Joe Biden’s decision to name Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate has to do with only one thing: Identity politics.
By Caroline Glick, JNS
Last Tuesday, two notable events occurred in the Democratic Party. Joe Biden announced that he had selected California Senator Kamala Harris to serve as his running mate in November, and Rep. Ilhan Omar won her primary, all but guaranteeing her return to Congress for a second term.
On the face of things, Harris’s selection seems like the more significant of the two events. But actually, Omar’s primary victory was far more momentous.
Traditionally, presidential candidates have selected their running mates based on electoral considerations. For instance, in 2016, then-Indiana governor Mike Pence was an easy choice for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump for two reasons that had everything to do with electoral calculations.
Indiana, like neighboring Wisconsin and Michigan, is a swing state. As a vice-presidential candidate, Pence was well positioned to sell swing voters in those states on the Trump-Pence ticket. Moreover, as a devout evangelical Christian, Pence was able to assist Trump in securing the support of that critical Republican demographic.
Unlike Pence, Harris hails from California, a progressive, deep-blue state. As a progressive, wealthy native of northern California, Harris has little ability to mobilize supporters in places like Detroit or Pittsburgh. Moreover, Harris has not distinguished herself as a great vote-getter. Last year, when Harris entered the Democratic presidential primaries, she enjoyed enthusiastic support from the media and deep-pocketed progressive donors. But despite these advantages, she failed to win over significant support for her campaign even in her native state. Her campaign fizzled out very quickly.
While the progressive media refers to Harris as a “moderate,” since her election to the Senate in 2016 Harris has racked up one of the most radical voting records in the upper house. She supports revoking all limitations on abortions. She supports harsh limitations on the right to bear arms. She supports banning oil fracking and ending energy exploration on federal lands.
While popular with the Democrat base in California and other deep-blue states, Harris’ extreme positions render her incapable of winning votes in places like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan. Indeed, she is likely to be more of a drain than an asset to Biden’s bid to win over these critical states.
So why did Biden choose her for his running mate?
In two words: Identity politics.
While progressives are more likely to be atheists than conservatives, they are religiously political. And one of the things they sanctify is identity politics. Recognizing this, Biden chose Harris not because of the votes she can bring, but for the support she can garner from the Democratic base. In other words, Biden chose her because she is a woman rather than a man and because as the daughter of a father who immigrated to America from Jamaica and a mother who immigrated from India, Harris is not white.
Biden himself doesn’t sanctify identity politics. On the contrary—some of Biden’s statements on the campaign trail have been arguably racist. In the past week alone, Biden committed two racial gaffes. He asked a black journalist if he was a junkie and he said that “with notable exceptions” all black people think the same way.
Biden is probably not a racist and he certainly isn’t an ideologue. The only thing that Biden is most assuredly is a weather vane. For more than 40 years Biden has consistently adapted his “convictions” to the prevailing winds in his party. When the party was opposed to abortion, Biden was an anti-abortion Catholic. Now that his party supports unlimited abortion on demand, Biden does too.
Back in the day, Biden opposed illegal immigration. Now that the Democrat Party has embraced open borders, Biden supports giving illegal immigrants free healthcare and schooling.
Harris is cut from the same cloth. Her “evolving” views on Israel demonstrate this clearly. Harris was considered the most “pro-Israel” candidate among the women Biden was considering selecting as his running mate. Her pro-Israel credentials derived mainly from the fact that she did not speak at the anti-Israel lobby J Street’s annual conference and that she agreed to address AIPAC’s policy conference in 2017.
But as the Democrat Party openly adopted an increasingly anti-Israel position over the intervening years, Harris reduced her support. In 2018, as the midterm election raised the profiles of radical Israel-hating candidates, Harris only agreed to speak at the AIPAC conference on the condition that her remarks not be made public.
Along with all the other Democrat presidential hopefuls last year save for Mike Bloomberg, Harris refused to speak at the AIPAC conference on any terms.
Not only has Harris refused to condemn Reps. Omar and Tlaib for their repeated anti-Semitic statements. Harris warned the Jewish community against protesting Omar’s anti-Semitism, saying that “the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.”
The fact that Omar’s unbridled anti-Semitism was putting American Jews at risk apparently made no impression on Harris.
