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Kamala Harris: Where do liberal factions of the Democratic party stand on Biden's VP pick?

Progressive lawmakers back former 'top cop' from California, as Bernie World continues to grumble

Griffin Connolly
Wednesday 12 August 2020 17:35 BST
Who is Kamala Harris?

Progressive lawmakers are largely coalescing behind Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s selection of Senator Kamala Harris to be his vice presidential running mate.

Among the progressive icons who applauded the decision were Vermont Independent Senator and two-time presidential candidate Bernie Sanders; Squad members Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and several other lawmakers from the 97-member Congressional Progressive Caucus.

“Congratulations to [Kamala Harris], who will make history as our next Vice President. She understands what it takes to stand up for working people, fight for health care for all, and take down the most corrupt administration in history. Let’s get to work and win,” Mr Sanders tweeted after the announcement on Tuesday.

But while Mr Sanders’ support of Ms Harris may reaffirm his own tepid alliance with the Biden campaign, the Bernie World at large appeared to remain resolute against the Democratic ticket.

Briahna Joy Gray, Mr Sanders’ former national press secretary and an ardent critic of Mr Biden, derided Ms Harris for her pre-Senate career as a prosecutor and attorney general of California.

Ms Harris has faced criticism for being too harsh on non-violent crime during a tenure that disproportionately harassed black people.

And while the senator has largely backtracked from her previous support for modern policing operations in the US, the skeletons remain in her political closet and heavily contributed to the failure of her own presidential campaign.

"We are in the midst of the largest protest movement in American history, the subject of which is excessive policing, and the Democratic Party chose a ‘top cop’ and the author of the Joe Biden crime bill to save us from Trump. The contempt for the base is, wow," Ms Gray tweeted shortly after Mr Biden’s selection of Ms Harris went public.

Cenk Uygur, founder of the leftist media programme The Young Turks, said he would support the Biden-Harris ticket to defeat Mr Trump this November, but that he would not support it next cycle if they win.

“I look forward to helping [Mr Biden and Ms Harris] beat Trump & then leading a primary against whichever one of them runs in 2024,” Mr Uygur tweeted.

"It’s inconceivable they will govern as progressives & we’re not going to take this for 8 years,” he wrote.

"For now, they’re infinitely better than Trump," he added.

The safe choice

Mr Biden’s choice of Ms Harris was the safe one, and he remains the favourite in his race against the incumbent, Donald Trump, this fall.

The former vice president led Mr Trump by 7.2 percentage points in an average of polls between the dates of 24 July and 10 August, RealClearPolitics found.

The progressive politicians on the front lines of the battle for the soul of the Democratic party have issued mostly lukewarm support so far for Mr Biden, who was widely seen as the most moderate of the serious contenders for the Democratic nomination this cycle.

But those leaders believe the former vice president is receptive to their more liberal influence and is a far better alternative to four more years of the staunchly conservative Trump administration.

“I will be pushing him,” Congressional Progressive Caucus co-Chair Pramila Jayapal said of Mr Biden in a recent interview with The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah.

Ms Jayapal, a former surrogate for the Sanders campaign, has endorsed the former vice president.

“As soon as we get him in the White House — and even before with these task forces that we had — we were able to significantly push Joe Biden to do things that he hadn’t signed on to before. So he is movable, he is listening, and he does understand that we need turnout from young people, from folks of colour,” she said.

That last part — turning out young minority voters — will be key for Mr Biden’s campaign to win back key swing states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania that Mr Trump carried by a collective 77,744 votes over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Those victories were enough to swing the electoral college in his favour even though he lost the nationwide popular tally by nearly 3m votes.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Mark Pocan of Wisconsin believes Ms Harris’ addition to the Democratic ticket will help energise voters in the state’s urban centres such as Milwaukee and Madison.

"You can tell she's the real deal," the congressman said, per his local ABC News affiliate.

"I feel her warmth, sincerity and intelligence will come through and I think that will help motivate voters in Wisconsin," Mr Pocan said.

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