EXPLAINER: The first black woman to run as US vice president

We’ve rounded up some of our favourite guides on the US election’s latest news personality.

Sarah Evans

Roughly a year ago, the US election, due to take place this November, was the biggest news on Earth. With the likes of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, both leftist candidates, in the running against the much-reviled US president Donald Trump, news networks covered every speech and rally down to the minute.

Viewers couldn’t get enough. It is, after all, one of the most important global events, given how much power the US still wields in the world.

And then came Covid-19. Just about every major news event that was not related to the pandemic was moved lower down the bulletins on the evening news. Even the news that Barack Obama’s deputy, Joe Biden, was the Democratic Party’s nominee, who would take on Trump in the election, kind of slipped off the radar. (In our defence, the fact that a global pandemic was threatening to put an end to life as we know it was pretty big news too. Who could blame people from being distracted?)

The world has changed a lot since then (wearing masks to a presidential rally was unthinkable), but the US election still matters a great deal.

This week, Biden announced that US senator Kamala Harris would be his running mate. She will be the first black woman and the first Asian American in US history to run for vice president (Harris is the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants… Trump must be breaking out in hives.) It’s a massive moment.

But since nearly a year has passed since Biden became the nominee (that means he’s even older now and will be 78 in November), it’s getting harder and harder to keep up with this incredibly complicated election. So we’re sharing our favourite explainers on the US election to catch you (and ourselves) up:

Of course, one of the most important elements of Harris’ candidacy is her race. While many Black women in the US seem to want to support her, many feel conflicted because she is not seen as particularly progressive. This MSN round-up unpacks some of the complexities around her race, really well.

Harris’ record is complex, especially on crime. She’s been hailed by some as a progressive candidate, who used her time as a prosecutor and state attorney in California (kind of like being the head of the National Prosecuting Authority in the Western Cape) to push back on issues like the death penalty, and tried to reform the criminal justice system.

But as this Vox piece points out, her record is dotted with inconsistencies.

She has the same problem on healthcare which, like crime, is a massive problem in the US. But if you’re looking for a good read on why the far left isn’t all that unhappy with her, The Atlantic has a good explainer. Spoiler alert: the far left is hoping that Karris will swing to the left just like Joe Biden did on many issues like climate change.

Her candidacy is historic for other reasons, too. According to this fivethirtyeight explainer, Harris is also the fourth woman and the second black person to have ever been on a presidential ticket in the US. That’s right – in over 200 years, women have only been on the presidential ticket four times, and black people just twice. (Did someone say glass ceiling?)

Her rise in the Democratic Party could be a sign that black party members are starting to have more influence, but as the writer points out, it’s not clear that she will be able to attract black voters.

Clearly, her candidacy is a complex issue. But it is also really exciting for a lot of people, and Harris embodies a lot of the strength and savvy that you’d want in a leader. She’s also stood up to many controversial Trump allies and made a real name for herself as someone who is not to be messed with. She doesn’t suffer fools easily, and she’s whip smart. Here’s The Guardian on why she’s got so many people excited.

Happy reading!