Almost two weeks ago, the nation saw the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, making Donald Trump a one-term president. Cities celebrated and commemorated while other GOP leaders vocally ignored the results. But between all the heightened political tensions, the most monumental shift of the new administration is that for the first time, the United States will have a Black and South Asian American Vice President, Kamala Harris. The Watchdog spoke to Dr. Amy Bhatt, former associate professor at the University of Maryland Baltimore County to discuss what Harris’s historic position means for the future of the United States.
Harris has been a trailblazing female figure in politics, serving as District Attorney, Attorney General of California and junior state senator. I wasn’t a fan of Kamala Harris’s decisions or her policies, but to see her speak on Nov. 7 and claim her space as Vice President was one of the most revolutionary and empowering moments of my life.
American identity is such a complicated concept in American political culture, causing many children who don’t come from white backgrounds to struggle with accepting aspects of their identity. Having a leader like Kamala Harris, who is so aware of where she comes from and uses her story to energize her platform, is extraordinary to see. “From the beginning, Kamala Harris has really embraced and foregrounded her biracial upbringing,” shared Dr. Bhatt. “She has really shown that she comes from a melding of two communities, and she’s been able to communicate that holding that complexity is important to her.”
Being vice president is no small achievement, either. Informing the Watchdog about the role of VP, Dr. Bhatt stated, “people think of the vice president as a figurehead, but in reality, the vice president is the deciding vote of the Senate.” Currently, the U.S. Senate stands hanging in balance to become majority Democratic, with two Senate runoff races in the state of Georgia. “If the Democrats can reclaim these two seats in Georgia, Harris’s voice is incredibly powerful when moving into a new administration with a Senate which is so closely divided. Even if those two seats do not go towards the Democrats, her voice is still really important in being able to sway policy.” The vice president also spearheads task forces that the president does not specialize in and taking into account how much experience Harris brings to the table, I am excited to see what all she can accomplish in her tenure as VP.
But with the victory of Kamala Harris, and many other women to Congress, one question that frequents my mind, is what took so long to get a woman into a higher office? A huge aspect is the misogyny of American politics. “We saw this in the 2020 primaries,” Dr. Bhatt told the Watchdog. “The kind of scrutiny that women face is intense, highly gendered and biased in terms of what is expected for women candidates.” From their attire to tone of speaking, these superficial qualities create a multitude of barriers that female politicians have to navigate, which isn’t a standard we hold our male elected officials to. “What took us so long is that we haven’t been ready as a nation, we still face an uphill battle of what it will take to get a woman into the presidency. This is also a signal that we need to consider these diverse voices into the Democratic party in a genuine way if the Democratic party wants to be relevant in today’s era.”
It is also essential to note that the Biden-Harris Administration’s win is because of BIPOC women voters. When analyzing the role of women voters in this election, Dr. Bhatt said, “I don’t think it was that different, I think we are finally recognizing women. Political institutions that run and operate are built on the labor of women. And looking at these images of poll workers in states like Georgia and Arizona, it is black women that are working those jobs that are about ensuring the mechanics of our democracy function smoothly.” Alongside the extraordinary efforts of leaders like Stacey Abrams in Georgia, and the victories of progressive congresswoman such as Cori Bush, Sarah McBride and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s reelection, the future of American politics is intersectional. But the role of women is not exclusive to the left-wing, as prominent Republican women such as Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conaway and many others played a crucial role in President Trump’s White House.
With Kamala Harris’s achievement, and the achievements of many other women in this election, where do we go from here? After four long years of President Trump and his tweets, the visual impact of Kamala Harris’s presence in the administration is something I am so enthusiastic to see. We can’t stop holding our leaders accountable, so we need to keep paying attention and ensuring that we can continue a legacy of empowering women in the United States. But with someone like Harris, hopefully, our grievances will be heard and genuinely addressed. But Harris also opens the door, for many young people like me, to have faith in our abilities. In Harris’s words, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last. Because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities and to the children of our country regardless of your gender, our country has sent you have a clear message: dream with ambition, lead with conviction and see yourselves in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.”