Why the right is so desperate to destroy Kamala Harris
- Credit: Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
The vice-president faces challenges over voting rights and immigration on the southern border... as well as a battle for the country's soul
In the United States in the early years of this century, the Right and its racist elements created the Tea Party. Named after the Boston Tea Party, the new movement came into being in order to fight the first African American president.
And on a deeper, unconscious level, to hold back the inevitable demographic shift of the nation away from its white, Protestant, core to a more multi-ethnic, multi-faith society.
Born out of the broadcaster Glenn Beck’s championing of Tom Paine’s Common Sense on his daily afternoon TV show, the Tea Party managed to cripple Obama’s two terms by sending to Washington Republican majorities for both houses of Congress, lawmakers in the main mired in Tea Party rhetoric.
Obama won a second term, but the Democratic Party’s misreading of the deep fear and rage against modernisation caused them to choose Hillary Clinton as their nominee for president in 2016.
Even though Clinton, on paper, was and is the most qualified person to ever run for the office - attorney at the Watergate hearings in the 1970s when she was barely out of law school; First Lady; senator and secretary of state - she was defeated by reality star and real estate mogul Donald Trump. He knew where the Fear And Rage button was.
Trump created the Make America Great Again movement, an assemblage of grievances from the Right and Far Right and a clarion call to the deeper darkness of the American soul. He took the nation and the world to The Bates Motel of the US psyche and down into the cellar where horror resides. The country is still there. The rest of the world is wary.
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Joe Biden, the common element in this saga that started full throttle around 2005, as Obama’s two-term vice president and now as president, gave the nation the first woman vice-president. She is also the first vice president of African descent, the first of South Asian descent, the first to have a male spouse, the first to have a Jewish spouse, the first to have immigrant parents, the first to have graduated from what is called an historic black college.
In other words, for those who believe in America, and here, too, in the UK, that the real battle is against a growing “Race Industrial Complex”, Harris is the ultimate nightmare.
For women, and we women of colour, she is the exemplar of the broken glass ceiling. But many of us have not checked out the cuts on her head that she has had to endure. Nor the deeply radicalised Republican Party, and its intent to inflict many more. Because vice-president Harris, if Joe Biden decides to be a one-term president, might run for the highest office in the land herself.
The president has tasked her with two jobs: voting rights and immigration on the southern border. The move by several Republican-controlled states to suppress and restrict access to voting has become one of the hills that the Biden presidency and legacy has chosen to die on.
This fight is in the vice-president’s blood. Her activist South Asian mother decided to raise her two daughters as African American, and Harris attended Howard University, the Yale and the Harvard of African America.
The voting franchise and access to it is a key civil rights demand and took a century to achieve. Now the states, under the governance of the GOP, formerly known as The Party Of Lincoln, have set about making sure that fewer African Americans get to go to polling stations.
Initiatives like “Souls To The Polls”, a programme that encourages black people to vote after church on Sunday, has been a target in the South. Harris has spoken there against the Republican plans, but the unspoken is that she might be overwhelmed and out of her depth. A new charge against a woman who has always been perceived and proven to be a winner.
Her plaintive plea of “Don’t come!” to immigrants in Central and South America, was mocked both on the Right and the Left. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has been especially vocal about what she sees as the vice-president’s failure to look at historic wrongs vis a vis the United States and the Americas.
Even though AOC overlooks Nicaragua’s de facto president for life, Daniel Ortega, for starters, she represents the Democratic Party’s emerging progressive wing and if Harris does want to run for president, she has to be aware of what is alive on her Left.
But the challenges that vice-president Harris faces are not only political. They run much deeper.
She is that horror for still too many: A Woman In Charge. And if you think that we have gotten past that, think again.
What struck me about the G7 conference in Cornwall was not the policies, but the two sets of women there. There was what you might call The Duchess of Cambridge Tendency, the flowing hair, flowing dresses and flowing smiles of Jill Biden and Carrie Symonds.
Then there were the WIPs, the Women In Power: Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen. Dressed in trousers and jackets and short hair, for their generation, this was the emblem of “Don’t Ask Me To Make Coffee”.
Back in the day, women of that and Clinton’s generation did not do the following at work: wear much makeup or have pictures of family members visible in the office. Pants suits were de rigueur; and above all, so was being harder on female subordinates than the men.
These days are gone but at the top, where Harris resides, the signal that she must send out and do so on a minute-by-minute basis, is that She Can Run It. The feeling that women have no place near the levers of power, and especially a woman of colour, is deeply entrenched and so the vice-president has two battles: her politics and her gender.
Now Kamala Devi Harris, named after a Hindu goddess of power and beauty, must face what is almost impossible to battle: the deep psyche of her nation.
This has only happened a handful of times: Abraham Lincoln confronted the nation’s deep divide between the idea of federalisation and individualism, which culminated in a devastating civil war; FDR had to battle against the deeply entrenched credo of capitalism whose continued control would have destroyed the United States at the beginning of the Great Depression; LBJ and the Vietnam War, the end of American adventurism and the idea that the US way of life was paramount. And now.
Now the Republic is facing its essence, and Kamala Harris, and her vice presidency, is that essence in the flesh.
What is happening in the US, culminating in the sack of the Capitol - the first time this has happened since the War of 1812 against the British, and something that could not be achieved even by the Confederacy whose headquarters were mere miles away from Washington - is an end game. Do not underestimate this.
John Nance Garner, FDR’s first vice president, once said of the vice presidency in comparison to the presidency, that it was “not worth a bucket of warm piss”.
Kamala Devi Harris must disprove this notion and more because president Biden has done something extraordinary: he has de facto made her his co-president. She is what he calls: “The last person in the room.”
In just that, she has already changed the shape of the American political landscape.
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