Leah Daughtry: Kamala Harris makes history and offers a stark and bold contrast to Trump

Kamala Harris makes history accepting VP nomination

History was made in America on Wednesday night. California Senator Kamala D. Harris accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination to serve as its vice presidential nominee, becoming the first Black woman and first woman of Indian descent to serve on a major political party’s presidential ticket.

In her acceptance speech, she did everything she needed to do: she introduced herself to America, promoted Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as the best and only real choice for our future, and inspired us to action to ensure a Democratic win in November.

In the thread that wound throughout her speech, she drew a stark and bold contrast to the narratives and leadership – or lack thereof — offered to us by President Donald Trump and his administration.


First, she told us her improbable but quintessential, only-in-America story, of immigrant parents who came to our shores to find a better life.  They raised their daughters, Kamala and Maya, to pursue the American dream while holding on to core American values:  hard work, fairness, and service to others.

As she advocated for Biden as the best choice for America, Harris told us what is at stake in this election: the soul of our nation and the essence of our democracy. 

Who could help but remember Trump, using every racist and xenophobic trope possible to decry the contributions and presence of immigrants in our country, to devalue their very existence, resigning whole groups of people to second-class personhood with terms like “rapists,” “murderers,” “aliens” based simply on their country of origin.

In Trump’s America, Kamala’s parents would not be welcome and historic moments like Harris’s nomination could not happen.

As she advocated for Biden as the best choice for America, Harris told us what is at stake in this election: the soul of our nation and the essence of our democracy.


Trump’s carelessness has endangered all of us, costing us “lives and livelihoods.”  And his callousness has “[turned] our tragedies into political weapons.”

Biden, on the other hand, Harris offered, will be a “president who turns our challenges into purpose.”

There is no doubt that the core principles of our democracy are at stake, as Trump brazenly attempts to undermine participation in our elections by weakening that most American of institutions:  The United States Postal Service.  And he goes even further by refusing to say whether he will abide by the results of the election if they do not go his way.

The right of the citizenry to elect its representatives and the peaceful transition of government are both hallmarks of our American democracy.  Trump is actively fighting both.

Harris is right: “We can do better and we deserve so much more.”

Trump’s latest efforts at disenfranchisement strike a particular nerve for me. My great-great-great-grandmother, Eliza, was born into slavery in 1790 in Savannah, Georgia.

For the next four generations, both sides of my family were born and raised in the segregated southern states of Georgia and South Carolina, where voting was a privilege clearly the province of white men alone. Because of the Jim Crow laws of the South, to attempt to simply register to vote was to risk your life.

My grandparents eventually left the South, seeking a better life outside of racism’s suffocating gaze.  But the laws of the nation still prevented them from enjoying the most sacred privilege of democracy:  the right to vote.

The sad fact is that my siblings and I, all of us just in our 50s, are the first generation in our family born with the right to vote. It’s a right that our parents, like Harris’, fought for us to have.  We didn’t have to long for it, pray for it, fight for it, or march for it.  The right to vote was ours simply by virtue of our birth, just like every other American.

I would go on to become Chief of Staff of the Democratic Party, the party that once housed segregationist Bull Connor.  And I served as CEO of both the 2008 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions, the only person in our Party’s history to hold the position twice.

This means that I served as CEO of an institution that refused to seat women’s rights and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer as a delegate at its 1964 Atlantic City gathering.

I have given my career to a Party that, through the hard work and sacrifice of many, has grown and evolved to become a welcoming big tent for all who champion freedom, fairness, and equal opportunity.


Trump wants to take us back to a different era – one of fear and hatred, where the color of one’s skin or one’s gender or national origin is a determining factor in whether the laws of our land apply to you.

We cannot and we will not go back.

In her speech on Wednesday night, Harris called the roll. The names of trailblazing Black women who made her improbable story possible: Mary Church Terrell, Mary McCleod Bethune, Hamer, Diane Nash, Constance Baker Motley, and Shirley Chisholm.

The names of those whose lives were taken due to racism and the unequal application of justice: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.

In calling these names, Harris affirmed the contributions of those and other American heroes whose blood and sacrifices are woven in the fabric of our American story.

In rehearsing the tragedies, Harris kept the necessary and ongoing work of justice before us.

In effect, she told us that she sees us – all of us — and therefore includes us – all of us – in her pledge to serve the people of these United States.

Perhaps that is why her impassioned plea for the steady, principled, courageous leadership that she and Biden will bring, one built on a bright and prosperous future that includes all of us, was so engaging and inspiring as we look to the short weeks between now and November 3.

She reminded us of why we cannot allow complacency and apathy to lead us to a repeat of 2016.  Then, many argued about choosing between the alleged “lesser of two evils.” But now, it is inarguable that hypothetical president Trump is far different from the reality we have experienced these last three years.

There is no “lesser of two evils;” there is only evil vs. policy differences among family.  We cannot afford four more years of division, fear, hatred, carelessness, and callousness. Many – including our own democracy – may not survive it.


Harris made the contrast clear and the choice stark.

What happens next is up to us.

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