Joe Biden officially named Kamala Harris as his running mate in the 2020 US Election on August 11th. Since then, all eyes have understandably been on the California Senator and former Presidential candidate.

Biden was leading in the polls prior to the Democratic National Convention, and performed better than expected at the DNC. The former Vice President has already said that he will rely quite a bit on his VP if elected. Also, to put it as delicately as possible, if Biden wins, there is a chance that his VP pick might secure the nomination for President or the Presidency itself sooner than eight years from now.

So who Biden’s running mate is carries a weight both in terms of winning and governing that VP picks don’t usually have to deal with.

The Right and the Establishment React

Right-wing pundits have dusted off the whole “radical left agenda” chestnut, proving that they will level those claims at truly anyone the Dems put up. Also proving that actually having a radical left agenda is no more dangerous for a candidate than not, as Fox News and speakers at the Republican National Convention (RNC) will say you do regardless. But I digress…

As expected, so-called centrist Dems, or the Democratic Establishment (basically the MSNBC crowd), are all very excited and supportive of the VP choice. So are the Liberal-supporting centrists here in Canada.

They are joined, though, by more than a handful of Canadian progressives. I’m talking “I vote NDP but wish they went more left, Trudeau’s just Harper with good hair and slightly better social policies” progressives.

Not sure if it’s because, when it comes to US politics, the bar is in a much different place, or the fact that Harris is an ex-Montrealer who went to Westmount High School. I didn’t go to Westmount High myself, though quite a few friends did, and it isn’t a private school, but a public one with a bit of a rough reputation — at least it had one in the late 70s and early 80s when she attended.

When it comes to American progressives, the VP nod has split opinion into three camps:

Kamala the Cop

Some have brought back the “Kamala is a Cop” narrative, to remind people of her significantly less-than-stellar criminal justice record as both a District Attorney and the California Attorney General. Given that she once referred to herself as the “top cop” in the state, you can’t really say the charge is unfair.

Harris’ time as a prosecutor has been both decried as regressive and even hailed as progressive. Democracy Now recently had two guests on that outlined their points.

Given the current climate, Harris’ record, when combined with Biden’s co-authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill, puts up a couple of red flags progressives find hard to ignore. And many aren’t.

It’s also what might help deflect any last-ditch attacks from the Trump camp. With the current President’s COVID-19 response failing across the board, the Law and Order card is the last one he has to play, and it may backfire if he tries to play it against former prosecutor Harris.

Kamala the Progressive Senator and Paradigm Breaker

Harris is both the first black woman and the first Asian-American to be a major party nominee for the Executive Branch. So this would be a paradigm-breaking administration, which is needed, especially given the rise of white nationalism under Trump.

That, along with the argument that her Senate record on Criminal Justice Reform, which many argue is significantly more progressive than her prosecutorial one, has some on the left genuinely excited by her candidacy. This includes some you wouldn’t expect.

In 2018, Black Lives Matter activist Shaun King said that the two candidates he would not support with 99% certainty were Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Good thing he didn’t say 100% because last week he tweeted this:

Kamala the Better Opponent

There’s another line of thinking espoused by some progressives, including hosts on The Young Turks and by me, at least in solidarity. I can’t vote in the US Election, but if I could, this would be my stance.

Put simply, it poses the question: Who would you rather fight for four years?

Joe Biden is clearly not in the progressive camp of the Democratic Party, far from it. But he is someone who listens to people in the room.

Kamala Harris may have a few more progressive bona fides than her running mate, but she is also far from an ideal lefty choice. She is, however, also someone who knows how to read the room and who acts accordingly.

Harris was originally for Medicare-for-All…before she was against it. While that may be something a typical shifty politician would do, it also means there is an opportunity to get her to switch her position back to the left.

Of course that is unlikely, but at least there is room to try. And if her and Biden don’t deliver, they can be primaried in 2024.

Come to think of it, if Biden serves out his full first term but declines to run again, Harris will most likely face multiple primary challengers, even from the center and right of the Democratic Party. These challenges would not even be motivated by ideological ideals, but by old-fashioned greed.

Even if that doesn’t happen, fighting against people who will listen and who need your votes to stay in power is a helluva lot better than the alternative.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence won’t listen in political circles. And if the RNC’s actions this week are any indication, they will make fighting back in the streets very difficult.

