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Herculean tasks for Harris

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

Virtually seconds after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden picked California senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, Trump did the predictable. He went on the attack. Harris was “nasty,” “a loser,” “disrespectful” and “phony.” He topped it by bragging that he wanted her to be the VP pick — presumably, because she would be virtually putty in his and the GOP’s attack hands. Harris won’t be. But she does have five major tasks to perform that will do much to put Joe and her in the Oval Office.

The first is, don’t get in the gutter with Trump. He will unleash his usual barrage of insults, digs, slurs and slanders of her. There’s absolutely no need for her to respond or feel the need to rebut every one of his tissue of lies, falsities and name-calling. Swapping insults with him is simply to play into his well-honed game of distraction, diversion and distortion.

Harris and Biden have the Democratic party establishment and millions of Democratic voters solidly behind them. What they don’t have yet are moderate to conservative independents as well as many disenchanted eligible Black voters who stayed home in 2016 in the five Heartland states and Florida totally on board.

Her next task is to deftly pirouette and make the case for the Biden ticket to the thousands of Black voters who stayed home on Election Day in 2016. Their absence played a big part in putting Trump in the White House. There are also a lot of Blacks still wary and even unforgiving of Biden for his backing of the Clinton Crime Bill, his alleged trash of Anita Hill and opposition to busing.

Harris will have the task of working both sides of the political street, like any good politician does. She’ll talk her track record as a law and order prosecutor in the suburbs. She’ll talk her same track record as a prosecutor who believed in real criminal justice reform and opposed the death penalty and mass incarceration. It’s a deft pirouette, but if she can pull it off, it will pad Biden’s vote totals.

Then there’s Bernie and the progressives. Many have kept up a drumbeat assault on Biden as a corporate Beltway Democrat, with loads of conservative, deal-making baggage. Harris has embraced many of the progressive stances of Bernie’s ardent backers. There are a lot of them in the swing states. Many stayed home in 2016 or voted third party. This also helped sink Clinton. Harris will have to convince them that her relatively newfound progressivism is for real and she’ll be a strong advocate for issues such as Medicare for all and will fight hard against corporate pillage and wealth inequality.

Biden will be near age 80 on inauguration day if he wins. Harris’s final task is to assure voters that if there is an age or health challenge or Biden elects to serve only one term, she has the experience and political savvy to quickly take the wheel of governing. This is vitally important for one other reason. There are still many men and women who feel the presidency is a man’s job. Harris must project a strong, seasoned and commanding presence. This is a must to break down that still-ingrained gender bias.

These are tasks that would challenge a Hercules. However, the White House could ride on how well Kamala Harris succeeds in tackling these tasks.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.

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