The stakes could not have been higher for Kamala Harris as she made history to formally accept the Democratic vice-presidential nomination. How did she do?
Only three women have been on the top ticket for a major party before, and none has made it to the White House.
The California senator, who spoke in an almost empty auditorium in Delaware, is also the first black woman and the first Asian American to be nominated.
We asked voters and experts to assess her performance.
Coronavirus vaccine ‘Harris will fight for us’
Octavia Reese, 37, healthcare worker and artist from Chicago
A single mother to three boys, Ms Reese was “thrilled” by the news last week that Kamala Harris would serve as Joe Biden’s running mate.
“Kamala has been a superpower in our government, not only showing the world what strong ambitious women of colour can do for our communities, but also speaking up for the voiceless within the justice system and in service.”
For 37-year-old Reese – an author, healthcare worker, and a black woman – Harris’s speech tonight showed her “a woman connected to people”.
“Tonight, we saw a vulnerable human being with a heart, with compassion, with character,” she said. “This is a key component we have been missing in the White House and that wasn’t lost.
“She didn’t hit hard on the politics because people are exhausted – we want to know someone who cares about others, sees people, and will fight for human beings first [and] will be leading the country into the future.”
Coronavirus vaccine Black women ‘finally have a voice’
Dr Karen Kemp-Prosterman, 44, pediatric dentist and mother from Connecticut
She says she was sceptical of Senator Harris as a presidential candidate.
“Initially, I wasn’t very excited about her,” she says. “We’ve already had a black president and so as a black person I was pragmatic: I didn’t think the country was ready to elect a black woman as president.”
But Kemp-Prosterman was “shocked by my own excitement” when Harris was selected last week as the vice-presidential candidate.
“Hearing her tonight, I got very emotional,” she says. Like Harris, Kemp-Prosterman is also a graduate of a historically black college and university (HBCU) and was a member of the same sorority.
“So many similarities that paralleled a lot of my life,” she says.
And Kemp-Prosterman says she is excited by the diversity that Harris brings to the ticket.
“Especially as a black woman, you know how much we’re there for the Democratic party. So to see the ticket actually be representative, to see that [we’re] actually not be taken for granted this time – it does mean something,” she says.
“You feel like you actually have a voice.”
Coronavirus vaccine ‘She moved me but I’m still not sold’
Peyton Forte, 21 – graduate, North Carolina A&T State University
Before her big speech, this young Democrat and first-time voter hadn’t been swayed by Harris.
“I think that we kind of get carried away by ‘firsts’, especially as black people, by the ‘first this’ and ‘first that’, it’s just seen as a gigantic milestone,” she told the BBC last week. “But are you fighting for some of the values that the black community holds dear?”
But the 21-year-old says she was moved by Harris’ convention address.
“Kamala’s speech was particularly moving to me because she spent less time attacking President Trump and more time making her case as a leader under the Biden administration. She exuded a confidence that made you feel as though she was speaking as the current vice-president.”
But Forte still isn’t totally sold by the former prosecutor.
“If I had one critique, it’d be the part where she claimed that we could end this pandemic under the leadership of Joe Biden. Sure, his response to the coronavirus would likely be much better than the current administration’s. However, a change in leadership alone will not eliminate this pandemic.”
Coronavirus vaccine ‘She did a very good job’
KJ Kearney, environmental justice advocate, S Carolina
If I had to rate it, I would give it an 8/10.
One of the things I liked about what she did was she shouted out everybody: HBCUs [historically black colleges], AKAs [an African American sorority], the Divine 9 [nine historically black fraternities and sororities], her Indian heritage, her Jamaican heritage, her white husband. She didn’t shy from any of that.
So I’m glad that she was very forthright about who she is and all the things that make her who she is. And she stood up for Joe – that’s her job and I think that’s what people are looking for her to be.
I mean, in the next 76 days they’re going to need her to drive home the messages of the Democratic Party and to help smooth those rough patches that Joe may have on the trail when him and Trump get to arguing.
But in terms of her first appearance as the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, I think she did a very good job.
