Kamala + Joe = ?
Sometimes I really hate being right. I was really right this morning. Joe Biden (who is currently running for President of the United States) was supposed to announce his VP ticket this morning. As usual I was busy and not watching the news —because, despite Covid-19 and shut-down I’m still attempting to a have a non media focused life— but a friend asked me who I thought the pick would be. I said, Kamala. He said, "Pamela? Not that Rice woman?" (Only yesterday Susan Rice was considered a serious contender by all the political news junkies.)
He was right. It shouldn’t have been Kamala Harris. She was running in the primaries in her own right back in December, she flamed out at about 3% in the polls after raising a bunch of money, getting loads of press coverage, and exciting all the 50-something socialites in the greater San Francisco-Napa Area. She’s currently a United States Senator, she used to be Attorney General of California. She kicked around in San Francisco politics for a number of years as well.
So today I had the exciting experience of being proved right as a political prognosticator… Kamala Harris is Joe Biden’s VP pick. (Or the pick of whoever is making the Biden campaign’s decisions.) For once I am writing about something not rooted in the depths of history.
As a California near-native (I wasn’t born here but I’ve lived here most of my life) Kamala Harris isn’t a new figure to me. Today she is Joe Biden’s #2, yesterday she was a pretty stereotypical figure of the modern California Democratic Party.
She is a figure of the Willie Brown political machine. (If you don’t live in California you probably don’t know who Willie Brown is, if you do live in California you probably winced and snickered at his name. I highly recommend reading up on some of the vintage coverage of the Brown years written twenty years ago when there were still proudly Liberal journalists who weren’t proud of a candidate who had a “juice clientele.”) In fact… back in the day, as a twenty-something the current VP contender was dating the significantly older Willie Brown. (The significantly older and technically still married Willie Brown.)
As a woman that story makes me feel sorry for Kamala Harris. At 29 she was a well educated and rather glamorous young woman. Didn’t she have any romantic options better than a technically still married guy who also happened to be thirty years older? Hey, at twenty-something we all make mistakes. (I used to vote for Democrats.) But really…. Willie Brown? Whatever, even Politico thinks being connected to Willie Brown was at least good for her career.
As a Millennial I see the Senator as a transition candidate. She is partly a reflection of the days when Willie Brown pretty much ran San Francisco… she is a product of an essentially one party city. This is a city where leftwing Democrats run against Progressive Democrats and Socialists in weird three-way races where there aren't even any Moderate Democrats on the ballot... and forget about viable Republicans. But she isn’t a machine politician in the way the men from Tammany Hall were back in the 19th century. She’s a product of the modern machine of San Francisco, Napa and Silicon Valley. Proudly “Progressive” —whatever that means at the moment, she used to be a law and order candidate, she’s now apparently against most of the things she was for back in the 1990s— but mainly fashionable. She is a mouth piece for the fashionable politics of the fashionable Progressives of the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a Socialite. And frankly… if the writers of the The New Yorker think you hang with a Socialite crowd you hang with a Socialite crowd. I’m not judging her, the Napa Valley is gorgeous. We make some great wine in California. (Personally I think the very best wine in California is a no name red made in a quonset hut slightly east of Bakersfield. But frankly I suspect Senator Harris probably campaigns about as well in the ag country east of Bakersfield as she did in Iowa.) Hey, wine country get togethers and caramel cookies are great. But to play nationally you have to be able to compete with voter audiences who aren’t your home team. At least… in a normal year.
2020 isn’t a normal year. Maybe Kamala Harris will find her legs on the national stage as Joe Biden’s VP candidate. Maybe Joe Biden —who left Scranton, PA as a very young boy and after a long career in public service now lives in a mansion formerly owned by a member of the DuPont family— and Kamala Harris —who spent a significant portion of her youth in Montreal, Canada, and a serious amount of time last year calling Joe Biden out for sexual improprieties and racism— will sweep their mutual baggage under the political carpet and sweep the nation. Maybe voters really do hate Donald Trump so much they will look at Kamala Harris and think, yup… I want her a heart beat from the presidency! But maybe Willie Brown is right… maybe running for Vice President will turn Kamala Harris into a footnote on the political scene. Personally I'm not sure what the combo of Biden and Harris will equal... But this morning I was right about Kamala Harris becoming Biden’s VP pick. So… I’m trying to revel in a depressing moment. I was really hoping that on the national stage the Democratic Party could do better than the California Democratic Party does in what has, sadly, basically become a one party state. (For the record I no longer vote for Democrats. And I am SERIOUS about the "downballot" races in California this year. If you are curious, this is what my ballot will look like this year. Ballot initiatives matter!)