Like Biden and the rest of her party, Harris supports renewing Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, which will put nuclear weapons and billions of dollars in the hands of Iran’s genocidal ayatollahs. Harris doesn’t support the BDS movement but she opposed a senate bill that would have harmed the campaign to boycott the Jewish state and discriminate against American Jews.
As California’s attorney general from 2011-2017, Harris received numerous requests to take action against California’s public universities for having allowed their campuses to become hostile environments for Jewish students. Harris ignored their entreaties.
On the other hand, her husband is Jewish.
A dangerous omen for American Jews
The slavish devotion that both Biden and Harris have demonstrated to their party’s grassroots is a dangerous omen for Jewish Americans because the organizations that comprise a large part of those grassroots are openly anti-Semitic.
For instance, on Tuesday more than a hundred progressive groups signed a letter calling on the “progressive community” to boycott the Anti-Defamation League. Among the various reasons they gave for their boycott call was the ADL’s criticism of Black Lives Matter for its anti-Semitic charter. The BLM charter accuses Israel of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians and refers to the Middle East’s only liberal democracy as an “apartheid” state.
The charter endorses the anti-Semitic BDS movement and firmly places the self-declared black civil rights movement in the camp of the virulent anti-Semites who reject the Jewish state’s very right to exist.
Other crimes the progressive groups accused the ADL of committing included criticizing Omar for her anti-Semitism and opposing the BDS campaign against Israel and American Jews.
The progressive groups’ sudden denouncement of the ADL is as ironic as it is foreboding. In recent years the American Jewish community’s best-funded organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism received significant criticism for its unwillingness to seriously confront anti-Semitism emanating from the political left and its exaggeration of the threat that far-right anti-Semitism poses to Jewish life in America.
Under the leadership of Obama White House alumni Jonathan Greenblatt, in recent years the ADL has tried to reinvent itself as a progressive group that focuses mainly on criticizing the other side of the political divide.
The ADL’s fervent efforts to ingratiate itself among progressives places in stark relief the “Open Letter to the Progressive Community” signed by more than a hundred groups calling to ostracize it. It shows that today’s Democrat party is unwilling to accept Jews or politicians who are both progressive and pro-Jewish.
This brings us to Omar’s primary victory. It wasn’t particularly surprising that Omar won the poll. Her national profile has made her a lightning rod in national politics. While as a bigot she is justifiably hated by many, leftist donors and activists adore her and back her as an anti-Semite.
While predictable, three aspects of her win are particularly significant. First, the main difference between Omar and the progressive black opponent she defeated is that unlike Omar, Antone Melton-Meaux isn’t an anti-Semite. Rather than drawing praise from progressives for his lack of bigotry, Melton-Meaux was decried by progressive activists who accused him of being controlled by Jews.
The second significant aspect of Omar’s win is that despite her open anti-Semitism, her reelection bid—and that of her anti-Semitic comrade Rashida Tlaib—was endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi even donated $14,000 to Omar’s campaign from her political PAC. Pelosi was long viewed as a friend to both American Jews and to Israel. The fact that she monetarily supported an out-and-out anti-Semite speaks volumes about the direction of the party.
The final significant aspect of Omar’s win is that it was a testament to the rapidly growing power of the radical left in the Democrat Party. Two years ago, four female radicals with harshly anti-Israel positions were elected as first-time lawmakers. The joined together, called themselves “The Squad” and proceeded to drain all the air out of the policy discourse in their party.
As the squad’s members rose in power and prestige, moderate Democrats insisted their voice was out of sync with their actual power. To be sure, the moderates argued, the likes of Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have the loudest microphones, but they represent but a fraction of the party’s congressional delegation.
Weather vanes will not lead their party
So far, Tlaib and Omar handily won their primaries and three new candidates with their same brand of radical, anti-Israel positions just won their primaries, replacing moderate lawmakers who either retired or were defeated. These victories point to two things. First, the squad has already nearly doubled its numbers in one congressional term, and two, they have become, without a doubt, the rising force—and with Pelosi’s backing, the dominant force in the Democrat Party.
In light of all of this, it is self-evident that Omar’s primary victory was far more significant than Biden’s selection of Harris as his running mate. Biden and Harris, weather vanes both, will not lead their party. They will follow their party’s grassroots and donors as they lead the Democrats every further along on their great march into the anti-Semitic leftist abyss.
Caroline Glick is an award-winning columnist and author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East.” This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.