WILLIE BROWN: Biden making Harris campaign with his people, not hers
Willie Brown/San Francisco Chronicle
Joe Biden selected Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate because she was the best national campaigner in the bunch. It turns out her supporters were good insider campaigners as well.
My sources tell me that Biden made the decision to go with Harris weeks ago, but that some of those close to him balked, thinking she was too ambitious — though this is seldom raised as a negative when it comes to men. In any event, their fear was that Harris would have her eye more on 2024 than 2020.
So Biden held off, and the delay opened the door for anti-Harris forces to push for Los Angeles Rep. Karen Bass, who has said she harbors no desire to be president. Then Bass hit the rocks when her past kind words for Fidel Castro and appearance at a Church of Scientology opening surfaced — history that many theorize could have been shopped by Harris supporters here in California.
Whoever shopped it, the result was that one competitor for the job was damaged. The anti-Harris cadre then pitched Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser under former President Barack Obama.
But Harris supporters had anticipated the move and recruited 100 prominent Black people to send letters to the Biden camp supporting Harris. Some of the letters said that for all her policy credentials, Rice was not well known in the Black community.
Finally, Biden said the choice would come down to two considerations: He needed a great campaigner, and he needed someone who could step in as president should the need arise. Harris was the only one who fit the bill, and that was the end of the selection process.
Interestingly, the Biden camp is staffing Harris’ campaign operation with its people, rather than letting her bring in her own team. Essentially, the plan is to envelop Harris in a Biden blanket.
Welcome to the vice presidency.
But it’s still a ways to go: It’s been 100 years since women won the right to vote nationally, and we are still dealing with a serious gender gap in our society — especially in politics.
It’s not going to be easy for Harris in this campaign, just as it was not easy for Geraldine Ferraro or Sarah Palin when they ran for vice president. In fact, it will be harder for Harris than it was for them, because she’s not just a woman, she’s a Black woman and an Indian American woman.
Harris will have to watch every word and every move more closely than a white man does. The criticism won’t be as fair, and it will come more quickly. Like I said, what man in the U.S. Senate would be judged harshly for being ambitious?
At the same time, Harris can’t wait for the prejudices of the world to define her. She has to define herself for the world.
And I have every confidence that Harris will be able to do just that.
She did it when she ran for San Francisco district attorney, she did it when she ran for California attorney general and the U.S. Senate, and she did it when she ran for president.
I just pray that the Biden operation does not squelch her by trying to dictate everything she says or does.