Coronavirus vaccine ‘It lacked policy’
Debra J Saunders covers the White House and writes an opinion column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She used to report on Harris in California.
Kamala Harris’ brief acceptance speech was like an elopement in place of a wedding. Held in a makeshift stage in Delaware hotel instead of the Wisconsin Center where the Democratic National Convention is supposed to be, the venue provided six American flags and a podium for Harris, who had no audience or energy to jazz up the moment.
Blame it on the pandemic. Harris, a former San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General, whom I’ve covered over the years, was button down when she should have been electrically charged.
It came off as a speech written by an efficiency expert. Or worse, a committee of efficiency experts, who wanted to check the boxes and quickly.
There was little policy discussion. Rather than talk at length about the coronavirus and racism, Harris melded the two together “There is no vaccine for racism,” she said. And who can argue with that?
While running mates are expected to be pit bulls against the opposition, Harris meekly cited three things she didn’t like about President Donald Trump – “constant chaos,” “incompetence, and “callousness.” No one would argue. But there was no sound bite destined to lead in news stories. No big rhetorical moment.
Everyone else already had said that Joe can bring the country together. She said it too.
Harris is not afraid to attack. She’s not afraid to be blunt. I can only guess that she’s trying to do her job as the campaign wants her to do it. But the campaign is clueless. And the usually sharp Harris seemed so as well.
Coronavirus vaccine ‘A mixed response from India’
Kamala Harris expectedly spoke about her biracial roots at the beginning of her 20-minute speech.
She said she stood on the “shoulders of my mother”, who came from India when she was 19 to study in the US, fell in love with a Jamaica-born student, and tirelessly raised her two children. She “raised us to be proud and strong black women and be proud of our Indian heritage”.
Ms Harris mostly reiterated what she has already said in her 2018 memoirs – her mother instilling values about the importance of the family, and her links with her extended family in India, including her uncle and an aunt who she calls “Chitti” or younger mother.
Indians have been mixed in their response to Ms Harris’s ticket.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s supporters are ambivalent, partly because of Ms Harris’s criticism of his move to revoke Kashmir’s autonomy, and the refusal of his foreign minister to meet a congresswoman who has been critical of the same move.
And although Indian-Americans have historically voted for Democrats for being immigration friendly, President Trump is considered a friend of India and Mr Modi. It will be interesting to see how much support Ms Harris can garner from Indian American voters in these polarised times.
Coronavirus vaccine ‘Delivered with smiles and warmth’
Kamala Harris has had turns in the limelight before. She spoke to a crowd of more than 20,000 when she kicked off her presidential campaign in January 2019. She had viral moments when sharply questioning Supreme Court justices and Trump executive appointees. She made waves when she swiped at Joe Biden for opposing school desegregation bussing at the first Democratic debate.
This, however, was her biggest moment so far.
The now-official Democratic vice-presidential nominee had a bit of an extra challenge on Wednesday night, too, having to directly follow Obama, the party’s most beloved and rhetorically gifted politician.
What Harris offered was a bit of an amalgam – one that sometimes connected and occasionally plodded. It was part biographical introduction, part sales pitch for Biden and – most notably – part frontal attack on structural racism.
“There is no vaccine for racism,” she said in what will probably be her most quoted line. “We have got to do the work.”
Although she’s been attacked by some on the left for her prosecutorial background, Harris tried to turn that into a benefit for a general election audience, speaking of how she always tries to fight for justice.
“I know a predator when I see one,” she said at one point, pausing long enough for her fellow Democrats to fill in the blanks.
Her speech delivered with smiles and warmth, but it took place in a rather haunting environment – a room constructed to replicate a party convention hall, complete with signposts for each state delegation, but devoid of the cheering crowds.
It all had slightly post-apocalyptic feeling, which along with the vacant classrooms from which Senator Elizabeth Warren and Jill Biden early spoke, makes it seem that the emptiness of the current pandemic-stricken nation is a feeling Democrats want to highlight – and lay at Trump’s feet.
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