Joe Biden’s pick for running mate, Kamala Harris, Senator from California, has a fascinating family and political background. Many people have just heard a few surface things, and may not be aware of many of her interesting, progressive, and principled accomplishments on important issues.
First some basics about her background.
She was born in Oakland, California, to Shyamala Gopalan, a breast-cancer scientist who immigrated from India, and Donald Harris, a professor of economics who immigrated from Jamaica. A realization of the American dream in so many ways.
Harris attended Howard University as an undergraduate. This makes her nomination the first for a graduate of a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to run on a major party’s presidential ticket.
Harris is a lawyer, getting her law degree from the University of California-Hastings College of Law. She went on to serve as a prosecutor nearby in Alameda County, where her career in criminal justice reform began.
We are all aware of certain controversies regarding her anti-truancy policies. But how aware are we of her truly progressive work in the criminal justice system?
After Alameda, Harris became the first female district attorney in San Francisco’s history, and was reelected four years later.
In 2010, Harris became California’s first female attorney general and was reelected by a wide margin in 2014.
Harris instituted a number of progressive reforms as district attorney. They included “Back on Track,” a program intended to reduce recidivism by allowing first-time drug offenders to graduate high school and get jobs instead of facing prison time.
Harris also required that under California’s controversial “three strikes” law that the San Francisco district attorney’s office could only charge for a third strike if the felony was “serious or violent.”
As attorney general, Harris also introduced training on racial bias and procedural justice and made California’s Department of Justice the first statewide agency to require body cameras and launched a program tracking police killings for the public to use.
In the Senate, she serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, the Committee on the Budget, and the Committee on the Judiciary.
Harris’ popularity began to rise 2018 during Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, often going viral for her questioning of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual misconduct by California professor Christine Blasey Ford.
Harris was close to his Biden’s departed son Beau, from the days when Harris and the younger Biden were state attorneys general. Besides a couple of flare-ups during the Democratic debates, they have always been close.
Biden, unlike Trump, prides himself on not bearing grudges, and nothing proved that more than picking Harris. Biden also knows that a vice-presidential nominee must be a fearless and ferocious prosecutor of the case against the other party and its nominee. He has that in Harris.
Harris endorsed Biden in March, saying that “he has served our country with dignity and we need him now more than ever. I will do everything in my power to help elect him the next President of the United States.”
“Don’t worry, Mr. President, I’ll see you at your trial,” Harris said in a Twitter exchange with Trump after she ended her presidential campaign. She was talking about the impeachment trial then, but now the jury is the entire American electorate.