Harris faces crucial challenge with biggest speech of career

Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisRick Scott blocks Senate vote on top cyber nominee until Harris visits border Head of Border Patrol resigning from post Migrant children face alarming conditions in US shelter: BBC investigation MORE faces a crucial challenge this week at the Democratic convention in convincing parts of the party to enthusiastically support a Biden-Harris ticket despite a record on crime and justice that many associate with mass incarceration and racial inequality.

Harris’s elevation is intended to bolster Biden with young voters and people of color. The California senator, 55, is the first woman of color on a major party’s presidential ticket, and her background, age and gender all contrast with the top of the Democratic ticket.

The nod was also welcomed warmly by large parts of the Democratic Party, including the leading progressive presidential candidates, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Overnight Health Care: CDC panel meets on vaccines and heart inflammation | Health officials emphasize vaccine is safe | Judge rules Missouri doesn't have to implement Medicaid expansion Democrats urge Biden to extend moratorium on student loan payments MORE (D-Mass.) and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenators say White House aides agreed to infrastructure 'framework' Briahna Joy Gray: Biden is keeping the filibuster to have 'a Joe Manchin presidency' On The Money: Biden to fire FHFA director after Supreme Court removes restriction | Yellen pleads with Congress to raise debt ceiling MORE (I-Vt.).


Yet among the young progressives who have been the most difficult group on the left for Biden to win over, doubts are still audible about whether a Biden-Harris ticket will come through.

This is especially true given the fact that Black voters put Biden over the top in the Democratic primary race.

“From a power perspective for Black people, if Black people are going to put Biden in the White House, then we also have to demand that our agenda be front and center in the first 100 days of the administration,” Color of Change PAC executive director Arisha Hatch told The Hill.

Data from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project back in May revealed that young Black voters were considerably less on board about voting for Biden than older Black voters.

While 91 percent of Black voters 65 and up said they plan to vote for Biden, just 68 percent of Black voters ages 18 to 29 said that same thing.


Robert Griffin, research director of Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group, told The Hill that while Biden’s numbers have improved since then, the presumptive Democratic nominee “is still showing signs of relatively low support among younger Black Americans.”

“According to data ... collected between July 16 and August 12th, senior Black registered voters are nearly universal in their support for Biden (95 percent),” Griffin wrote in an email. “By contrast, those 45 to 64 (84 percent), 30 to 44 (77 percent) and 18 to 29 (77 percent) are currently less committed.”

Griffin continued: “We certainly may see this change as the race kicks into full gear campaigns generally tend to win back voting groups already predisposed towards them but still represents a weakness at this point."

Harris will begin working to change this dynamic with her Wednesday address at the virtual Democratic National Convention, in what will easily be the biggest political speech of her career. Her speech offers a prime opportunity to try to sway the minds of young liberal voters with doubts about Biden.

There are also some doubts among such voters with Harris, a former San Francisco prosecutor and California attorney general whose record has sometimes engendered criticism from the left. The New York Times in a story earlier this month noted the criticism Harris came under for not prosecuting police in the Golden State accused of killing people.


Harris has thrown herself into the issue of police reform since ending her presidential campaign late last year and returning to the Senate, sponsoring legislation to end police choke holds and visiting the Black Lives Matter mural in Washington, D.C.

Unifying the party and winning over younger generations of voters for Biden is a key objective at this convention, something on display already in former first lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Democrats await Manchin decision on voting rights bill Biden plans to host Obama for portrait unveiling that Trump skipped: report More than 70 companies call on Senate to pass voting right bill MORE’s speech Monday night.

“I know that regardless of our race, age, religion or politics, when we close out the noise and the fear and truly open our hearts, we know that what’s going on in this country is just not right. This is not who we want to be,” Obama said during her address.

The former first lady also voiced her support of Harris on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.

“You’ve got this. So many people will be doing everything we can to get you and @JoeBiden elected this fall,” Obama tweeted at Harris.

Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright expressed confidence that Harris will bolster the calls made by Obama on Monday night by voicing support for meaningful change and warning of what four more years of Trump would mean.

“We have to remind people how high the stakes are in this election. At the end of the day, losers do not legislate, and you cannot govern if you do not win,” Seawright told The Hill.

“So, for all the minor issues or disagreements people may have with Joe BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE’s historic running mate, I will remind those people that the differences that they have should not even start to compare to the differences we have with Donald TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE, Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceOn The Money: Biden to fire FHFA director after Supreme Court removes restriction | Yellen pleads with Congress to raise debt ceiling Biden to fire FHFA director after Supreme Court removes restriction If you care about the US, root for China to score a win in space MORE and the agenda of the Republican Party,” he said.