Sunday, 29 Nov 2020

Kamala Harris becomes highest ranking woman ever in US as she takes VP job

Kamala Harris has become the highest ranking female politician in the history of the United States after Joe Biden won the presidential election. The vice president elect – a former prosecutor and California senator – is also the highest ranking African American and Indian American ever to hold political office in America.

Harris, 56, will be sworn into office in January 2021 as 46th Vice President of the United States. She will move to Washington DC from California alongside husband Douglas Emhoff, with whom Harris shares a stepson and stepdaughter.

Addressing supporters in Detroit, Michigan, on Tuesday, Harris said she ‘had faith’ in the US electoral system, amid claims President Trump would try to frustrate his exit from the White House if he lost. Harris and Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence came after repeated attacks on the vice president elect by Trump.

Trump branded Harris a left-wing ‘monster’ and warned she would become President of the United States by default if 77 year-old Biden was to become incapacitated while in office.

And last month, Trump even took issue with Harris’s laugh during an appearance on chat show The View, where she likened the president to a playground bully.

Trump said: ‘Did you see (Joe Biden’s ) performance on that show? The only thing almost as bad was Kamala, with the laugh. “Haha, that’s so funny. Hahaha.”

She kept laughing. I said, “Is there something wrong with her, too?”‘ Trump hit out after Harris shrugged off his attacks on her, telling The View: ‘It’s so predictable coming from him.

‘I mean it’s childish, it’s name-calling on behalf of the president of the United States, and, again, the American people deserve so much more from their president.

‘You know, look, the name-calling is not new to me – it’s not new to anybody who played on the playground as a child. But this is not the playground.’

Harris’ groundbreaking vice presidential victory means she supersedes three former female secretaries of state who were jointly tied as the highest-ranking female politicians in US government history.

Madeline Albright was the first female secretary of state, and served under President Bill Clinton from 1997 to 2001. Condoleeza Rice became the first black female secretary of state in 2005, as part of George W Bush’s administration.

Rice was succeeded by former first lady Hillary Clinton, who was former President Barack Obama’s secretary of state between 2009 and 2013.

Harris was born in Oakland, California, in October 1964 to Indian biologist mother Shyamala Gopalan and Donald Harris, a Stamford economics professor who was originally from Jamaica.

On starting kindergarten, Harris was bused to Thousand Oaks Elementary School in Berkeley – a practice used to desegregate and diversify schools that had once been predominantly white.

While running as a presidential candidate in July 2019, Harris attacked then rival Biden over his ‘hurtful’ opposition to busing during the 1970s, with Biden accusing Harris of a ‘mischaracterization of my position.’

She announced her candidacy in January 2019, but dropped out in December 2019, citing a lack of funding, and threw her weight behind Biden’s campaign in March.

Harris was named Biden’s vice presidential pick in August, with the pair quickly drawing a line under the harsh words they’d exchanged earlier in the nomination campaign.

Harris’s parents divorced when she was seven, and she moved to Quebec, Canada with her mother between the ages of 12 and 18. The vice president-elect got her first taste of politics working as a mailroom clerk for California Senator Alan Cranston while studying political science and economics at Howard University in Washington DC.

After graduating in 1986, she returned to California and attended law school, graduating in 1989. Harris was admitted to the California Bar the following year.

The lawyer began working as a prosecutor in Alameda County, California, and became the first person of color to be elected as San Francisco District Attorney (the city’s top prosecutor) in 2004.

Harris quickly earned a reputation as a tough DA, who dramatically boosted conviction rates for serious crimes and raised bail amounts for suspects accused of gun crimes.

She set up a hate crimes unit that successfully axed the ‘gay panic’ defense used by homophobes to justify killing LGBT people.

Harris also stuck to her pre-election pledge never to seek the death penalty for anyone she successfully convicted, arguing that it was more cost-effective to sentence the most serious criminals to life without parole.

Those successes saw Harris become the first woman, first African American and first South Asian American to serve as California District Attorney, for two terms between 2011 and 2017.

Harris was elected to the United States Senate in November 2016, during the same round of elections that Donald Trump won.

Her term as senator saw Harris push back against President Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’ on travelers from predominantly Muslim countries and hit out at Trump’s pick for education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

Harris also voted against President Trump’s three Supreme Court Justice nominations – Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, all of whom ultimately went on to be confirmed to the court.

She also voted to impeach President Trump during this year’s impeachment hearings, with the president ultimately escaping any censure.

But despite her frequent attacks on Republican policy, Harris worked on bipartisan bills with multiple Republican senators, and won praise from her conservative colleagues.

Top Trump ally Lindsey Graham called Harris ‘hard nosed, smart and tough.’

That has sparked hopes of increased cooperation between Democrats and Republicans, after President Trump’s tenure saw a huge gulf form between the two parties.

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