The news of Senator Kamala Harris’ candidacy for US vice president for the Democratic Party, decided by presidential candidate Joe Biden, received mostly positive reactions from newspapers and public opinion. TV and newspapers have insisted that Harris is the first non-white woman to run for vice president – her mother had emigrated from India in the 1960s, her father from Jamaica – and nine out of ten Democratic Party voters. they are convinced that his candidacy is “an important step” for the United States, as well as 37 percent of Republican Party voters.
Harris’s choice seemed to many the most logical for complete and enrich the profile of a candidate like Biden: yet it seems to have taken Republicans and the Trump administration by surprise, so much so that in the last two days the incumbent president has been trying everything to attack Harris, also resorting to explicitly racist conspiracy theories – as he did eight years ago during the presidency of Barack Obama – and misogynistic attacks.
Harris is 55 years old and a California senator who entered politics after a long career in the judiciary. He has positions further to the left than Biden, but he does not belong to the more radical wing of the Democratic Party. Her profile – an educated and successful woman – makes her quite attractive to an important electoral segment, that of educated white women. more than a third of which he voted for Trump in 2016.
Responding to a question shortly after Biden’s announcement, Trump said Harris was “his number one choice,” suggesting he is an opponent who knows how to confront and discredit. At the moment, however, it does not seem to have found anything particularly effective.
In a confusing video put together by her electoral committee shortly after news of Harris’s candidacy, the senator is accused of being phony, “A liar,” and to have far left stances on taxes and security. The video went virtually unnoticed – just as the nickname Trump tried to spread was not very popular, Phony Kamala – and Trump then took the attacks to another level.
During a TV interview Fox Business, Trump accused her to be a “crazy” because of the pressing questions she asked during the Senate hearings of the candidate judge at the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaughaccused of molesting a woman in college. It is an insult that follows an old stereotype about women in positions of power, which Trump – a well-known misogynist, accused by dozens of women of sexually harassing them – uses transversely against his opponents: recently associated it also to the leader of the Democrats in the House, Nancy Pelosi, and the congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In a press conference held yesterday, Trump also fueled an explicitly racist conspiracy theory about Harris’s origins. Quoting a controversial opinion piece came out on Newsweek, Trump said Harris “does not meet the criteria” to be running for vice president, that is, to be born in US territory. Harris was born in Oakland, California, but the article by Newsweek – published by a conservative lawyer, John C. Eastman – supports a rather convoluted thesis that the daughter of two immigrants who do not have permanent residence cannot be considered as born in the United States.
Eastman’s thesis has been dismantled by various experts, according to which the 14th amendment to the Constitution is very clear and impossible to interpret restrictively: “All people born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the relevant jurisdiction are citizens of the United States”.
“Trump tried to use an old tactic”, concluded on New York Times“That is, the anti-immigrant, ethnic-based crusade that began a decade ago when it fueled skepticism towards incumbent President Barack Obama, born in Hawaii.” For years, in fact, Trump supported a conspiracy theory without any particular foundation according to which Obama was not really born in Hawaii but in Kenya (it was also thanks to those accusations that he gained visibility and space on Fox News, which today explicitly supports it). The controversy ended when Obama diffuse his birth certificate: shortly thereafter he teased Trump and his allegations at a correspondents dinner at the White House in 2011.
For most of the public opinion the controversy ended there, but even today the strategy that Trump uses to discredit his opponents has remained the same: accusing them of something huge and nonsense, and hoping that it will stick to them, that the newspapers will speak and that it becomes a decisive element to convince at least a part of the electorate.
It is not yet clear whether in the coming weeks Trump will insist on the racist accusation against Harris, who is already gaining ground among his most radical supporters: according to a calculation by the New York Times, even before the president spoke openly about it, Eastman’s article had been picked up by some of his collaborators and had reached about 14 million people on Facebook, Reddit and Twitter.