It’s clear that Kamala Harris came to Wednesday’s debate with one major task at hand: to reiterate to the American people that her campaign ticket is the most prepared (and sane) to lead the country right now. Mission accomplished.
One moment stood out in a civil night that was a lot more tolerable than last week’s godawful presidential debate: when Harris schooled Pence on the topic of race and criminal justice in America.
“I don't believe so,” Harris said, flatly, when asked by moderator Susan Page whether she believed justice was served in the case of Breonna Taylor, the unarmed Black woman who was shot and killed by police in her Louisville apartment in March. “This is the time for leadership on a tragic, tragic issue.”
Harris said that, if elected, she and President Joe Biden would ban chokeholds, create a national registry for police officers who act illegally, close private prisons and decriminalize marijuana. And when Pence argued that we should trust the grand jury that decided not to charge any of the officers for Taylor’s killing and then to deflect to “rioting and looting,” Harris reminded him that as a former prosecutor she knew what she was talking about.
The moment was a long time coming for Harris. After months of challenging her Democratic primary opponents on racism, segregation, and discrimination, the first Black woman to ever to become a major party nominee for vice president shined at her brightest in this segment, clearly framing the stark choice that voters face. Later, she called out Trump for telling white supremacists to “stand back and stand by,” and forced Pence to insist that Trump didn’t say what we all heard him say.
We should never forget that it was Harris who reminded her now-running mate Biden that she was “that little girl” who benefited from integrated schools and busing post-Jim Crow segregation. And now she had the opportunity to now challenge Pence on his own miseducation around race, and she nailed it.
Donald Trump, who dragged his feet to clarify his inability to denounce white supremacy during last week’s debate, has been struggling to connect with Black voters since his first presidential bid in 2016. But Joe Biden, who has had his fair share of racial gaffes on the campaign trail, has also struggled to gain momentum with young Black voters and Black men. Harris, who has been lauded for her HBCU and Black sorority affiliations, has been able to provide a needed jolt for Biden amongst Black voters overall.
Her performance on the debate stage Wednesday night took that to another level. For the first time ever, America got to see a Black woman take a sitting vice president to task on national television. Harris accomplished what Biden failed to do with Trump last week on the same topic.
The only question that now remains is whether or not Biden will take this needed alley-oop Harris has thrown to him for next week’s presidential debate (if we even get one) and double down on Trump’s white supremacy problem. Trump succeeded last time in equating his racist history with Biden’s authorship of the 1994 Crime Bill and references to “predators.”
If they meet again, Biden needs to take down Trump on race with the same level of focus that Harris brought to the debate. Granted that nothing compares to the fierce accountability served from a Black woman scorned by racism, Biden at least needs to still keep the pan hot for Trump on this pressing issue.