For more than half-a-century the Avis car rental company hymned, “We’re number two. We try harder.” (Hertz, of course, was/is number one). For the last year Kamala Harris has tried to become the ultimate number two — her party’s vice-presidential choice. Nominated last week, how will she do? If elected, what would she espouse?
The short answer is that before Election Day, Harris will do what presidential nominee Joe Biden tells her — or rather, what liberal activists tell her in his name. If elected, Kamala and the president in name will help the man who wrote the party platform, Bernie Sanders, keep his vow to this week’s Democratic Convention: Enact ideas that recently “were considered radical [but] are now considered mainstream.”
In Biden, Democrats have nominated the perfect Trojan Horse: declining at 77 (his acceptance speech, after all, was scripted); reticent to conduct interviews; without a seminal legislative bill or idea to his name in half-a-century of public service. Worse, his is a cynicism to say anything to regain power for insiders. Biden is the ultimate creature of institutions, propped up to put Donald Trump’s Middle America in its place.
Former Obama Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Harris may extend that streak at home. Exotic, chic, but off-putting to many, she will help him among those who would have opposed Trump against Harvey Weinstein, but likely not among still undecided moderates.
In one sense, the choice surprised. In 2019’s first presidential debate, Kamala savagely sandbagged Biden using a fictive tale of her childhood in America and Canada: the aim, trying to etch him as — surprise — a racist. Biden acolytes try to paint Harris’s pick as Joe trying to forgive and forget. My take is that for him the choice makes sense: Uncle Joe naming someone whose cynicism matches his.
In the last year the former v.p. has jettisoned one value after another as party zealots moved left, then farther left, then tumbled off the cliff. An example: All his life the faithful Catholic opposed taxpayer-funded abortion. Last year he found it convenient to fund it. Two decades ago, he endorsed a tough crime bill. Now, apologizing, he calls it systemically racist — like America. On issue after issue, either switching or being wrong, Biden is as weak as a reed.
1987: The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would support Robert Bork’s nomination, citing credentials. After that moral pillar, Ted Kennedy, slandered Bork in a Senate speech, Biden switched. 1991: Anita Hill attacked Clarence Thomas in Senate confirmation hearings. Last year Biden groveled to Hill and Democrats for not blocking him. Biden opposed the Iraqi surge and Osama bin Laden’s assassination, later flipping on the Senate filibuster, the Green New Deal, and student debt.
Most politicians waver. Biden’s career has been forged on buckling. Ironically, this helped him become the nominee, his party deeming him a figurehead to be used. That, in turn, makes Kamala’s choice crucial: more vicious and ideologically zealous than Joe, backing Medicare For All, gun bans — and the end of private health insurance. Her character assassination of Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 for the Supreme Court was arresting, Harris uncaring how many lives got trampled or reputations smeared.
This week Kamala did not even mention America’s urban domestic disorder — but then, no one else at the Convention did, as if the rioting did not exist. That myopia is what reduced Biden’s universe of v.p. options. Amy Klobuchar in particular would have helped in the blue-collar Great Lakes region that swung the 2016 election. Instead, Biden went for flash and smash-mouth identity politics: a definition of today’s Left. We will see how smart that was.
In a fascinating poll this week by the Economist/YouGov, Harris was viewed “favorably” by only half of all blacks and only 26 percent of liberals! What gives? Perhaps that irrespective of race and ideology, people don’t like a fake. (Please, nothing about a “strong woman.” If Margaret Thatcher could be exhumed and made a U.S. citizen, I’d vote for her for life.) Incredibly, California’s former attorney general blames police, not rioters, for the anarchist summer of insanity from Portland to New York.
Superficiality is not a political anomaly. Ordinarily, it wouldn’t matter. Here it does. Biden would, if elected, reign. Actual governance would fall to Kamala and her fellow extremists from Nancy Pelosi via Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Chuck Schumer, who would twist a most moderate country in the most immoderate way, perverting and distorting it beyond recognition. In that sense, of all the obscenities from the Democratic Convention, one remains.
On D-Day, June 6, 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote and gave a moving prayer over network radio as Allied troops assaulted Hitler’s Europe. It began: “Almighty God, Our sons, pride of our Nation,” spoke of how “Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom,” and ended, “Thy will be done, Almighty God. Amen.”
Last week, the convention of the Democratic party that FDR had four times led to victory stripped “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
If that doesn’t tell you how warped the radicals are who would control Joe Biden’s presidency, then tell you it should.
Curt Smith is the author of 17 books, most recently "The Presidents and the Pastime: The History of Baseball and the White House." He is a former speechwriter to President George H. W. Bush, Associated Press “Best in New York State” radio commentator, and Senior Lecturer of English at the University of Rochester. He is also twice-monthly columnist for Gannett: email@example.com