“He slept more than any other President, whether by day or by night. Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”
When, a couple of weeks ago, we opened with the quote ‘the darkest hour is just before dawn’ we weren’t envisaging Donald Trump being struck down with the virus, just four weeks before the election and three months before the vaccine starts to appear: it’s extraordinary how cavalier some politicians have been towards the infection.
The course of this ‘darkest hour’ may set the world order for decades to come. Not only is the outcome of the presidential election at stake, but also we may be moving on a whole generation, if both of the leading candidates were to succumb to the virus.
So, in this commentary we take a look at Joe Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris. Compared to the Trump/Biden ages of 74 and 78 respectively, she’ll be a mere 56 when the oaths of office are taken. As the chart to the right shows, Covid-19 doesn’t like old people - so let’s look at who’s coming up on the inside lane.
Kamala Harris was born into a world which was just getting to know the Beatles, a child of the 1960s with an Indian mother and Jamaican father. She was an outstanding lawyer in California for 27 years, with her long list of achievements shown in her Wikipedia entry. In a country where racism bubbles away just below the surface, she administered justice with fairness and courage.
However, she has been clear about the need for young people to have a good education and a structural preparation for adult life, as demonstrated by her work against truancy. She has also called out the tech giants over data protection, and she has promoted environmental protection. In 2017, she visited troops stationed in Iraq, and went to the largest camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan.
So, her presence on the Democrat ticket is certainly not symbolic: she is a strong contender for the top spot and was, indeed, a presidential candidate herself until late 2019. Campaigning under the slogan ‘Kamala Harris for the People’, she spoke for a motivation which has clearly guided her whole career, both in law and in politics.
It would be wise for business and finance to take a close look at Kamala Harris with Covid-19 presenting such a threat to older folk, quite apart from its major ‘long Covid’ after-effects.
Many of the themes which feature in these commentaries - egalitarian capitalism, incentivised learning, disintermediation, controlling the tech giants - also feature strongly in Kamala Harris’s journey so far.
Last year we asked the question of one of the other presidential contenders ‘Is Elizabeth Warren an egalitarian capitalist, or a socialist?’ From what I can tell, Kamala Harris looks very much the former. She clearly has a real ambition to do everything possible to help disadvantaged young people to achieve their potential, and to ensure that the interests of people from all walks of life are kept centre stage..
On 15th June this year, we reflected on how deep wealth disparity perpetuates and fuels today’s racial tensions, putting forward a set of ideas to tackle it for future generations. It was only last Tuesday - when he was probably already harbouring Covid-19 - that Trump sparred with Biden over these racial tensions, still painfully visible across America after 200 years of injustice.
I am confident that, if Kamala Harris does win through either as vice-president to Biden or in her own right, she will tackle these injustices head-on. It is high time that we all accept the common root of our humanity, that in Thomas Jefferson’s words we ‘are created equal, with unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.
Who knows how the tragedy of Covid-19 will end?
The mortality statistics from Worldometers show how severely the Americas have been impacted: no less than seven of the ten countries with the highest number of deaths per one million population are American.
On 2nd March we asked ‘Will the United States see a harsh economic upside to coronavirus?’. The economic consequences are indeed harsh, but so also may be the political consequences. In that commentary, we said ‘many more old folk may die in the USA: might they include some of those octogenarian politicians?’.
So, we should be pleased to see someone of the calibre of Kamala Harris waiting in the wings – hope, indeed, for people from all walks of life to achieve Thomas Jefferson’s dream, for generations to come.
Gavin Oldham OBE