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.

Sure, I had “Donald Trump Attempts to Cancel US Democracy Itself” on my 2020 Bingo Card. I even had the excuses he would use (mail-in voting/Coronavirus) and the method of notification (tweet). But, let’s be honest, so did pretty much everyone else.

It is, at the same time, an unprecedented and frightening attack on the fundamentals of American Democracy, plunging the US one giant step closer to dictatorship, and a move so predictable I could have written most of this post a few months ago and just filled in the blanks with details today.

This morning, US President Donald Trump tweeted:

No, He Can’t Just Do That

In case you were wondering, no, he can’t, on his own, postpone a Presidential Election, or any election, for that matter. Unlike parliamentary democracies such as Canada, where Minority Governments are a thing, US election dates are fixed.

The Presidency is a four-year term, no more, no less, period. That’s why, when a president is impeached, steps down, or passes away before the four years are up, the office and all of its powers transfer to the next one in line instead of holding an election when it’s not the appropriate time.

The only way to move the voting day, even slightly, is with a law passed in both the House of Representatives and the Senate and then signed by the President. Changing the date a new president takes office or an incumbent president starts their second term, on the other hand, would take a constitutional amendment. (As a Canadian, thanks to Cenk Uygur of TYT for this info, which apparently most Americans learn in high school civics.)

Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi and her sometimes lackluster legislative opposition to Trump, there’s no way she lets him get away with this one in the House. Meanwhile constitutional amendments take years, not the weeks, and the election is fewer than 100 days away, so also a no-go.

So Why Worry?

So, if Trump can’t legally pull off what he suggested in his tweet, why worry? Putting aside the fact that legality doesn’t seem to be that much of an obstacle for him, the real concern is the tweet itself.

While it’s structured like a typical Trump toilet tweet, there are some noticeable differences:

  • He only uses all caps twice to highlight specific words.
  • He says there is a difference between absentee voting and mail-in voting (there isn’t) in an attempt to preempt a common argument that his opposition to mail-in voting is hypocritical because he votes absentee himself and wrong because US troops stationed overseas have been doing it for years.
  • There are no glaring grammatical errors.
  • It was posted at 8:46am, a good time to be in the morning news cycle, and not at 3am like other tweets.

All this leads me to believe that someone else read it and edited it before he sent it. Maybe someone else even wrote it. This is Trump on-prompter written to sound like Trump off-the-cuff.

It’s not the unhinged ramblings of a troll. It’s a political test balloon.

They’re seeing how many people will go along with subversion of democracy either before or after the election and laying the groundwork for a challenge to the election results if Trump loses. And it looks like he might very well lose.

Sure, the polls in 2016 were saying that Hillary Clinton would win, but not by as much as they are saying Joe Biden will win this time. Also not in the same places – Trump’s poised to lose the suburbs hard.

Biden’s strategy of staying at home, poking his head out occasionally and letting Trump destroy himself in the spotlight seems to be working. Subverting American Democracy itself may be the current president’s last option.

We all knew it would come to this, but that doesn’t make it any less scary.

Featured Image: Painting by Samantha Gold

On Wednesday, Bernie Sanders announced that he is suspending his campaign to be the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States. Thursday, his now suspended campaign released and ad.

Yes, you heard that right. They took a portion of his live announcement that he was no longer running and turned it into an inspirational video called The Struggle Continues:

So why would he drop out then produce an ad? Well, first off, he didn’t actually drop out of the race, he suspended his campaign.

Now usually the two mean the same thing, in fact, up to now, the two have always meant the same thing in practice. Technically, though, they’re not.

And Bernie made it clear in his announcement (a part that didn’t make it to the video) that he was remaining on the ballot in all the upcoming primaries. He also said that he hopes to amass as many delegates as possible.

While he admits that former Vice President Joe Biden will be nominee, Bernie knows that more Sanders delegates means a greater influence for him and his movement on the party platform at the Democratic National Convention. Bernie also knows that Biden will need much more than his support to beat Donald Trump, he will need to run on policies that the movement Bernie started can actually get behind.

A full-throated endorsement of Biden wouldn’t work at this time and would probably only sideline Bernie and make his personal support moot. This is still early in the campaign season and if it wasn’t for the fact that massive on the ground volunteer mobilization and huge rallies were a major public health risk and also illegal for good reason, Bernie would still be pushing forward to try and win the nomination.

Also, as Bernie mentioned in his statement, with the COVID-19 pandemic laying waste to the world, his time will be better spent in the US Sentate trying to push through legislation that will actually help people right now. It’s ironic that the health crisis that sidelined the Sanders Campaign is also the best argument for Bernie’s signature issue, Medicare for All.

So, while state governors are, in most cases, doing their best to keep their people safe, at the national level, Trump is just being Trump, shilling for a snake oil cure he stands to financially benefit from while treating the worst health catastrophe anyone has faced in over 100 years as a stumbling block to his re-election. Meanwhile Biden is pushing the narrative that he, as President, would handle it better without getting into too many specifics (yes, of course, he would handle it better, but that bar is really low).

And then there’s Bernie. Suspending his campaign so he can devote his time to actually helping and not put his volunteers and supporters in harm’s way.

Not me. Us. A slogan, sure, but also a mantra that it’s now clear Bernie Sanders actually lives by.

Did he get into the race to become President? Absolutely. Was that his ultimate goal? No.

The Presidency was a means to an end. A way to give his country universal healthcare, a living wage and more. If he can get those ideas into the White House without moving in himself, so be it.

The campaign may be over, but the movement Bernie started is most definitely alive and more than well. Bernie is no longer just a guy tossing a job application but the defacto leader of millions demanding to be heard.

He doesn’t need the Dems to nominate him to be heard and what he does over the next few months won’t be construed as a candidate trying to get coverage, but it will get coverage. Bernie is now the most important national political figure in the US.