Oh yeah, there’s the whole inevitable dive into unchecked fascism that a second Trump term will bring. But I digress again.

It’s clear who the better opponents are.

After the pasting Elizabeth Warren and most of the other presidential hopefuls gave billionaire candidate Mike Bloomberg in the most recent Democratic Debate, dropping out of the race would be the logical thing for the former New York City Mayor to do. Of course he won’t, though.

Bloomberg, the sixth richest man in the US, has the cash to stay in and the ego to think it’s a good idea. Unfortunately, there are many in the Democratic Party establishment who think it’s a good idea too.

Their logic is simple: He’s like Trump, but different in the right ways.

The thing is, in many ways, Bloomberg is like the current US President. Unfortunately their differences actually help Trump in a general election, or at best don’t matter and their similarities scream unelectable for a Democratic candidate.

He’s A Billionaire From New York, But…

The narrative in favour of Bloomberg goes something like this:

“He’s a billionaire from New York but unlike Trump, he’s not a loudmouth anti-intellectual slob. And New York high society doesn’t laugh at him behind his back.”

Yes, that last part is actually part of the narrative that Bloomberg pushed in a tweet last week:

The intent is clearly to get under Trump’s skin and it probably will. However it will also harden the current president’s bogus narrative that he is an everyman and maybe even win him votes from those who feel they would also be mocked by coastal elites.

Aside from members of the Trump family and Rudy Giuliani, people who care what New York high society thinks didn’t vote for Trump last time. Most likely neither did people who think an expansive vocabulary, high intellect and public decorum are the most important traits a president should have.

Trump won in spite of being a rich guy from New York and largely because he came across as not your typical respectable presidential candidate. Well, that and racism.

Speaking of bigotry and prejudice, let’s move onto where Trump and Bloomberg are similar.

Bloomberg’s Political Track Record Hurts Him

While Trump didn’t have an elected political record when he ran for President in 2016, Bloomberg isn’t so lucky. He was Mayor of New York City from 2001 through 2013.

Those turned out to be 12 of the stoppiest, friskiest years the city’s young male African American population ever experienced. Bloomberg took Giuliani’s Stop and Frisk policy and, as Michael Moore said recently, put it on steroids.

While Bloomberg now claims that he is “embarassed” by stop and frisk having “gone too far” under his watch, audio from 2015 unearthed by Benjamin Dixon tells a different story:

Racial profiling was a top down policy and the guy at the top is only now “embarassed” by it because he is running for President and got called out. Racial prejudice is one of the traits Bloomberg has in common with Trump.

Another one is his problem with women working for him. Some have reported rather misogynistic things he said, and others, not sure how many others, have signed nondisclosure agreements. This came up during the last debate:

Following that exchange, Bloomberg decided to release three women from their NDAs and left the door open for others. The first signs that some of what transpired on the debate stage actually got through to the billionaire candidate.

Trump also has problems with sexual harassment and worse. But running as a Republican, that sadly doesn’t seem to matter, neither do his racist policies.

As a Democratic candidate, though, both do. Bloomberg is just a bridge too far for many voters who lean to the left but are willing to suck it up and vote for almost anyone running against Trump.

Bloomberg the viable Democratic presidential candidate is the embodiment of the incredibly wrong decades-old belief of many establishment Dems that you can only win swing states and flip Republican states by running as GOP-lite. In this case, it would actually mean running an officially former Republican with a few decent policies to keep the blue states in line.

You don’t turn a purple state blue by wearing a bunch of red. If you want to win over independents and even some Republicans, you need to be a bold alternative, not a watered down version of the other side.

The Bernie Factor

While it may have been Warren who eviscerated (in this case, such an over-the-top click-baity word is appropriate) the former mayor on stage, Bernie Sanders gained the most that night. He walked into the debate the front runner and left it still on top of the pack.

That wasn’t lost on anyone, in particular Bloomberg, who has squarely re-purposed a significant amount of his bottomless ad buying power to attack the Vermont senator. So much for attacking Trump…he is instead attacking the best chance the Dems have to beat him in November.

