On Aug. 11, 2020, three years ago today, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden announced that Kamala Harris would join the ticket.
As a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and someone who works at EMILYs List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics; electing Democratic pro-choice women, I was absolutely thrilled!
And simultaneously, I was experiencing what the entire nation was — the deep and life-changing impacts of 2020. I was isolated with my family, I sat at the bedside and then was not allowed to sit at the bedside of my ailing father in a time when hospitals and rehabilitation facilities were not safe; leaving even families, like mine, who weren’t directly dealing with COVID, in a constant state of worry.
And like all of us, I watched senseless murders replay on a loop. George Floyd, Brianna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery became household names. And America had to sit and see a side of itself that it would rather ignore.
So, the addition of now-Vice President Harris to the presidential ticket was a hopeful and exciting turn on a very dark road. In the three years since Harris has been in her role, we’ve seen her break barriers and achieve so many firsts.
And we’ve also seen the fall of Roe v. Wade, the continued attempts by a conservative Supreme Court to erode hard-fought rights and so much more. So much is happening that we might be tempted to wonder if Harris’ presence even matters. I’m here to tell you that it does. Her presence in the role certainly matters and she needs to be there for the next four years.
Harris’ work has been essential to the forward movement of our country. Let’s take her work in the Senate. Harris has cast more tie-breaking votes than any vice president in modern history — 31 times. In doing this she has made way for the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which among other things lowered prescription drug costs and made investments in clean energy.
Harris is an excellent steward of her spotlight and her platform. She shows up every day to speak for the people. When a leading presidential candidate and his administration wanted to teach children that there was a benefit to slavery, Harris reminded Americans, “Adults know what slavery really involved. It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby from their mother. It involved some of the worst examples of depriving people of humanity in our world. It involved subjecting to people the requirement that they would think of themselves and be thought of as less than human.
“So, in the context of that, how is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities, that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization? In the midst of these atrocities, that there was some benefit?”
She has brought an extraordinary amount of attention to a health care crisis that disproportionately impacts Black and Brown women — the Black maternal health crisis. In a world in which Black women are three times more likely to die from a pregnancy-related cause than White women as a result of years of inequity and systemic racism, this attention has undoubtedly saved lives.
And finally, having Kamala Harris in the role of vice president of the United States when a conservative Supreme Court successfully carried out their nearly 50-year-old goal of overturning Roe v. Wade gave me a sense of calm in the midst of a chaotic time.
She has been a key leader in this administration, raising awareness of and advocating for abortion and reproductive access. She has hosted numerous rallies and events to make the case for reproductive freedom since the Supreme Court made it evident that it would overturn Roe. She also led a task force convening at the White House to roll out new health privacy protections to prevent protected health information from being used to investigate or sue people who facilitate abortions.
I know that particularly young people often feel that politicians only engage with them when election time rolls around. And I can appreciate that honest critique. But in the case of Harris, she’s been busy doing the work — making visible the people who are often invisible, making heard the voices of those who are often silenced, and making change for those who are disillusioned by inaction.
And as politicians work to address the needs of voters, as young voters, we must educate ourselves on what political figures are doing to impact our lives as a collective, even when change isn’t immediately felt individually. Harris has done the work, and now it’s up to us to keep her uplifted so that we don’t fall prey to false narratives about her role. Because in a period when the role of vice president has evolved, she has obliterated the ambiguity of the role.
Vice President Harris is as she has been her entire career, here for the people. In 2024, let’s help her finish the job.
Tonya Williams is the senior director of strategic communications at EMILYs List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics. The mission of EMILYs List is to elect Democratic pro-choice women up and down the ballot. Tonya is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.