• A Future President

    The welcome given to Joe Biden’s election as President-elect is understandable. He seems to be a decent and thoughtful man, in stark contrast to his predecessor, and seems well-equipped to take on the considerable challenges that now face him.

    But for many of us, the high point of the acceptance speeches from the successful Democrat candidates was the speech by Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. For those of us who knew little of her, her acceptance speech was a revelation.

    We knew that she was of mixed-race (African and Indian) descent, that she was (of course) a woman and was relatively young – and that, for all these reasons, she was someone who was in the course of breaking new ground. We were not, perhaps, prepared to encounter someone of such ability and passion, someone (she is a lawyer) so thoughtful and competent.

    In the light of her acceptance speech, and as we review the tumultuous events of the last few days, I think we can perhaps make a re-assessment of what has happened. The role of a vice-presidential candidate is usually seen as ancillary to the main business, the decision as to who is to be President.

    But, having seen and heard Kamala Harris speak, we might reflect a little further. In such a close-fought contest, the contribution of a woman of such considerable ability as a potential Vice-President may well have made a crucial difference.

    This is not just because of the factors that, as her speech made clear, marked out her candidature as ground-breaking. She is of course a standard-bearer for women and for people of colour and, as she herself pointed out, where she has gone, others will be encouraged to follow. And the fact that Joe Biden chose her surely reflected well on him, as again, she registered, and will have helped his own chances.

    But the further significance of her rise to her new eminence is that, in addition to her obvious ability to appeal to an important sector of the electorate, she is a relatively young Vice- President. And that is given added significance by Biden’s advanced years – he is the oldest person ever elected to the presidency.

    It is not being too pessimistic or macabre to recognise the possibility that Biden may not be able to see out his term; if that proved to be the case, Kamala Harris would be required to step up. It must be a comfort to the Democrats, and to American democrats more generally, to have the assurance that a competent and proven potential replacement is standing by.

    Nor should a misfortune for Joe Biden be seen as the only circumstance in which Kamala Harris might be required, or offered the opportunity, to step up. It is not unrealistic to foresee that Biden, at his age, might not, having completed a full term, seek a second term.

    It would then be a highly desirable situation for the Democrats (particularly if Donald Trump were still around and wanting another crack at election) to have a ready-made candidate available. They could by-pass all the hassle and distractions of primary elections and proceed immediately to select a new candidate and, without delay, launch their new (but well-established and well-known) champion into the electoral arena.

    What we saw a couple of days ago, in other words, might well turn out to have been our introduction to, in the fullness of time, not one, but two new presidents. But we should not get ahead of ourselves.

    Having endured the past four years, the Americans are entitled to enjoy – in Joe Biden – the prospect of a gentler, kinder and more thoughtful President. But we can also recognise that part of his appeal has been – as Kamala Harris herself said – his “audacity” in choosing her as his running mate, and the care he seems to have taken to ensure a trouble-free succession.

    What price President Harris in 2024?

    Bryan Gould 11 November 2020