When former Vice President Joe Biden announced his choice for a running mate, it was cheered by supporters as not only smart, but inspired. California Senator Kamala Harris was the textbook model for the American Dream. Daughter of an Indian mother and Jamaican father, her mom a cancer researcher, dad a distinguished economics professor.
But almost immediately the loudest voice in America rained down a string of near invectives on Harris. President Trump characterized Harris, a former San Francisco DA, California Attorney General---both firsts---, U.S. Senator, and one-time Presidential candidate, as a “mad woman,” “angry,” “disrespectful,” “weak on facts,” and even intimated, constitutionally unqualified to run for the office. His ‘birther’ conspiracy on full display.
But with Trump in full attack mode, two Colorado Latinas with ground level experience in politics were praising Biden’s choice. Interestingly, one of them now holds the same state Senate seat the other held a generation ago. State Senator Julie Gonzales and her predecessor, political pioneer, and activist Polly Baca agreed that Harris could be key in a Democratic win in November.
“I’m excited to see all that she brings to this race,” said Gonzales. “As a woman of color and the daughter of immigrants and someone who has navigated court rooms, the U.S. Senate and even a presidential campaign, I look forward to seeing her on the debate stage.” The Pence-Harris Vice Presidential debate is set for October 7th, at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. There has been no word on how the pandemic may alter the plan.
“Kamala Harris represents all that we’ve been struggling for,” said Baca. “The skills she has are being able to work with all political backgrounds and stripes,” adding, “I’m very delighted that she is so progressive.”
Harris’ court room skills were evident in questioning two Cabinet nominees and a Supreme Court candidate. Her preparation in committee hearings showed. The former DA and AG, reduced Jeff Sessions to stammering; Bill Barr to vaguery; Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh to frustration. But it was her questioning of Kavanaugh that Trump saw as the behavior of a “nasty woman.”
Instead of spending hours tweeting as the President is known to do, Gonzales says Harris spends her time studying and addressing issues that matter to the country, including figuring out ways of getting around Trump’s latest obsession, vote-by-mail. “Colorado’s election system is a national model,” said Gonzales.
State voters approved mail-in voting in 2013 and, so far, it has worked to near perfection. “Cory Gardner was elected on an all-mail (method),” she said. “Yet, he has not raised his voice to call out Donald Trump.” “When my party’s wrong, I’ll say it,” Gonzales said. “He’s been awfully quiet.”
Baca, who has worked in campaigns since the 60’s, held elected office, and served two presidents, agreed. “I doubt very much that Donald Trump has ever been to a voting center. Colorado is a gold star on how you run mail-in voting.”
But it’s not just Trump’s latest obsession, voting, that troubles the two veteran politicians. They’re both troubled by what Baca calls Trump’s ‘dog whistling’ to his base that targets immigrants. “The man in the White House is not aware of his own history,” said Baca. “His mother is a German immigrant,” she said. “Yet he has the audacity to say it about Kamala Harris! He’s projecting his own insecurities.”
Gonzales says Trump’s between-the-lines birther attack on Harris is no surprise. Trump, she said, “has promoted conspiracy theories all throughout his first candidacy and his entire term.” The first-term legislator and Yale graduate says he does it “because he has no record of his own to stand on.”
Birtherism may be a comfortable fallback for Trump, said Gonzales. But it means little compared to the pandemic America is grappling to control right now along with Trump’s handling of it.
An estimated thousand people a day are dying from COVID-19, 170,000 deaths and counting, yet Trump regularly touts his handling of it as a success. “Trump saying something (about COVID-19) and the truth are two different things, especially when it comes to things that really matter---the pandemic” said Gonzales. “He has failed.” Trump’s massaging of the truth on this deadly virus, added Gonzales, is a ruse to win reelection.
“I’ve lost friends from coronavirus,” said Baca. “They didn’t have to die had Trump---in January---taken it seriously and put into place a process for testing,” she said. Compare his handling of it to China, Italy and New Zealand, said Baca. “He could have saved thousands of lives.”
Both Gonzales and Baca agree, there are plenty of compelling reasons not to vote for the Trump-Pence ticket, among them the pandemic, the gutting of the Postal Service, the economy which sets records by the week for the plunge it’s taking and the number of Americans now unemployed. But, instead, they ask voters to think about all the reasons to vote for the Biden-Harris ticket.
The birther attack against Harris so far has not changed things for Team Trump. But her selection seems to have supercharged blue voters. In the first 24 hours after the announcement, contributions to the Biden-Harris ticket shot up more than $26 million. Harris has also subtly addressed Trump’s negative volley.
“They’re going to engage in lies…engage in deception,” said Harris. The VP candidate said it would not take away from addressing the “real issues that are impacting American people.”
Harris’ life includes a record of ‘firsts’ or ‘near firsts.’ She is the first African-American and South Asian on a Presidential ticket; she is only the second African-American woman elected to the Senate; she is the only VP candidate to graduate from Howard University, an HBCU, Historically Black College and University. Her record, says Gonzales, sells her as ‘a people’s choice’ candidate.
“This election is going to be really important,” said Gonzales. “We need to take the time to get informed, educated. I’m going to be holding a town hall the day after ballots are mailed out on Zoom and Facebook Live.” She said she plans to “walk through all the issues on the ballot…get to know the issues and candidates that are important to our state.”