proposition to tax and legalize recreational marijuana for California residents over age 21.
“Spending two decades in court rooms, Harris believes that drug selling harms communities,” said Harris’s then campaign manager Brian Brokaw. “Harris supports the legal use of medicinal marijuana but does not support anything beyond that.”
In 2014, following a nationwide call to reduce prison populations, lawyers representing Harris argued in federal court that the early release of nonviolent prisoners would “drastically reduce the vital prison labor pool,” according to a Los Angeles Times article published in November of the same year.
These are but a few of the controversies leading voters to question Harris’s fitness as a potential Vice President.
She does not face criticism alone; FiveThirtyEight reports young voters find Biden and his proposed policies to be “too conservative.”
But is this scrutiny productive, or does it merely detract from the platforms Biden and Harris are promoting?
Polling indicates registered democrats under 45 largely intend not to vote for Biden and favor Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, former presidential candidates touting more traditionally left-wing agendas.
“In Iowa, for example, Biden received just 4 percent of the under-45 vote, according to entrance polls,” FiveThirtyEight journalist Peter Bacon Jr. said. “That trailed Sanders (41 percent), but it also lagged behind former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg (21 percent), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (16 percent) and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang (10 percent).”
Write-in votes for these candidates not on the Democratic ticket in the presidential election will detract from Biden’s votes, potentially shifting the election in the Republican party’s favor.
Neither Biden nor Harris are without flaws, whether in their past politics, personal relations, or provocative Tweets. We cannot ignore their transgressions, even when they publicly apologize or rescind statements, because such ignorance only excuses the wrongs they have done.
But Biden is the Democratic nominee. If Democrats wish to see an overhaul of the current administration, they must back these candidates regardless of their imperfections. Presently, the duo promises to seek justice for marginalized groups across the country and address issues pertaining to climate change and environmental degradation, among numerous other policies.
Under the “Build Back Better” plan, the Democratic nominees intend to bolster financial security for minority families, achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, and eliminate cost barriers to preventive care and treatment for COVID-19. These changes are essential given the fraught state of our nation, and to overlook the potential for progress is a disservice to our fellow Americans.
Rather than snub the Biden/Harris ticket, Democrats should direct their passions inward, using the animosity they feel as a means of holding both their candidates and themselves accountable.
Politicians are largely a product of their environment and reflect the values of those supporting them. Instead of dismissing Biden and Harris as problematic, lean in. Recognizing and addressing the shortcomings of Biden, Harris, and their past supporters increases pressure for them to uphold the promises they make on the road to Election Day. Moreover, it motivates liberals to examine their own values and ensure they meet the same standards they hold their elected officials to.
To run for office is to open oneself up to immense public scrutiny. Both sporting their own spotty rap sheets, Biden and Harris are not exempt from this, nor should they be simply because they are, to most voters, the only alternative to the present unpalatable president. Liberal criticism of the Biden/Harris ticket can be highly productive; however, the energy should be directed towards rallying the Democratic party to incite positive change rather than tearing down the candidates.