If Bloomberg truly wanted to use his fortune to remove Trump from office, he would have challenged him in the Republican Primary and then in the General Election as a third-party candidate. He’d take some of the old guard Republican vote and even some of the corporate Democrat vote and leave the working class and socially progressive voters all to Bernie.

Sure, he wouldn’t win, but neither would Trump. In the unlikely event he becomes the Democratic nominee, Trump would undoubtedly win.

Bloomberg won’t save the country from Trump. He’s trying to “save” the Democrats from Sanders, and if that means his old golfing buddy Donald gets another four years, so be it.

Bloomberg is a disaster that hopefully will never happen.

Jason C. McLean is a Canadian political observer who, like everyone else in the world who cares about politics, is following the 2020 US Election quite closely

American friends, in particular those choosing a Democratic candidate for President, something’s been bugging me about the debates I’ve been watching. It’s the rhetoric attacking Medicare for All.

In particular, it’s the concept that if you don’t make government-funded healthcare just one option among many private options, you will be unfairly taking something away from people. While the impetus for politicians to make such arguments clearly lies in the fear of losing donor money, those who believe their logic most likely do so out of a real fear of losing something they actually need or like.

I suspect it’s due to a fundamental conceptual misunderstanding of how Medicare for All works. With that in mind, I’d like to explain, or Canadian-splain if you will, how Universal Healthcare works here in Canada.

It’s in the Cards

All Canadians are entitled to a Medicare Card. They are issued by the government of the province you live in.

These cards need to be renewed at a minimal cost. The specifics vary from province to province, but they’re all in the same range.

In Quebec, where I live, renewal is every four to eight years and costs $25. If you move to a different province, you have to prove residency to get a new card.

Having lost my card once at the same time I moved, I know all too well that you really have to prove who you are and where you live. Given that your health card also serves as a photo ID for things like voting, it’s good to know that this is a secure system.

It’s Really Quite Simple

With the card, you can walk into any hospital you want and get the treatment you need. There’s no such thing as “out of network” or a “deductible” here.

When it comes to family doctors, you choose the one you want. They still have to accept you as a patient, but your bank balance won’t be a factor.

When you arrive at the hospital or the doctor’s office, they swipe your card, treat you and send the bill to the appropriate provincial government. The provinces administer and directly pay for the healthcare system with the help of transfer payments from the Federal Government, as universal coverage is mandated by the Canada Health Act.

It’s important to note that the cost of procedures the government pays for is standardized here. Given the fact that hospitals in the US can currently charge whatever they want, I get why the prospect of universal coverage may erroneously seem too pricey to many.

What’s Covered and What’s Not

In Canada, Medicare covers everything from AIDS and Cancer treatment and gunshot wounds to non life-threatening stuff like sprained ankles. While medicine you get when in a hospital is covered, prescription drugs you take after aren’t (except for in some cases like people on welfare), but they are considerably less expensive than in the US.

We also don’t cover dental care or surgery considered cosmetic. It’s interesting to note that the Medicare for All plan Bernie Sanders is proposing does cover dental as well as home healthcare and, from the looks of it, a better plan than Canada currently has.

In our recent election, one party, the NDP, was pushing for Universal Dentalcare and prescription drug coverage, but they lost to (everyone outside of Canada’s favourite Liberal) Justin Trudeau. While he’s not for expanding the Canada Health Act, he wouldn’t dare suggest scrapping it, and neither would our most right-wing politicians.

Currently, for stuff like dental, we still have private and workplace insurance. I seriously doubt that if our government started funding dental or pharmacare, people would fear losing their private insurance.

A Different Mindset

That’s because you don’t have to give up any treatment with Medicare for All. If your system turns out anything like ours, the only thing people will lose is the cost.

If people “like their insurance” what they really like is the healthcare they get. And they’ll still get the same healthcare.

Yes, treatment will be prioritized for those who need it most and then for those who arrived first. It’s possible a millionaire will have to wait in line behind a minimum wage worker and someone on welfare if all three require the same care at the same urgency, but that’s how it should be.

When you stop seeing healthcare as a commodity and instead see it as an essential public service, like the fire department or the roads, you’ll realize that you aren’t giving up anything with Medicare for All.

Featured image of a Medicare for All Rally in Los Angeles 2017 by Molly Adams via Flickr Creative Commons