Bar in the center, all! Favorite for months to appear on the presidential ticket alongside Joe Biden, Kamala Harris was chosen on Tuesday by the former vice-president as running mate to lead the battle against Donald Trump next November. The 55-year-old California senator, whose background as a prosecutor and her positions have earned the party’s left-wing mistrust, could become the first female vice-president and succeed where Geraldine Ferraro failed in 1984.
The former are a bit like Kamala Harris’ specialty (pronounce Comma-La, as the New Yorker pointed out in a portrait last year). Since the beginning of her career, this daughter of a Jamaican father and an Indian mother has accumulated the titles of pioneer.
After two terms as a prosecutor in San Francisco (2004-2011), she was twice elected attorney general of California (2011-2017), becoming the first woman, but also the first black person, to head the judicial services. of the most populous state in the country. Then in January 2017, she was sworn in to the Senate in Washington, registering as the first woman from South Asia and only the second black senator in American history.
A charge against Biden during the debates
Married since August 2014 to a lawyer father of two, Kamala Harris grew up in Oakland, in progressive 1960s California, proud of the civil rights struggle of her immigrant parents: a father professor of economics, and a mother , now deceased, researcher specializing in breast cancer. Since she became a professor at McGill University in Montreal in the 1970s, Kamala Harris lived in Quebec for a while and therefore wielded a little French language.
She then studied at Howard University, founded in Washington to accommodate African-American students in the midst of segregation, and regularly recalls her membership in the black student association “Alpha Kappa Alpha”. While she knows Joe Biden very well and was close to her son Beau, who died of cancer in 2015, Kamala Harris surprised during the first debate between candidates for the Democratic primary by attacking the former vice-president on his past positions concerning the policies of racial desegregation in the 1970s.
By recounting how, as a little girl, she was on one of the buses bringing black schoolchildren to white neighborhoods, she had moved, and jumped in the polls. But despite a fanfare start to the campaign, she quickly fell back, struggling to clearly define her candidacy.
After finally dropping out of the primary before the first votes, Kamala Harris rallied around Joe Biden in March. Some allies of the former vice-president had not forgiven him for not showing “remorse” after his criticisms during the debate, and had warned the old lion of politics against an overly “ambitious” running mate.
A harshness that has difficulty passing through minorities
With experience in the legislative, judicial and executive branches of power, and a personality mixing communicative bursts of laughter and tight interrogations of ex-magistrate, she finally conquered these doubts. A candidate for the primary, she had also promised to “lead the indictment” against Donald Trump.
But her past as a prosecutor also weighs against her. From South Carolina to Michigan, black and progressive voters lament his reputation for harshness. In particular, its past initiatives to punish harshly small crimes. In San Francisco, she thus decided to prosecute parents of children who miss school too regularly, often sanctioning disadvantaged households from ethnic minorities.
“In California, Kamala Harris had the reputation of a prosecutor who waited rather than showing the way, who only moved on controversial subjects when she saw that they were politically viable”, summarized again last June the daily Sacramento Bee.
On police violence, a particularly sensitive topical subject, in 2015, for example, she refrained from taking a position on a bill aimed at making systematic independent investigations in the event of “use of lethal force” by a police officer. . Cases that disproportionately affect the black and Hispanic populations (respectively 6% and 37% of the Californian population), many of whom still have not forgiven the lukewarmness of their senator.