Why the nomination of Kamala Harris marks a historical moment beyond politics.

On Tuesday Aug 11, Joe Biden informed his supporters of his decision to make Senator Kamala Harris his running mate, marking a historical moment in more than one way.

Forceful and pragmatic, that's how The New York Times' Alexander Burns outlined the Senator who happens to be the first black woman and the first person of Indian descent to be nominated for national office by a major party.

The daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, Senator Harris is a living confutation of all President's Trump's objections and accusations against immigrants and embodies the powerful message that the American dream is still not just possible but alive and kicking.

Beside the political impact of this decision – Harris is an experienced, skilled and tough candidate – which will bring a whole new set of advantages and complexities to the table, it's important to acknowledge the cultural resonance of her selection. 

As much as she will appeal the U.S. largest cities and their liberal and diverse communities,  she will likely find some resistance in the Southern States which have the fewest immigrants and a cultural background inherently opposed to what she represents, including interracial marriage. 

Regardless of what she's standing against to, hers it's a very American story about breaking barriers, glass ceilings and rewriting what's possible in a changing and fast-evolving landscape. In short: for both demographic, social and ideological reasons, Senator Harris is a living opposition to Trump's main talking and selling points.

In her book, Harris also describes herself as a black woman, an identity she claims was nurtured by her mother, an Indian immigrant:
My mother understood very well that she was raising two black daughters. She knew that her adopted homeland would see Maya and me as black girls, and she was determined to make sure we would grow into confident, proud black women.

As with many mixed-race people in America, Harris has made identity choices such as choosing to attend a historically black university and entering a Black sorority. Her background together with her political curriculum should place her in good stead with many Black people, particularly women.

Although Black people in the US as a group consistently vote overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidates, there's been a growing gap in preferences between Black men and Black women in the past few elections. Between 2008 and 2016, while Black women’s support of the Democratic candidate held relatively steady, from 96 to 94 percent. It was the support of Black men that fell appreciably. *1,2,3

Another strong asset Senator Harris brings to the Democratic table is her strong digital presence and a powerhouse email list. As the U.S. is still navigating through the Covid-19 pandemic and all gatherings and in-person events are limited if not cancelled, in the 2020 November elections a record 76% American voters will be eligible to vote by mail.

As a California official, Harris also brought attention to problems like data privacy and revenge porn, and more recently she has brought up racial bias in artificial intelligence.
Shortly after launching her presidential bid, for example, Harris introduced the Digital Service Act, which aimed to modernize and streamline government technology on the state and local level in much the same way the Obama White House did for the federal government.

The Biden campaign already has its own fundraising and digital infrastructure in place, of course, but experts who spoke to WIRED suggested that Harris is a valuable addition.

“I think especially when we think about operating in this new reality that we’re in, where you really need to build compelling digital experiences for people,” says Alfred Johnson, cofounder of Mobilize, an organizing platform used by Democratic and progressive campaigns. “I think Kamala Harris is the best possible pick for Biden from that perspective.”

Mobilize partnered with the Harris campaign on events and volunteer recruitment from her earliest days in the race. “The way they thought about digital organization from the beginning of the campaign was really innovative and smart,” Johnson says, noting that Harris' digital team was able to draw her community of online supporters, also known as the KHive, off the internet and into the volunteer ecosystem, where they could advocate on behalf of the campaign, call potential voters, and host events.

And having troops on the internet is no small matter this cycle, especially when you consider the historic nature of Harris’ candidacy. As a woman, Hillary Clinton faced an enormous amount of vitriol online—as a Black woman, Harris is unfortunately likely to face all of that and then some. “The KHive is pretty well organized. It is passionate,” says Amanda Litman, cofounder and executive director of Run for Something, a progressive group that recruits the next generation of candidates. “I cannot overstate how important that is, especially when people will be throwing so much racist, sexist bullshit online.” The willingness of her supporters to aggressively defend Harris will be critical in fighting misinformation, Litman notes.

Sources: *1, 2, 3 , Wired and The New York Times

Illustration by Piotr Lesniak/Getty Images

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