Only a few days after Joe Biden ‘s search for his runner this spring, his closest friends and advisors began debating how he looked for someone to emulate his remarkably close relationship with Barack Obama. The perspective changed at the start of the pandemic and, following George Floyd ‘s assassination, demonstrations put a new set of concerns to the forefront of the national and presidential consciousness. He came under pressure to select and quickly chose a Black woman but also to return to the political path to do anything to get the Democrats back to mind. Nevertheless, his biggest priority – that he could meet someone with whom he could work smoothly and whose dream suited his – remained unchanged, according to a number of Democrats who met with him personally during the summer. Yet it wasn’t that she was Opponent’s Opponent, like his friends, when he revealed Tuesday that he had selected Kamala Harris. When Harris picked meant a certain dream not only for his administration but for what follows.
It took him some time to get there. The self-imposed deadline for selecting Biden was skipped many days earlier this month. Wrestling with its decisions, each of the contenders’ gloomy news reports turned into a chaotic storm. His advisors and associates leaned on each other and on him to support and pressure their favourite candidates. Many argued that he would use the pick to shore his left political flank; others argued that appealing to the suburban core was more necessary. By the outset of the Democratic convention this month, his moment was gone. Yet his poll lead over Trump stayed wide enough to see room for a decision not driven by short-term politics.
Though either he or his assistants are not going to say it publicly, the soon-to-be 78-year-old Biden had obviously a chance to affect the Democratic Party ‘s future through his pick. None expect him to be re-elected, which means that his choice may be the most important VP choice of decades. He knew that and he felt the weight. Not only is Harris the first Black woman to take part on a major party ticket, but she may be the first female to run for president on 2024 at the age of 55. It will be commonly viewed as a node to the future – more so than its possible inclusion of any of the candidates older than Harris or of someone who did not serve in state offices. (Some around Biden still chaste over Obama ‘s decision in 2008. Biden was viewed as too old for a presidential candidate … in 2016.)
This was often missed during her own presidential run was the ideal alignment or competing with Biden’s political style and philosophy of Harris. It was easy to miss if you focused on her argument with him. (In addition, some of his aides still find it hard to get around 14 months later — just recently Biden was caught up in a warning that was “DO NO HOLD GRUDGES”). Yet Harris and Biden are both coalition makers willing to look for the Democratic Party core. By choosing her, Biden supported the long-term viability of this political brand over established activist-style, even as the left side gains strength.
And while Harris wasn’t known for the electrification of large crowds on the road, she also succeeded at working small rooms and talking to senators one by one – a sign of the way Biden views his political abilities.
“I remember how the kids felt so much in Detroit, how important they felt, as did our members of her town-hall,” Randi Weingarten, the influential chairman of the American Teachers’ Federation, who called “Electrifying” Harris’ choices, spoke extensively to Biden’s VP selection committee, and forecast to me last December – when Harris’s presidential campaign had won.
Of course, there were also shorter-term concerns: If elected, the pair will almost definitely have to monitor one of the biggest health and financial recoveries in history, and four years in the Senate gave Harris a hand on Susan Rice, the national security advisor to Obama’s administration, who was widely considered to come second.
“The blend of hope about what this country wants to thrive and succeed, not just on a granular basis but also in terms of energy and the capacity to communicate with people who have been through it,” said Ilyse Hogue, the influential president of the pro-choice advocacy organization NARAL. Harris, once attorney general and the district attorney for San Francisco before she had been elected Senator, “understands deeply how the government works and how political mechanisms are functioning for the benefit of the people, not the powerful,” said Weingarten.
Yet Biden, of course, called the effort itself. The Biden squad were still manoeuvring to prevent a repeat: on Tuesday nights, before Biden told Harris she had become his bird, the campaign revealed that the vice-president ‘s teams would consist of a group of Obama / Biden veterans and not of the candidate’s own workers. Yet Biden also saw in her a campaign-proven choice to help not just improve the much-needed turnout amongst Black voters, but also to inspire the well-educated suburban women who eventually backed him in the primary or who are only learning from Trump right now.
On Tuesday, Obama’s political strategist David Axelrod wrote that his work found that Harris was one of Day 1’s most competent at serving—an argument which he also made at her own interviews, and to which Biden was particularly attracted. Harris, too, has ties with many of the party’s biggest contributors and anticipates her potential to bring Mike Pence down in conversation — a confrontation that will actually be much more critical than normal considering the lack of daily elections this fall.
Nonetheless, as one seasoned Democrat close the Biden team told me, referring to Biden’s large vote gap and Trump’s deep unpopularity and national treatment, “this election is about Trump. This alternative did not matter in short-term politics one way or another.
Biden ‘s plan had little short-term. Following numerous rounds of interviews with each of his prospects and associates, he spent weeks considering the details given to him by his selection committee and his final findings the weekend and diving into his pasts with 160-item questionnaires. And he learned of colleagues from all over the country who also has their own favourites — many of the Californians and leading contributors, but even prominent party leaders like Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schuman, support Harris.
Biden’s other voice, Obama’s, was also welcoming. The former president has long been open to his admiration for Harris, and some of his top former assistants made Biden allies no secret of their affection for her to whom Obama once gave the post of general attorney. This is one reason why Biden decided to return to Harris during the summer, a senior democrat close to Obama says. “In any talk about another girl, the question was always: her or Kamala? Why she’d be better than Kamala? “In his own speech on the evening of Tuesday, Obama said that Biden” walked this decision, “choosing” his own judgement and character.
The choice was also not quite as clear as it seemed back to Biden’s supporters, given the fact that many high-ranking party officials I have talked to over the past few weeks have still referred to her as “Vice-President Harris.” Until the last hours, some of the other candidates also begged their friends and political colleagues to vote positively on their behalf, according to Democrats who understood the discussions, as they talked with team members of Biden. But Biden’s four representatives who knew Harris was a finalist always felt that he would make a different decision — may be Rice and Karen Bass, the president of the Congressional Black Caucus — as they gave him their final materials last week. When the Associated Press reported the news on Friday that Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer had gone to the Delaware to visit Biden, some in Biden’s nearest inner circles muttered loudly so that they would have gotten even closer than they expected to Biden’s top pick.
Harris was not a choice of consensus. For months the Biden camp rumbled that Jill Biden was especially angry at Harris after shocking everybody by publicly criticizing Biden’s record on race and taking part last year on the stage of debate. Others maintained that concern has overblown and Biden constantly reminded allies behind the scenes that Harris is close to Beau, his 2015 friend. But, for a few senior officials who had Biden’s attention on and off during the process, the recollection of that night was perfect. By the conclusion of the process, complaints from former senator Chris Dodd – a personal associate of Biden and a member of his selection committee – to Harris were known enough to make him realize he had to set up his defence behind the scenes. And while Harris has been at the front lines of the Democrats’ call to overhaul the police in recent months, over the years, her experience as a federal prosecutor has put her into conflict with several criminal justice reform critics, including