The woman who could take down Trump
Could Kamala Harris be the next US president? Twenty Democratic candidates vied for attention during TV debates last week. The winner? A biracial Californian woman who took on Joe Biden.
There are more than 20 Democrats hoping to take on Donald Trump in next year’s US election. The field includes the gay millennial mayor of a small town in Indiana; Oprah Winfrey’s spiritual adviser; and Left-wing darling, Bernie Sanders, who would be the oldest president to take office if he won in 2020.
As a result, last week’s two TV debates were often chaotic. On Thursday night, as candidates shouted over each other, one voice cut across the noise: “Hey, guys. You know what? America does not want to witness a food fight. They want to know how we’re going to put food on their table.”
This was Kamala Harris, a 52-year-old senator from California. She spent six years as the state’s attorney general (its chief law enforcement officer), and before that was the top prosecutor for the city of San Francisco.
Her legal instincts came through during the debates when she decided to take on the Democrats’ current front-runner: Barack Obama’s vice-president, Joe Biden.
Biden, 76, is leading in the polls, and known for his genial, gaffe-prone style. Recently, he discussed his ability to work with Republicans, including two segregationist senators.
“I do not believe you are a racist,” Harris told him. “[But] it was actually very hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two US senators, who built their reputations and careers on the segregation of race in this country.”
She also talked about Biden’s past opposition to “busing”, the policy of forcing schools to integrate by sending black children on buses to white schools in the suburbs. She described a little girl, who was one of the first children to be bused to a white school in Berkeley, California. “That little girl was me.”
Biden defended his record, saying she had mischaracterised his views. But Harris, who was born to a Jamaican father and Indian mother, seemed to come out on top. “Rather than asking Biden to pass the torch, she took a blowtorch to him,” wrote commentator Maureen Dowd in The New York Times.
Several news outlets declared Harris the winner of Thursday’s debates. Her campaign raised $2 million in 24 hours.
I’m with her?
Could Harris be the right person to defeat Trump? Her performance on Thursday proved that she would be able to handle him in a debate. And as a biracial woman, who said her first act as president would be to “release children from cages”, she is everything the current president is not. That could be what a lot of voters are seeking.
But is that enough? Remember, Hillary Clinton was declared the winner of her debates against Trump in 2016, but that did not win her the presidency. To really prove herself, Harris needs to show that she can appeal to Trump voters as well as to Democrats.
- Who should be the Democratic nominee for president next year?
- Will Donald Trump win again?
- You have been given the chance to interview Kamala Harris. Write down three questions that you would ask about her policies.
- Write a profile on one of the other Democratic candidates for president, in the style of The Day.
Some People Say...
“What is the greatest national security threat to the United States? It’s Donald Trump.”Kamala Harris
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- Harris’s policies include closing the gender pay gap; providing economic support for middle and low-income Americans; reuniting migrant families who were separated at the border; banning assault rifles; and switching to 100% green energy in 10 years. She has been criticised by some for her criminal justice record in California, which included defending the death penalty and fighting to release fewer prisoners, despite overcrowding in prisons.
- What do we not know?
- Who the Democrats will choose to take on Trump on 3 November, 2020. As of yesterday, Real Clear Politics put Joe Biden at the front (with an average of 31.4%), followed by Bernie Sanders (16.9%), Elizabeth Warren (12.6%), Kamala Harris (7.8%) and Pete Buttigieg (6.5%). However, it is still very early in the race.
- Millennial mayor
- Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana (population 101,000). He is the first, openly gay candidate for president in the Democratic Party.
- Spiritual adviser
- Marianne Williamson, author of 13 books and friend of Oprah Winfrey. She raised eyebrows for some of her statements during the debate. For example, she said she was going to “harness love for political purposes”.
- Bernie Sanders
- The Vermont senator gained many supporters when he ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016 on a Left-wing platform. If he won, he would be 79 when he entered the White House.
- A lawyer who argues the case against a defendant in court.
- Someone who believes in segregating people based on the colour of their skin. Segregated schools were outlawed by the US Supreme Court in 1954, in a case called “Brown v. Board of Education”.
- Despite Brown v. Board of Education, many schools resisted integrating black and white students. In 1971, the Supreme Court said that states could force integration by busing black students from poor areas to wealthy white schools.