Indian American Senator Kamala Harris appeared onstage Aug. 12 afternoon with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, a day after he announced her as his running mate.
The two candidates stepped onstage observing COVID-19 pandemic social distancing rules, wearing masks as they first appeared before a minimal audience comprised mostly of photo-journalists. No hugs were exchanged after the veteran political leaders lauded each other’s political records. Biden flouted conventional norms, championing Harris before yielding the stage to her.
Harris paid homage to her late mother, cancer researcher Shyamala Gopalan of Chennai, who raised Kamala and her sister Maya in Oakland, California. Gopalan and her then husband, Donald Harris, would put Kamala in a stroller and take her to civil rights marches, recalled Harris onstage.
“My mother would tell me, ‘don’t sit around complaining. Do something about it,’” said the new vice presidential candidate, crediting her Indian American mother for shaping her career.
“Over the past several months, I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many talented women leaders, all of whom are equally qualified to be president. Each of them impressed me more as I got to know them,” said Biden, adding: “I look forward to working with them as we rebuild our country.”
“I had a great choice. But I have no doubt that I’ve picked the right person and that is Kamala Harris,” said Biden, pointing to the junior senator from California. “This morning, many black and brown girls who often feel overlooked, woke up and just maybe saw themselves in a different way.”
“Kamala is a smart, tough, proven fighter for the backbone of this country – the middle class and those struggling to get into the middle class. She has earned every one of the accolades she has gained,” said Biden.
The veteran politician championed Harris’s record as California’s attorney general, noting that — with his son, the late Beau Biden, who at the time was serving as attorney general of Delaware — the two took on big banks who had fraudulently foreclosed on homeowners during the massive economic downturn of 2008. Harris managed to secure $20 billion for California homeowners in a settlement.
Biden lauded Harris for taking on big oil companies and for championing LGBTQ marriage.
Harris had sparred with Biden during the Democratic presidential debates, most notably challenging his record on civil rights. “Take it easy on me, kid,” joked Biden to Harris during the second Democratic debate last July.
“Kamala’s story is America’s story,” said Biden, alluding to Harris’s immigrant parents.
Biden spoke about Harris’s signature “3 a.m. agenda” of sleepless parents worried about how they were going to keep their homes and feed their families. “I saw that in my family and Kamala saw that in hers.”
“Everyone’s just looking for a fair shot. Working families need someone on their side. They don’t have someone now, but that’s going to change in a Biden-Harris administration,” he said, in a veiled reference to President Donald Trump.
Biden excoriated the president for “simply not caring” in the midst of the pandemic, which has claimed more than 160,000 lives, decimated much of Main Street America, with mom-and-pop businesses taking on the harshest blows, and created staggering unemployment levels.
“America is crying out for moral leadership,” said Harris. “We are reeling from the worst health crisis of the century and facing a moral reckoning with racial injustice,” she said. “In just 83 days, we have a chance to choose a better path for our country.”
“The case against Trump (and Vice President) Pence is open and shut,” she said, speaking of staggering rises in poverty, hunger and homelessness in the U.S. amid the pandemic.
“Our country is in tatters,” said Harris, noting: “Trump inherited the longest economic expansion from (former President Barack) Obama and Biden and ran it to the ground.”
“We will have to work hard and organize more,” said Harris, adding: “The character of our nation is on the ballot.”
Associated Press adds: “This virus has impacted almost every country. But there’s a reason it has hit America worse than any other advanced nation. It’s because of Trump’s failure to take it seriously from the start,” Harris said.
She added: “This is what happens when we elect a guy who just isn’t up for the job.”
Harris also noted the “heroic and ambitious women before me, whose sacrifice, determination and resilience make my presence here today even possible.”
For his part, Trump has struggled to land on a coherent message about the Biden-Harris ticket, casting the Democrats as simultaneously too liberal for America and yet not progressive enough for their party’s base. Trump has resorted to sexist and racist criticism, referring to Harris as “nasty” and tweeting that “the ‘suburban housewife’ will be voting for me” to keep neighborhoods safe.
He also noted the two Democrats’ disagreements during the primary campaign last year.
Harris signaled that she’ll offer a vigorous defense of Biden’s qualifications on issues of race and civil rights, though she made headlines for assailing him for his past opposition to federally mandated busing during a primary debate.
Noting Biden’s own vice presidency under President Barack Obama, she said he “takes his place in the ongoing story of America’s march towards equality and justice” as the only person “who’s served alongside the first Black president and has chosen the first Black woman as his running mate.”
Biden’s choice of Harris brought more than just historical weight to the ticket — it also provided a big fundraising boost for the campaign. He announced at a later online fundraiser that the campaign raised $26 million in the 24 hours since she was announced, with 150,000 people giving for the first time.