A spirited campaign
THE WEEK|November 15, 2020
It was an all-out last battle for Joe Biden, but it is just the beginning for Kamala Harris
VAISAKH E. HARI

On election day in the United States, the people of Thulasenthirapuram town in Tamil Nadu’s Tiruvarur district held special prayers for Kamala Harris. This is the ancestral town of her maternal grandfather P.V. Gopalan.

Hopes had risen in their hearts, and across India and America, that Kamala would script history as the first American vice president of South Asian descent. She looked the part throughout the campaign and it was a spirited fight.

Their joint campaign began on August 12, when they walked hand-in-hand on to a podium in a high school gym in Wilmington, Delaware. The weight of history fidgeted over the moment, overshadowing social restrictions caused by the Covid pandemic. It was their first public appearance together, in the former vice president’s hometown, and here he would announce her as his running mate.

Dressed in navy blue, Kamala sported her all-weather “power pearls”. As Biden approached the microphone, she sat cross-legged in a seat behind him, exuding supreme confidence.

Whom Biden would pick as his running mate was as great a matter of public interest as how he himself would fare—the gregarious, all-American, Ray-Ban wearing Amtrak evangelist was prone to gaffe. Who could forget him complimenting the 2008 presidential candidate Barack Obama as the “first clean and nice-looking mainstream African-American”!

Atop the school podium, Biden promised his listeners on camera: “We will rebuild this country once we are elected, God willing.”

God willing…. Biden knew the hand of God rather too well. He had lost a wife and a daughter in a car crash, and a son to brain cancer. This year, he had nearly pulled out of the presidential campaign, with Bernie Sanders outdoing him in every single Democratic primary. He came fifth in New Hampshire, and fourth in Iowa. An endorsement from civil rights activist James Clyburn saved him in South Carolina, which turned the tide. The Almighty had played His hand.

Biden lacked Obama’s amazing grace and power of speech. Clearly, he was no heart-throb of young and left-leaning voters. They saw him represent the centrist wing of the Democratic party. They saw skeletons in his closet and spoke of his “fond” reminiscence of “close” relationships with white segregationist senators like James Eastland and Herman Talmadge. They highlighted his “cosiness with big corporations”—he voted for deregulation of Wall Street (“corporatism”), the 1999 repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (“at least partly responsible for the 2008 financial crisis”), the war in Iraq (“war-mongering”), the North American Free Trade Agreement (“globalism at the expense of American working class”), and the much-despised 1944 Crime Bill (“putting generations of young black men in prison”).

There were storms of indiscretions. His old staffer Tara Reade alleged that he sexually assaulted her in the Capitol building in 1993. Then came the scandal that his son Hunter Biden had a drug addiction and had wangled a board position at Ukraine energy company Burisma when Biden was overseeing foreign policy at the White House.

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