A historic end to a turbulent election: Kamala Harris as the first woman to become VP-elect

Abby Wallace, The Gown News Editor

On Wednesday, November 4th, Senator Kamala Harris reassured an increasingly divided and fraught electorate to ‘keep the faith.’ She stressed that ultimately, ‘voters would decide.’ This election has been significant in a number of ways. With record numbers of over 150 million turning out to vote, and heavy reliance on the mail-in ballot this year, her reassurance was a response to the prolonged wait for an answer and calls from Trump’s campaign to stop the counting. Significantly, Senator Harris was right on track, and the growing Biden-Harris lead created the foundations for a historic moment, when voters decided that Kamala Harris would be the first woman of colour to hold the office of Vice-President of the United States.

Vice-President Elect, Kamala Harris is creating many precedents. Preceding President-elect Joe Biden’s speeech to the US nation, she stressed how her mother, an immigrant, would have been proud to see the day. In Delaware, 7th November 2020

Appointment to Vice President-elect is only the latest in an instalment of firsts for Senator Harris, who was also the first black woman to serve as California’s Attorney General before being projected to the Senate in 2017. While Harris has been criticised by more left-leaning factions of the Democratic party for not being progressive enough, it is precisely her experience in the highest legal office in California and progressive-to-moderate stance which could help unify a gradually fragmented party. She sponsored the Green New Deal and has expressed progressive views on women’s rights, such as taxpayer funded abortions, in her own bid for Presidency but has aligned with Biden and a more moderate stance on issues of criminal justice reform, such as ‘reimagining’ rather than de-funding the police.

This framework for unification is not confined to the Democratic party. At the culmination of months of calls for racial and social justice, this election was at the discretion of a population divided not solely upon party, but on racial lines. The President and Vice President-elect will inherit an increasingly divided community, but it seems that Harris is key to the ticket that will take on this challenge. In the face of Vice-President Mike Pence’s continued expressions of faith in the justice system in their debate, Senator Harris positioned herself as ‘part of the peaceful protests’, calling for a change to the justice system and an acknowledgement of systemic racism, something Trump refused to do only one week before.

While Biden is not the progressive candidate that social reformers, especially young, black or women voters, are calling for from the Democratic party, perhaps it was having Senator Harris on his ticket that helped push him over the finish line. The Biden-Harris ticket were able to widen the gender gap only marginally. However, with a historic turnout of black women and young voters, it was these votes which ensured a win for Biden in the crucial suburbs of Pennsylvania, Michigan and even Georgia, a traditionally Republican stronghold.

According to The Guardian, within the young, black demographic, Biden took 88% of votes while Trump took only 9%. Her placement on the ticket is not a promise that the Biden administration will be able to heal all of the wounds these past few months, and years, have revealed, but it is a step in the right direction.

Before her projection as Vice President-elect on Saturday afternoon, Kamala Harris had already made history as the first black woman to run on a successful major party ticket. However, as we have seen on her campaign trail, while she has always expressed pride in her race and heritage as the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, she has never bargained her campaign on this or felt the need to compartmentalise her identity as anything other than ‘American’.

While she has a great amount of work ahead, her election is a defining moment for women, and women of colour, at a time when it is desperately needed.

Abby Wallace
Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris and President-elect Joe Biden at the victory speech to the nation in Delaware, 7th November 2020 They will take up office in January 2021, from President Donald Trump. POOL VIA USA TODAY NETWORK/PHILLY VOICE

Speaking about her identity to The Washington Post in 2019, she told them, ‘you might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.’ This in itself is powerful. Amidst waves of celebration of her historic achievement, Kamala Harris has always found her taking up the ticket profoundly normal, as it should be, as it should always have been.

During her victory speech at the Chase Centre in Delaware last night, Vice President-Elect Harris spoke of this moment as ‘breaking one of the most substantial barriers that exists in our country’ and promised that, ‘ while I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.’

While she has a great amount of work ahead, her election is a defining moment for women, and women of colour, at a time when it is desperately needed. At the end of a turbulent week, which is barely a reflection of the four years which came before it, this moment is historic. A presidency which has alienated, and suppressed diversity will be replaced by a woman in the White House.

Editorial on the most bitter and unconventional US Presidential Election Campaigns in history

Peter Donnelly, The Gown Editor

It was an affair of the old brand on Saturday evening, 7th November, in Delaware. President-elect Joe Biden was not the ‘sleepy Joe’ that his detractors had viciously labelled him. He was, for want of a better, word – ‘Presidential’. President Trump muddied the waters on what presidential actually meant. He was anti-establishment, yes and he had mass appeal from vast swathes of America, with over 70 million US Citizens voting for him in the 2020 Election. It was a sigh of a relief to hear the concilatory tone of Joe Biden in his address to the US nation, “I pledge to be a president who seeks not to divide, but to unify. Who doesn’t see red and blue states, but a United States. And who will work with all my heart to win the confidence of the whole people.” He has spent the best part of 50 years in office; a fact which has been highlighted by his political opponents who have said – why has he not done all the things he has proposed in 2020, when he was Vice-President to Barack Obama.

Balanced commentators have agreed that President Trump will follow the trajectory for which he has an undoubted aversion – convention – when January 2021. Voter fraud will be a popular, defiant rallying cry for Trumpian Republicans, however, no matter how many spanners are thrown in the works of the electoral system – US democracy is the fundamental law which has spoken in 2020, as it did in 2016. Donald Trump will continue his spurious litigation, possibly right up to the highest court in the land – the US Supreme Court. His ‘packing’ of Conservative-leaning justices may be provide little comfort or consolation to his defeated campaign or ego. The justices will be objective adherents of the US Constiution. The litigation around the US’ legal circuit will be symbolic more than anything else. He is, self-admittedly, a bad loser; and a notorious one in US business circles. The President’s aides will be probing him to concede, citing the international recognition of his defeat from allies such as Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Donald Trump should concede as it has always been done, seamlessly according to the dictates of convention, like that of his outgoing predecessors- that will be difficult for him, there will be gritting and gnashing of teeth on Twitter and on other things.

In The Sunday Times, 8th November, New York reporter Will Pavia recalled the statesmanship of defeated Democrat President Stephen Doughlas, on the charged cusp of the US Civil War in 1860, who conceded to Abraham Lincoln, “Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism, “I’m with you Mr President, and God bless you.” Perhaps President Trump should carefullt consider those comments.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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