Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Progressive Perspectives on the Biden-Harris Ticket

In yesterday's statement by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on why he chose Kamala Harris to be his vice-presidential running mate, I heard echoes of both Bernie Sanders (“making things better – sustainably, structurally, and permanently”) and Marianne Williamson (“a battle for the soul of this nation”) – the two former Democratic presidential candidates who, in my view, most resolutely and authentically embody and champion the democratic ideals and humanitarian values at the core of the “American experiment.”

Here's hoping that Biden's words are not simply hollow rhetoric but signs of commitment to genuine progressive policies and change.

For my part, in response to yesterday's announcement of the Biden-Harris ticket, I'm committed to remaining hopeful and proactive – qualities that are reflected in the following perspectives.


There's no way to sugarcoat it: If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are elected, they'll still be influenced by the powerful forces that have shaped their careers. Biden has reassured billionaires that he doesn't think they're the problem. Wall Street has celebrated Biden's decision to choose Harris.

That's where you come in. Your activism – your constant, fearless, unyielding calls to conscience and sanity – will be the only counterforce to the pernicious influence of money in politics.

Should activists sit this election out? Not if you believe in activism. The right tactical call for activists is to elect the politicians they're most able to cajole, persuade, and pressure. That means viewing politicians in a different light: not as heroes or villains, but as tools. (And, no, I don't mean "tool" in the pejorative, slang sense – at least, not necessarily.) Confronted with the choice between Trump or Biden, the question isn't, which of these people do I admire? The question is, which of these people can I most effectively use as a tool for change?

Too many people in this country's progressive majority – a category that ranges from center-left to socialist – are still searching for heroes when they vote. There aren't many heroes in politics – although there are some, and their ranks are growing. But there are people that can be tools for change. Find them. Use them. But when it comes to heroes, look to yourselves. As the great civil rights leader Ella Baker said, “strong people don't need strong leaders.”

You are strong. Stay strong. . . . [A] strong people don't need strong leaders. But this is a time to speak, for anyone who has something to say. Personally, I want a radically different world than the one we live in today – a world mainstream politicians can't imagine, much less build. I believe we'll need that kind of world to survive what's coming. But we will have to cross a long, hard political landscape before we reach it.

With this announcement, movement activists now have more information about the terrain they'll need to navigate. Information is power. So is activism. My plea to you, as someone with no particular standing to make a plea, is this: Use this information. Stay powerful. Know that you can win – that we can win – if we love, hope, and work together.

– Richard (RJ) Eskow
Excerpted from “A Message to the Left About Kamala Harris – and Us
Common Dreams
August 12, 2020

I will admit I am considerably more progressive than Joe Biden, but on election day I won’t be thinking of that. On election day I will be trying to salvage what is left of our democratic process. Four more years of stacked courts and crony capitalism can only make our humanitarian ideals less obtainable. Yes, we need viable third parties. Yes, we need better candidates. And, yes, we should work on all of that 364 days a year. But, on election day I will vote on whoever realistically gets us closest to our humanitarian goals.

I have many wonderful friends who say “to vote for the lesser of two evils is still evil.” That may be true in the pristine world of human language, but in the real world it is decidedly less evil than inaugurating four more years of the greater of two evils by our inaction. I will join you 364 days a year in building better options; but on election day I will not be voting for personalities, I will be voting for leverage.

– Jim Rigby
via Facebook
August 12, 2020

Harris stakes out some important turf for the Democratic ticket. She is a woman with both Black and South Asian American roots, enabling the Democrats to illustrate their commitment to a multiracial democracy by nominating her. She is crackerjack smart, a quality that many Americans would like to see in an administration. She is seen as a defender of the rule of law at a time when it seems under attack – she caught Attorney General William Barr in a falsehood at his confirmation hearing, noticeably throwing him off and forcing him to avoid her question out of fear of perjury. At 55, she is a generation younger than Biden (or Trump) balancing out the older ticket. And since she was hard on Biden during the primaries, his invitation to her indicates his willingness to accept criticism and continue to work with those who are not yes-men, a significant contrast to Trump.

