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Jakarta Post

A change in waiting?

  • Editorial Board

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, August 14, 2020   /   08:24 am
A change in waiting? Former Vice President Joe Biden and US.Senator Kamala Harris take the stage before the start of the second night of the second U.S. 2020 presidential Democratic candidates debate in Detroit, Michigan, US, July 31, 2019. (Reuters/Lucas Jackson)

Many believe the Democrat’s vice-presidential pick Kamala Harris is a safe choice for Joe Biden, who is poised to take over the presidency from the incumbent, President Donald Trump, in less than three months. Both Biden and Harris, despite their acrimonious debate in the primary, belong to the center-left of the ideological spectrum.

More than just a matter of complementarity and the need for a tough, tormenting debater to fight along with, the choice of Harris shows Biden is seizing the momentum to write the history of America, and perhaps humankind. Prior to receiving Biden’s trust, Harris had a barrage of historical achievements under her belt.

Read also: 'Impossible dream': Kamala Harris inspires in father's Jamaica

Before becoming the first woman of color to run for vice president, Harris is the first female district attorney of San Francisco, first female attorney general of California and first Indian-American elected to the US Senate. And if elected as the first female vice president of the US in November, she must be ready to be sworn in as the first female president of the superpower country anytime.

In naming Harris his running mate, Biden is actually projecting a change to centuries-old US male-dominated politics, which took its most extreme shape in Trump’s election four years ago. Notwithstanding allegations of foreign intervention, Trump won the presidency because the American electorate did not want a female on top.

The hostile foreign policy that marks the Trump administration, even with an aim to “Make America Great Again”, has put the global push for multilateralism in jeopardy. The protracted trade spat with China, the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement key climate deal, the threat to exit from the World Health Organization and disharmony with traditional allies in Europe and Asia are legacies Trump has created, much to the chagrin of the American people.

But the most toxic legacy Trump will leave to the US is no other than his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has now catapulted the country to the top of the list in terms of confirmed infections and fatalities. In fact, the world has witnessed macho leaders with authoritarian personalities like Trump and his Brazilian equivalent Jair Bolsonaro fall flat in dealing with the health crisis, while female leaders took decisive measures and performed outstandingly to protect their people from infection.

And with the demand for racial justice and inclusion on the rise in the wake of the #BlackLivesMatter movement that followed the killing of George Floyd in May, the impetus for a change is more than enough. Harris could represent such aspiration.

Read also: Sympatico? Biden-Harris chemistry put to test in 2020 and beyond

As a champion of democracy, the US lags behind its peers when it comes to electing a woman for the top or second-in-command executive post. A young democracy, Indonesia is even more progressive, as it elected its first female vice president, Megawati Soekarnoputri, amid the chants for sweeping reform in 1999, before making her the first female president two years later.

While Harris’ entry to the race on Nov. 3 is indeed historic, it remains to be seen if she can make a difference. But for sure she is going to change the game.