Well—she was great.
Kamala Harris has swagger. That’s going to drive right-wing men nuts. They’re just not going to know what to do about that. She was so confident in her first remarks as the Democratic Party’s vice presidential candidate. The delivery, the timing. The body language: She bounced from foot to foot, raised her index finger every couple minutes, looked this way, looked that way, smiled here, furrowed her brow there. She was mesmerizing to watch.
And the words—this was a really well-written speech. Not long—barely 20 minutes, if that. But it flowed seamlessly from this section to that. There were five sections in all: first, a little intro section sounding the basic themes about this historical moment of pandemic and economic collapse and a moment of reckoning about systemic racism; second, some lovely stuff that was new to me about her friendship with Beau (“Beau and I spoke on the phone practically every day, sometimes several times a day, working together” to help underwater families keep their homes) and a nice little tribute to the way Joe cared for his boys after his wife and daughter died; third, an autobiographical section with some very nice stuff about her husband and kids and her parents, which will drive the wingnuts crazy because her parents met marching for civil rights and took baby Kamala on some protest marches; fourth, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence, which was brutal; and fifth, the Biden-Harris agenda—an energy revolution, health care, choice, voting rights, the economy.
Vice presidents by tradition are the attackers, so I was paying a little extra attention during section four. The case she constructed against Trump on the virus was just pulverizing. It was nothing you don’t know. How out of it he was, how he said it was going to go away like a miracle, and so on. And all this is why, she concluded, we have one American dying “every 80 seconds.” She let that sink in.
And she contrasted that with the Obama administration’s response to the more lethal and more difficult to transmit Ebola virus, which one Donald Trump kept saying would devastate America. “You know what happened then?” Harris asked. “Barack Obama and Joe Biden did their jobs. Only two people in the United States died. Two. That’s what leadership is.”
Was it all a little strange, without the crowds and the noise? Of course. (Now that I think of it, maybe that’s why her speech only took 18 minutes; with applause it would have taken twice that.) But she seemed non-plussed by the weirdness. She revved herself into gear, that’s for sure.
She and Biden stayed appropriately away from each other, never touched. This will be another contrast for American voters over the next 83 days. One side will campaign according to the new rules science has imposed. The other side will skirt them, toy with them, sometimes just flaunt them. Trump will have some crowds. But just remember two things. One, two-thirds of Americans support masking and social distancing. And two, some of the people in those Trump crowds aren’t going to be there to cast votes on Election Day.
Biden’s speech was terrific too, by the way. He’s carrying himself with a dignity these days. He knows the historical moment he’s in. Trump thinks he’s going to handle Biden in the debates. Anything can happen. Biden is known for his gaffes. But if I were a Trump backer, I wouldn’t bet much on Trump dominating any debates. Biden seems sure of himself. And he’s forgotten 20 times the policy that Trump knows. I’m guessing he knows what year the 1918 flu hit.
So Biden communicates dignity. But Harris communicates swagger. She’s tough and confident. You get the feeling that if, 15 or 20 years ago, she’d met Trump at a party and he’d tried to do to her what he allegedly did to a number of women, she’d have kneed him in the balls. She will not naturally defer to men. Or any particular man who might happen to be across a debate stage from her.
Conservative men can deal with that if it’s one of their own, who’s trolling the libs, like Sarah Palin. But a liberal woman? It will make them crazy. Which means the stuff that Tucker Carlson and some of these other winger males are going to say about will be stuff you and I can’t even imagine right now. It’s going to get insanely ugly.
But based on what we saw today, she looks ready—ready to punch back, and ready to live inside the right wing’s collective head for the next three months. And four years. Or eight. Or who knows, 12.