Kamala Harris; Who is the New VP-Elect?

“We did it. We did it, Joe. You’re going to be the next President of the United States”.

In a phone call to President-elect Joe Biden on the news of his election victory, VP-elect Kamala Harris summed up the mood of millions of supporters around the world. After a roller-coaster election and four nerve-wracking nights spent glued to the seemingly everlasting election count, Joe Biden was elected as the 46th president of the United States, with Kamala Harris as his vice president. But who is Kamala Harris, and what is the significance of her election to office?

An outspoken critic of Trump, Harris has made history as the first female, first black and first Asian-America US vice-president elect. Born in Oakland California and the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, Harris has said that she was raised to be a ‘proud black woman’. She entered the election already a trailblazer as California’s first black attorney general and first woman of South Asian heritage to be elected to the US senate. 

With 77-year-old Joe Biden expected to serve only a single term, Harris is in a strong position to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024. This nomination could lead to one more history-making role; first female president of the United States. 

Harris’ biracial roots and upbringing has enabled her to fully embody and embrace many American identities. In such divisive times, parts of the US which have seen a demographical shift in past generations can see a symbol of representation and hope in her. 

Harris has said on multiple occasions that her time spend at Howard University, a historically black university, was the most formative and enlightening time of her life. Friends of hers at the time would meet to gather and discuss politics, fashion and gossip, bonding over an affinity for debating with campus Republicans; her friend Lisa Rosario-Richardson says that “I noticed she had a keen sense of argumentation”. 

While she was pledged to a black sorority at Howard, she told the Washington Post in 2019 that politicians should not have to fit into compartments based on their colour or background. “… I am who I am. I’m good at it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m good at it.”

From Howard University she began a steady rise from prosecutor, to two elected terms as San Francisco district attorney, to California’s attorney general in 2010. Her successful Senate campaign in 2016 led her to becoming the second black female senator ever, where her experience as the ‘progressive prosecutor’ allowed her to ask tough questions in the Senate and advocate for police reform among other issues, forging her legacy as a rising star within the Democratic party.

However, in her unsuccessful presidential run she was criticised for straddling the party line; in treading the fine line between the progressive and moderate wings of the Democratic party, she appealed to neither. As a person with a background in law enforcement she is outspoken on police reform, calling for changes to police practices and the arrests of the police officers who killed 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. Now, she has the opportunity to do so from within the White House.

At their first event as political partners, Biden said that "This morning, all across the nation, little girls woke up — especially little Black and brown girls, who so often feel overlooked and undervalued in their communities. But today, today, just maybe, they're seeing themselves for the first time in a new way”. 

Kamala Harris’ ascension to the vice presidency is a nod to the future of her party, of democracy and of the United States itself. Her long-standing motto came from her late mother, and is a testament to Harris’ legacy: “You may be the first, but make sure you’re not the last”