Thursday, Jan 21, 2021 07:15 [IST]
Last Update: Thursday, Jan 21, 2021 01:35 [IST]
History was made when Kamala Harris, 56, was sworn in as the first female, first Black and first South Asian American vice president of the United States of America on Tuesday, 20 January. Pilloried by misogyny, sexism, racism, and bigotry, Kamala, whose name translates to "lotus" in Sanskrit, has withstood - and risen above - the mudslinging to climb the glass cliff and shatter a glass ceiling.
The momentous landmark was noted among others by Hillary Clinton, who failed in her Presidential bid four years ago and had presciently remarked in her concession speech that it would not be long before a woman cracked the male stranglehold on high political office in the United States. Harris was elected to the Senate in 2016 and quickly gained recognition for her sharp questioning style with top US officials. She has also teamed up with Republicans on issues like election security and criminal justice reform during her tenure.
President Joe Biden, who picked Kamala as his deputy because she is ready to take his place anytime should something happen to him and has referred to the incoming dispensation as the Harris-Biden administration, also noted the milestone.
Harris has acknowledged the challenges that lie ahead for both her and the new US president saying "it is not going to be easy." Biden and Harris enter the White House on 20 January with the top challenge to lift the country from the devastation of a raging pandemic that has killed more than 398,000 Americans and thrown millions into economic distress.
Earlier, Harris sent out a message of "unity" and "togetherness" to a country still reeling under the twin blows of the Covid-19 pandemic and unprecedented political turmoil. Harris tweeted that Americans were "united in spirit" despite physical separation. She also tweeted about the pledge to “will work to unify our country, tackle the challenges facing our nation, and renew the promise of America."
The Vice-President's message of unity comes at a time of transition in political leadership following months of acrimony culminating in the ransacking of the US Capitol on January 6 - something never heard of in US history. It also comes as a healing touch to millions of Americans, either mourning their dear ones lost to the pandemic or suffering themselves.
In diverse democracies such as America and India, identity-based fault-lines often organise politics. We know that for a political party, having a voter base is not enough; whether it shows up to vote is what counts. Harris’ selection will preserve the Democratic Party’s support among Blacks and women, two groups that have been energised by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the women’s movements, and boosted their turnout in the November election.
Harris is smart, competent, and walks into her new role with the necessary experience. These attributes do not protect her from the conscious and unconscious biases against female candidates in the electorate and the media. The prejudice is only harsher against women of colour. Former President Trump had rolled out the longstanding trope of the angry Black woman against the senator, calling her nasty, mad, vicious and mean. But it didn’t stop her. The road ahead of her is definitely not easy but comes with renewed hopes for all women across the world.