. . . Already Republicans are insisting that Harris, a former prosecutor, is, as Trump tweeted, part of a “radical left.” National Review ran an article titled “Kamala Harris Is Farther Left Than Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.” Trump campaign advisor Katrina Pierson said that Harris had “gleefully embraced the left’s radical manifesto” during her own run for the presidency, and that Biden’s choice showed that he was “surrendering control of our nation to the radical mob.”

The Republicans are clearly hoping to convince voters that Harris is an extremist. It will not be an easy charge to make stick to a former prosecutor, especially on a day when a Republican candidate who supports QAnon conspiracy theories won a congressional primary in a solidly-Republican district in Georgia, virtually guaranteeing that she will go on to Congress. Marjorie Taylor Greene seems the definition of an extremist. She has spouted anti-Semitic, anti-Black, and Islamophobic comments, and called George Soros a “Nazi.” She has defended QAnon, a mysterious source of a belief that Trump is secretly fighting against a well-connected ring of Satan-worshipping pedophiles that has taken over the government, praising the source as “someone that very much loves his country, and he’s on the same page as us, and he is very pro-Trump.”

– Heather Cox Richardson
via Facebook
August 11, 2020

Diversity is broader than race and gender. . . . Diversity of experience, mindset, and priorities also matters. And you may know where Kamala Harris sits along this continuum by polling the constituency groups that put up the money for establishment Democratic campaigns. They are enthusiastically supportive of Harris, who comforts their fears of a more aggressive posture against those in seats of power in America. They relish her being one step from the Oval Office, and maybe in four years, in it.

As my colleague Bob Kuttner pointed out yesterday, Wall Street was positively jubilant upon hearing the news of Harris’s ascendancy. Silicon Valley is similarly excited that someone with close friendships with top tech leaders could find herself a heartbeat away from the presidency. Hollywood sung from the rooftops as well. Trial lawyers are thrilled.

This is made all the more problematic by the continued introduction of Harris as a fighter against the very forces now rising up in unified approval of her. Biden, in his introductory comments on Harris, led by pointing out she “took on the big banks” during the foreclosure crisis. I don’t know how many times I can say that this is an insult to the ten million American families that lost their homes in that period.

Nobody in a position of power at the big banks saw the inside of a jail cell, nobody had to give up their bonus, and no bank suffered greatly from the wrist slap, largely paid with other people’s money, for mass-producing false evidence to kick people out of their homes. Nothing pains me more than having to retread this old ground. You can read here for the details and here for some more. But the cries of pleasure from the very banks that Harris allegedly pushed around should settle the argument.

Big-money approval leads to, well, big money. Biden and Harris took in $26 million in the first 24 hours as running mates, helped along by a pre-planned blitz plotted by his bundlers that will take the candidates on a tour of each one of the interest groups that nodded in assent at the ticket’s formation.

This circumstance is actually revealing about both parties. The fact that Republicans are struggling with a “muddled message” on Harris when any populist worth their salt can point to the Wall Street and Big Tech backing and set that against the “forgotten” Americans confirms that there are, in fact, no actual conservative populists in the White House. That, plus the utter failure of Trump’s crisis response, should cement the determination of anyone marginally situated on the left of center to work their tail off to separate him from power, and hand it over to Biden-Harris.

– David Dayen
Excerpted from “Kamala’s Choice
The American Prospect
August 13, 2020

Unfortunately, Biden’s political vision doesn’t offer much in the way of upending the conditions that made Trumpism possible. But his point that getting rid of Trump is of utmost importance is correct.

. . . For progressives and those on the Democratic Party’s so-called “left wing,” Biden’s candidacy has been a tough pill to swallow. After all, with an ongoing nationwide uprising against structural racism amidst a crushing pandemic and economic collapse, what circumstances could better illustrate the need for the type of confrontational, systemic change proposed by candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren [and Marianne Williamson]? Yet now, with unemployment spiking, and millions taking to the streets to assert that Black Lives Matter and demanding officials defund the police, we’re in the unenviable position of being forced to acknowledge that voting for Biden – the author of the gruesome 1994 crime bill – and Harris – a former tough-on-crime prosecutor – is undeniably better than the alternative.

