Biden makes historic VP pick as Sen. Kamala Harris becomes first Black, Asian American on ticket

Callan Gray
Updated: August 12, 2020 11:00 PM
Created: August 12, 2020 10:46 PM

Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden made his first appearance with new running mate California Senator Kamala Harris in Wilmington, Delaware on Wednesday.

Biden spoke first saying Sen. Harris “knows how to make the tough calls” and is “smart, tough” and a “proven fighter”.


“This morning, all across the nation little girls woke up, especially little black and brown girls who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities, today, today just maybe they're seeing themselves for the first time in a new way, as the stuff of presidents and vice presidents,” said Biden.

It’s a historic pick. Sen. Harris is the first Black woman and first Asian American to become a vice presidential nominee.

“I am incredibly honored by this responsibility and I am ready to get to work,” said Sen. Harris. “Joe, I am so proud to stand here with you and I do so mindful of all of the heroic and ambitious women before me who sacrifice, determination and resilience makes my presence here today even possible.”

Sen. Harris shared how her Jamaican father met her mother, from India. Both, she said, came to America seeking a world-class education.

“What brought them together was the civil rights movement of the 1960s,” she said. “They met as students in the streets of Oakland marching and shouting for this thing called justice, in a struggle that continues today. I was part of it, my parents would bring me to protest strapped tightly in my stroller. My mother Shyamala raised my sister and me to believe it is up to us and every generation of Americans to keep on marching.”

Sen. Harris is now the third woman in American history to compete for the vice presidency, following Democrat Geraldine Ferraro who joined Walter Mondale’s ticket in 1984 and Republican Sarah Palin who ran with John McCain in 2008.

"Even though they did not win, that changed the idea of what leadership looks like and what it looks like to run for the presidency and what it looks like to be a vice-presidential candidate," said Angela High-Pippert, who teaches at the University of St. Thomas.

Biden’s decision also comes four years after Hilary Clinton became the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination.

“Over the last several weeks I've had the incredible privilege of meeting a group of talented women leaders, all of whom are qualified to be president,” said Biden on Wednesday.

His campaign vetted nearly a dozen women, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth.

“It's really wonderful that Vice President Biden had so many experienced women to choose from at this point,” said High-Pippert. “Those of us who study women in politics know that has often been the problem that there really hasn’t been a long bench of women who would’ve been suitable candidates for the vice presidency based on their experience.”

According to the Center of American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, in 2020 women only hold 23.7% of the seats in Congress, or 127 of 535 seats. Of those 127 women, only 48 are women of color.

Women of color make up just 9% of Congress.

Sen. Harris became California's first African American senator in 2017, after serving as the state's first female attorney general.

“She has the right credentials, she’s done a lot of the right work in the Senate, she ran [for president] herself,” said High-Pippert. “Also I think just the idea that because the Democratic primary had so many different types of candidates, because we saw such a diversity of candidates, I think it would've been a big disappointment to a lot of Democrats if the vice-presidential pick hadn’t also reflected some of that diversity.”

President Donald Trump quickly attacked Sen. Harris after Tuesday’s announcement. 

He called her “a disaster” and said she will be a disaster for the Democratic party.

“She was very, very nasty too, one of the reasons it surprised me,” said President Trump. “She was very disrespectful to Joe Biden."

Biden responded on Wednesday.

“Is it any surprise Donald Trump has a problem with a strong woman or strong women across the board?” he said.  “She is going to stand with me in this campaign and all of us are going to stand up for her. On January 20th, 2021 we're all going to watch Sen. Harris raise her right hand and swear the oath of office as the first woman ever to serve in the second-highest office in America.”

Minnesota’s first female senator, and primary challenger, Sen. Amy Klobuchar threw her support behind Harris on Wednesday, while also addressing the sexism female candidates face.

“All of us have faced it,” said Sen. Klobuchar. “As I said at one of the presidential debates, if this was so easy you could play a game called name your favorite woman president or maybe name your favorite woman vice president. You can't play that game because there's never been one and a lot of that is because women are held to different standards in politics. A lot of things that people said seem innocent but a lot of times they really go at things that get in people's heads.”

High-Pippert expects it will be a rough campaign.

“The fact there were so many women willing to do it, I have to say I find really incredibly inspirational," she said. “I think Ferraro made her mark in 1984, Palin made her mark in 2008 and I think Harris, no matter the outcome, will make her mark.” 

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