America’s first woman VP

Kamala Harris (left), flanked by her husband Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, is sworn in by Justice Sonia Sotomayor (right) on Wednesday at the US Capitol in Washington DC. Photo: AFP

A new chapter begins today. Let’s get to work.

Kamela Harris

WASHINGTON: Kamala Harris smashed through one of America’s highest glass ceilings Wednesday, becoming the first woman, first Black American and first person of Asian heritage to be appointed vice president, blazing a trail in the most diverse White House ever.

As running mate to now-President Joe Biden, she helped bring Donald Trump’s turbulent rule to an end, assailing him for his chaotic bungling of the Covid-19 pandemic, last year’s unrest over racial injustices and his crackdown on immigration.

Harris, 56, enters the post having already forged a unique path, as California’s first Black attorney general and the first woman of South Asian heritage elected to the US Senate.

“A new chapter begins today,” Harris tweeted Wednesday. “Let’s get to work.”

As vice president, Harris will be a heartbeat away from leading the United States.

With Biden, 78, expected to serve only a single term, Harris would be favoured to win the Democratic nomination in 2024, giving her a shot at more history-making ― as America’s first female president.

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I won’t be the last,” Harris said in a November 7 speech, her first after US networks projected Biden and Harris as the winners over Trump and former vice president Mike Pence.

While the vice president’s job is often seen as ceremonial, Harris will also be thrust into the powerful role of ultimate decider in the US Senate.

Thanks to two shock Democratic run-off victories this month in Georgia, the Senate will be evenly split, 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

That means Harris may spend considerable time on Capitol Hill acting as the tie-breaking vote on legislation on anything from judicial nominees to Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan.

Harris was born to immigrants to the United States ― her father from Jamaica, her mother from India — and their lives and her own have in some ways embodied the American dream.

She was born on October 20, 1964 in Oakland, California, then a hub for civil rights and anti-war activism.

Her diploma from historically Black Howard University in Washington was the start of a steady rise that took her from prosecutor, to two elected terms as San Francisco’s district attorney and then California’s attorney general in 2010.

However, Harris’s self-description as a “progressive prosecutor” has been seized upon by critics who say she fought to uphold wrongful convictions and opposed certain reforms in California, like a bill requiring that the attorney general probe shootings involving police.

Yet Harris’s work was key to moulding a platform and profile from which she launched a successful US Senate campaign in 2016, becoming just the second Black female senator ever.

Residents prepare a hoarding with a photo of US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at her ancestral village of Thulasendrapuram in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Photo: AFP

Her stint as an attorney general also helped her forge a connection with Biden’s son Beau, who held the same position in Delaware, and died of cancer in 2015.

Harris oozes charisma but can quickly pivot from her broad smile to a prosecutorial persona of relentless interrogation and cutting retorts.

Clips went viral of her sharp questioning in 2017 of then-attorney general Jeff Sessions during a hearing on Russia, and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh the following year.

Harris also clashed with Biden during the first Democratic debate, chiding the former senator over his opposition to 1970s busing programs that forced integration of segregated schools.

That showdown did not stop him from picking Harris, who brought that feisty energy to Biden’s carefully stage-managed campaign.