Ruben Navarrette: Biden-Harris ticket would show Democrats aren't paying attention to current events

Summary: As I said, those pushing for police reform want to know that we're listening. If Biden chooses Harris as his running mate, it'll show that Democrats aren't.

Ruben Navarrette column
Ruben Navarrette commentary
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SAN DIEGO β€” Biden-Harris 2020? Are you kidding me?

A more tone-deaf Democratic ticket you will not find β€” especially in the George Floyd Era. With all the upheaval going on these days in the area of race, policing and criminal justice, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif. β€” the person who the media insists is the leading candidate to be the running mate of presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden β€” should not be anywhere near the ticket.

Question: What do Black Lives Matter protesters, and others pushing for police reform, really want?

Answer: More than anything, the activists want their fellow Americans to hear them and understand that they're not crazy. They haven't been imagining that African Americans β€” and, it's worth mentioning, Latinos β€” are often a favorite target of police. They want their fellow Americans to confront that we have a corrupt law enforcement system that gets propped up, empowered, and funded to the gills by even more corrupt law-and-order politicians.

Ever see politicians β€” Republicans and Democrats β€” on the day that a major crime bill gets signed? They toss goodies to police departments like Oprah doing a giveaway.


You get a tank! You get a helicopter! You get 10 rocket launchers! Everyone gets riot gear!!

Both Biden and Harris have β€” at various points in their political careers β€” been pro-cop cheerleaders who have delivered the pork to law enforcement and tried to score points with white folks by locking up the black and brown folks who threaten them.

In one respect, this pairing would be an odd couple. There is no chemistry, unless you mean the kind where you mix two substances into a test tube. And it explodes.

Harris all but called Biden a racist during the first Democratic debate for being chummy with white segregationists in the Senate and opposing forced busing in the 1970s. Awkward.

The folks at the Trump reelection campaign β€” aka The Temple of Doom β€” surely have the video footage ready to go.

Biden meekly tried to defend himself against the race card and jab back at Harris β€” a former district attorney β€” by saying that when he got out of law school, presumably during Prohibition, "I was a public defender. I didn't become a prosecutor."

Still, Harris may not have been so far off when she implied that Biden was a bigot for coddling segregationists. During a 1993 Senate confirmation hearing for then-Supreme Court nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Biden vouched for the United Daughters of the Confederacy as "many fine people who continue to display the Confederate flag as a symbol."

President Donald Trump described the Charlottesville, Virginia, protesters who defended confederate statues as "very fine people."


Great news, Mr. President, we may have found a long-lost brother.

Back to the Democratic dynamic duo. In another respect, Biden and Harris are a perfect match. As Harris was out on the Left Coast building her reputation as a tough-on-crime prosecutor in San Francisco, and later as California attorney general, it was Biden who supplied the bricks in the form of the infamous and racist 1994 crime bill he authored, championed and defended. That's the same crime bill that fueled the mass incarceration that so devastated the black population of this country.

In fact, in May 1992, Biden boasted that his bill was so harsh that it would "do everything but hang people for jaywalking." And I thought that Hillary Clinton's remarks supporting the bill because it targeted "super-predators" who needed to be "brought to heel" was the most racially insensitive thing a Democrat said about the legislation. I stand corrected.

Meanwhile, according to legal experts, Harris was not the fabled "progressive prosecutor" she likes to portray. According to news accounts, while serving as San Francisco District Attorney, she went overboard when it came to putting people in jail. An article in The Atlantic in August 2019 referred to "serious charges against her like that she fought hard to keep innocents in prison and failed to fight hard against corrupt cops."

Some progressive, eh?

For Harris, the driving force wasn't justice. It was always her ambition, and her apparent need to prove to the white people who would fund her future bids for higher office that she was in their corner and would protect them and their property from people of color.

Just like Biden was doing at the time, 3,000 miles away, in the Senate.

Come to think of it. Initial awkwardness aside, this could be the perfect marriage to illustrate clearly what the Democratic Party is really about on matters of race, policing and criminal justice. The cat will finally be out of the bag.


As I said, those pushing for police reform want to know that we're listening. If Biden chooses Harris as his running mate, it'll show that Democrats aren't.

Ruben Navarrette can be reached at

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