. . . The groups RootsAction and Progressive Democrats of America [are] blunt in their assessment of Harris: “While her penchant for taking positions broadly palatable to the corporate donor class raises concerns about her dedication to progressive principles, her habit of aligning her stance with the prevailing political winds gives us some hope.”

Ultimately, while defeating Trump remains a priority, it’s up to those of us on the left to generate the winds we want to prevail by building power outside of presidential politics. Taking to the streets for racial justice, strengthening the labor movement, demanding universal healthcare, establishing tenants’ unions, electing more candidates up and down the ballot who are committed to taking on corporate power to benefit the working class ” this is how we can reorient politicians’ incentives and priorities. The weather vanes will follow.

– Natalie Shure
Excerpted from “Now Comes the Difficult Work
of Pushing the Biden-Harris Ticket Left

In These Times
August 12, 2020

NEXT: Branko Marcetic on the DNC:
“Progressive Symbolism and Empty Rhetoric
in Place of Real Political Vision”

Related Off-site Links:
Joe Biden Selects Kamala Harris as His Vice Presidential Running Mate, Making History – Austa Somvichian-Clausen (The Hill, August 11, 2020).
Centrists and Progressives Rally Around Harris Pick for VP – Tal Axelrod (The Hill, August 11, 2020).
Black Lesbian Political Powerhouse Announced as Kamala Harris’s Chief of Staff – Alex Bollinger (LGBTQ Nationl, August 12, 2020).
Right-Wing Media Is Already Hurling Racist, Misogynist Fire at Kamala Harris – Alanna Vagianos (The Huffington Post, August 12, 2020).
Think Joe Biden Will Be the Next FDR? His Wall Street Donors Don’t Seem To – Luke Savage (Jacobin, August 12, 2020).
Noam Chomsky Wants You to Vote for Joe Biden and Then Haunt His Dreams – Anand Giridharadas (The Ink, August 11, 2020).
Three Policy Reasons for Progressives to Be Happy About Kamala Harris – Jordan Weissmann (Slate, August 11, 2020).
Public Defender: I Worked With Kamala Harris. She Was the Most Progressive DA in California – Niki Solis (USA Today, August 10, 2020).
Biden’s Ukrainegate Problem – Gerald Sussman (CounterPunch, August 10, 2020).
Progressives Don’t Love Joe Biden, But They’re Learning to Love His Agenda – Matthew Yglesias (Vox, July 18, 2020).
Survivors Question Kamala Harris’ Record on Clergy Abuse – Michael Rezendes (Vox, June 26, 2019).

UPDATES: How Progressive Is Joe Biden’s New Vice President? – Freddie Stuart and Aaron White (Novara Media, August 12, 2020).
By Canadian Standards, Kamala Harris Could Run for the Conservatives – Don Pittis (CBC News, August 13, 2020).
Trump Questions Kamala Harris’s Eligibility, Echoing Racist Conspiracy Theory About ObamaDemocracy Now! (August 14, 2020).
Why Trump's Birtherism Attack on Harris Is Killing the Republican Party – Chris Cillizza (CNN News, August 14, 2020).
Silicon Valley’s Big-Money Donors Are Very Excited About VP Kamala Harris – Alex N. Press (Jacobin, August 14, 2020).
“We Have to Expand the Squad”: Cori Bush on Her Upset Primary Win, Defunding Police, and Kamala HarrisDemocracy Now! (August 17, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
“Fascism Is Upon Us”
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor: Quote of the Day – June 9, 2020
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – June 2, 2020
Something to Think About – March 23, 2020
Progressive Perspectives on Big Tuesday and Beyond
Something to Think About – March 5, 2020
Marianne Williamson on the Contest Being Played Out by Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders
Thoughts on the Eve of the Iowa Caucuses
Moderates, Radicals and MLK
David A. Love: Quote of the Day – November 27, 2019
John Atcheson: Quote of the Day – October 19, 2019
Progressive Perspectives on Corruption in U.S. Politics
Bernie Sanders: Quote of the Day – June 12, 2019
Beto, Biden and Buttigieg: “Empty Suits and Poll-Tested Brands”
Progressive Perspectives on Joe Biden's Presidential Run

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