Dems introduce media's new favorite politician, plus Joe Biden

I was going to make the headline “Dems introduce America’s next president, plus Joe Biden” but thought better of it. Too dark.

Although if you think that’s dark, check out the Babylon Bee.

YouGov published a snap poll this morning finding that 51 percent of voters approve of Harris’s selection as VP nominee versus 37 percent who disapprove. Biden will happily take that, but this is the number he really cares about:

That’s all he wanted from the pick, ultimately, and it’s why everyone else was disqualified. He didn’t want voters to get nervous in the booth about electing a 77-year-old because they’ve decided the VP nominee is too green to be trusted with power. Virtually everyone else on his shortlist would have provoked a “Who?” reaction from much of the public except for Elizabeth Warren, and Warren was a nonstarter. Choosing a white woman over half a dozen black women candidates would have felt like a snub and her brand of leftist politics would have been cannon fodder for the Trump campaign. He went with America’s only black woman senator because it checks the right demographic boxes and the right experience box.

Harris is also useful as a running mate because she’s slippery, which ironically was a liability for her in the primary. She tried to brand herself as progressive by embracing Medicare for All and the Green New Deal but it was stupid trying to out-socialist Bernie and Warren. Harris gambled that she could win the nomination first by consolidating the black vote as the most prominent black candidate in the field (sorry, Cory Booker) and then by building support on the left as someone who, while not as authentically progressive as Sanders and Warren, might be more electable and should be supported for that reason. In the end, though, black voters preferred Joe and the DSA crowd preferred their real-deal options to a poseur who was being cynical in her calculations. Harris was neither fish nor fowl, not left enough to win over the left but too eager to pander to the left to attract centrists.

But someone like that is fine for VP, especially for a candidate like Biden who’s run a play-it-safe campaign from the start. Harris’s left-wing pandering hasn’t impressed any real leftists, but the fact that she made the effort will leave most of them with no strong reason to oppose her nomination. The fact that her pretend leftism never seemed very convincing leaves centrists without a strong reason to oppose her as well, especially since she has Centrist Joe’s seal of approval and a determined effort by our media to rebrand her as a moderate. She’s too weaselly to get people to support her enthusiastically for president but weaselly enough to make everyone in the party find her selection as number two basically unobjectionable.

In fact, Harris’s slipperiness has been confounding even to Republicans:

How they didn’t settle on a line of attack against her long ago, given that she was the VP frontrunner for months, I’ll never understand. But it gets worse: NBC noticed that Trump’s own campaign alternated yesterday between attacking her for being a hard-ass prosecutor and for being too soft on criminal elements.

In a statement moments after the announcement, Trump senior adviser Katrina Pierson blasted Harris both as someone who will “try to bury her record as a prosecutor” in California — which has been described by some critics as too harsh — and someone who will appease “anti-police extremists.” Pierson said she was both “phony” and in thrall to “radicals.”

The early attacks painted a conflicting portrait of Harris and indicated that Trump’s campaign has not yet settled on a coherent and consistent way to criticize her.

“This really puts the Trump campaign in a box: whether you portray her as pro-police or anti-police,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor and Trump supporter. “They are going to have to decide.”

Tim Miller watched social media after the pick was announced and found similarly mixed messaging. “Donald Trump Jr. went with the attack that Harris is part of the ‘radical left’ and campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said she was ‘more liberal’ than Bernie Sanders,” he noted. “Yet the populist MAGA crowd tried to make the case that picking a neoliberal shill like Harris proves the left doesn’t actually care about Sanders voters. And an RNC email argued that Sanders liberals were ‘revolting’ over the Harris section.” One Trump advisor celebrated her nomination, telling Vanity Fair, “She’ll scare the sh*t out of suburban women. How great is this?” But … why would she scare them? A well-credentialed multiracial professional woman who leans left but can’t be pinned down on policy sounds like the platonic ideal of what the stereotypical modern suburban voter is looking for. If the idea is that Harris’s support for big-ticket programs like the Green New Deal will frighten voters, rest assured, she’ll start weaselling away from that immediately.

There’s no mystery about her politics. For all the hype about her groundbreaking VP nomination, she’s a perfectly traditional politician in the sense that she really has no principles. She’s a careerist. She says whatever she thinks she needs to say to get elected. Her north star is accumulating power and wielding it in authoritarian ways. She thought she needed to be a progressive in the primary, so she was. Biden will now want her to be a centrist who was “tough on crime” as California AG, so she will be. That makes her a dismal figure, but dismal in a familiar way if you follow politics. And I think that’s all Biden wants, really — familiarity for voters. That’s his core appeal too, after all. Any swing voter who’s sizing up Harris can always tell themselves, “I know her type. She’s a human weathervane … but it’s not the worst thing if the president just follows the political ‘weather.’ That’s what we want in a democracy, right?”

Three clips for you here. One is the end of Biden’s introduction for her. No hugging or handshakes in the age of COVID, especially with a guy who’s pushing 80. The second is Harris tearing into Trump and Pence over the pandemic, and making the very cynical point that only two people died of Ebola on Obama’s watch while 160,000 have died of coronavirus on Trump’s. The two viruses are night and day; Ebola spreads slowly and only through direct contact with fluids, not rapidly through aerosols like SARS-CoV-2. Harris knows that, but like I say, she says what she needs to say to get elected. If she can get this dopey talking point going to help Biden, she’s game. The third clip is Jeanine Pirro speculating that something will “happen” with Biden before the election to lead to his replacement as nominee by Harris. I think that’s revealing in how it betrays that righties would prefer to campaign against Harris than Sleepy Joe, a politician whom they’ve had great trouble defining and demonizing. It wouldn’t surprise me, in fact, to see Harris rather than Biden draw the lion’s share of attacks from Team Trump over the next few weeks. Not so much because there’s a strategy involved but because they’ve been itching to go on offense and now they finally have a target.