A hopeful day in American politics
Thank god there is something else in the news to focus on – the US Presidential Election. And yesterday was the first time in a while (let’s say approximately 4 years) that I felt a glimmer of hope about American politics. I settled in and watched Kamala Harris deliver her acceptance speech for the Democratic nomination of Vice-President to run with Joe Biden.
Kamala Harris is making history as the first black woman and Asian-American to be nominated on a major political party ticket. Born to an Indian mother and Jamaican father, if the Biden-Harris combination wins, she will be the first black woman to hold the Vice-Presidency of America.
American women’s history was also made 100 years ago – almost to the day – when women were finally granted the right to vote under the 19th Amendment to the American Constitution on 18 August 1920.
Kamala paid tribute to the American suffragettes in her acceptance speech, as these women lay the foundations for her to be where she is right now. With a rare degree of forethought, Trump and his team clearly thought the Government should capitalise on this historic centenary – he did so by pardoning Susan Anthony for the crime she committed by voting in 1872.
While this was clearly an attempt to win over the female voter, the pardon has also been viewed by some as a kick in the teeth to Susan Anthony, in that it undermines all that she fought for in voting. Indeed, Susan Anthony saw nothing wrong with the act of voting and never even paid her fine - instead she was proud what she did, as it highlighted the plight of women’s rights. I am sure that she would be turning in her grave knowing what Trump has done – for her the crime was a proud battle scar.
So it seemed fitting that 100 years on, we are watching another female fighter and history-maker in Kamala Harris – she has long defended people’s rights in her work as a lawyer and prosecutor, taking many a tough stand. Fighting for people’s rights seems to be in her blood, with her parents falling in love by marching for justice in the civil rights movements of the 1960s.
Image: Sheila Fitzgerald, Shutterstock.com
To me, an outsider, Kamala came across as the real deal – a woman of great strength, integrity and obvious intellect, utterly energised by her cause. Kamala looked genuinely excited and happy to be up on that stage, and I could see the authentic warmth in her eyes and her passion beaming across the near-empty room. This was of course a COVID-style convention.
Raised by her mother to live a life of service, Kamala has spent her professional life fighting for justice and equality. This dedication to others shows what a selfless woman can achieve and this came through as she said "At every step of the way, I've been guided by the words I spoke from the first time I stood in a courtroom. Kamala Harris, for the people." I could not sense any narcissism there.
Appealing to a diverse cross-section of women, Kamala inspired even me to think about dusting off my legal career and reaching for those stars – just as she is no doubt inspiring thousands of young American girls who watched her speak.
But this is no ordinary election. In her speech, Kamala hits home the incredibly high stakes of this election - spanning democracy, the economy, health, women’s equality and the battle against racial inequality and injustice.
“Years from now, when this moment has passed, our children and our grandchildren will look in our eyes and ask us: ‘Where were you when the stakes were so high?’ And we will tell them, not just how we felt—we will tell them what we did,” said Kamala.
We know there is no value in predicting anything anymore – the last US election and this year have taught us that. However, as a foreigner unable to vote, I’m cautiously hoping that the end of 2020 finally comes good by book ending the last 100 years with a historical win by Kamala Harris. To achieve that, the practical obstacles imposed by coronavirus on voting Americans and the inevitable fights and legal tussles post-election must not be able to thwart this outcome.