Kamala makes history as first woman of color elected US vice-president

International Desk

Kamala Harris has become vice-president-elect of the US, the first time in history that a woman, and a woman of color, has been elected to such a position in the White House.

Joe Biden won the presidency by clinching Pennsylvania and its 20 electoral votes on Saturday morning, after days of painstaking vote counting following record turnout across the country. The win in Pennsylvania took Biden’s electoral college vote to 284, surpassing the 270 needed to win the White House.

Shortly after the race was called, Harris tweeted a statement and video. “This election is about so much more than Joe Biden or me,” she said. “It’s about the soul of America and our willingness to fight for it. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Let’s get started.”

Similarly, Biden released a statement calling for unity.

“The work ahead of us will be hard, but I promise you this: I will be a president for all Americans – whether you voted for me or not,” Biden said in a statement.

Harris, a California senator who is of Indian and Jamaican heritage, will also be the first woman of mixed race to serve as vice-president. If she became president she would be the first female president, and the second biracial president in American history, after Barack Obama.

“I’m even more proud that my mother gets to see this and my daughter gets to see this,” said Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, a Democrat, as she marked the historic moment and verged on tears in an interview with MSNBC.

“It’s amazing, it’s amazing. It brings tears to my eyes and joy to my heart,” said Susan Rice, former UN ambassador, who was also on the verge of tears in an interview with CNN. She said she hoped Harris’s win would inspire young people across the country.

“I could not be more proud of Kamala Harris and all that she represents,” she added.

Senator Cory Booker, one of only three Black senators, also marked the historic milestone for Harris.

“I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing,” he wrote. “For the first time, a Black and South Asian woman has been elected Vice President of the United States. My sister has made history and blazed a trail for future generations to follow.”

Julián Castro, the former Housing secretary under Obama who ran against Biden in the Democratic primary, wrote: “Donald Trump began his campaign with a racist tirade against immigrants and people of color. Today Kamala Harris, a Black woman and daughter of immigrants, helped make him a one-term president and will soon become Vice President.”

Actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who starred in the comedy Veep, tweeted: “Madam Vice President” is no longer a fictional character.

Women have run for president or run on major party presidential tickets before, the most recent being Hillary Clinton. Carly Fiorina was named as Texas senator Ted Cruz’s running mate in the 2016 presidential election in that year’s Republican primary before Donald Trump won the party’s nomination.

Sarah Palin was the last woman to run as a vice-presidential nominee on a major party presidential ticket in a general election. Palin, while governor of Alaska, was part of the late Arizona senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign.

But Harris is the first woman in American history ever to run on a successful presidential ticket.

Harris herself ran for president in the 2020 Democratic primary but struggled to gain traction in the large field, and dropped out of the race months before Biden was named the party’s presidential nominee.

On the campaign trail, Harris has brushed off questions about whether she was introspective about her heritage and race. In 2019, Harris said she did not agonize over how to categorize herself.

“So much so,” Harris told the Washington Post in February 2019, “that when I first ran for office that was one of the things that I struggled with, which is that you are forced through that process to define yourself in a way that you fit neatly into the compartment that other people have created.”

Harris added: “My point was: I am who I am. I’m good with it. You might need to figure it out, but I’m fine with it.”

Harris was born in Oakland, California, and is the child of immigrant parents. She has one sister, Maya, a lawyer and political analyst. On the campaign trail, Harris rarely discussed her thoughts on her racial heritage in detail, but she has frequently described her late mother, Shyamala Gopalan, who was born in India, as a mentor.

Harris’s family is also unique. Her husband, Doug Emhoff, who will become the country’s first “second gentleman”, has children from a previous marriage and is Jewish. Emhoff has been a close confidante and active participant in the Biden campaign, holding some fundraisers and appearing regularly as a supportive figure for his wife.

After the result, he tweeted: “So proud of you.”