Kamala Harris has just become vice president-elect of America: the first time in history that a woman, and a woman of colour, has been elected to the position in the White House. Let’s take a look at Harris’ stance on the issues that matter to women.
Article updated on 2 November:
Joe Biden has won the US election 2020, which means that Kamala Harris is the new vice president-elect.
The Californian senator has an impressive, awe-inspiring CV: she was California’s first Black attorney general, as well as being the first woman to hold the role, then became California’s first Black senator. After running in the presidential race for 2020, Harris dropped out last December.
But now, Harris – the daughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India – can add “first woman, and a woman of colour, to be elected vice president” to the list.
Original article from 13 August:
When Biden first announced that Harris would be running in the presidential race with him, former president of the united states, Barack Obama, praised the decision, saying: “She is more than prepared for the job. She’s spent her career defending our Constitution and fighting for folks who need a fair shake. This is a good day for our country. Now let’s go win this thing.”
So, as vice president to Biden, what exactly will Harris focus on doing in her role? Let’s break down her most important policies.
At a time when states across America are pushing to restrict abortion rights with a spate of new, horrifying laws, Harris has been fighting to protect them. One of her key campaign policies is on ensuring that abortion rights are protected on a state-level by the federal government.
Harris is proposing that any state looking to wheel back access to abortion will have to receive prior approval from the Justice Department in order to do so, which will offer abortion rights the exact same level of protection that other key human rights – such as voting rights – are afforded in the US.
What’s more, the Justice Department would keep a list of states that have repeatedly tried to walk back their abortion laws in the last 25 years. Some states who haven’t engaged in discriminatory abortion rights restriction practices might be given pre-clearance by the Justice Department, affording them the freedom and responsibility to make changes to their laws where they see fit. But those on the bad list? They’ll be called to answer for any amendments they want to make in a bit to stem the erosion of Roe v Wade across the US.
Harris has been campaigning to close the gender pay gap ever since she became a senator back in 2017. Writing at the time in Teen Vogue, Harris said that the fight for equal pay was still far from over. “Our daughters should not grow up believing that their work is worth less than a man’s. It’s time to end this fundamental unfairness. It’s time to make equal pay a reality for all Americans.”
During her presidential campaign, Harris’ proposals included a $15/hour minimum wage and federally-regulated paid family and sick leave.
More specifically, she has campaigned for closing the gender pay gap for professions including teaching and the law, advocating for harsh punishments placed on any organisation that does not offer equal pay. The implementation for this is simple: any company with more than 100 employers must submit their staff’s wages to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If a gender wage gap is found between their staff these companies would be fined.
The beauty of this policy is in its simplicity. No longer is the onus on employees to ensure they are receiving a fair wage. Under Harris, the responsibility is squarely on the shoulders of the companies signing the pay cheques. “This plan will finally put the burden of ensuring equal pay on the corporations responsible for gender pay gaps, not the employees being discriminated against,” Harris summed up in a statement.
Harris believes in universal government-run healthcare through Medicare, with private insurers operating alongside. On this point she differs from some 2020 presidential hopefuls, who want to dispense with private insurance completely in favour of a nationwide Medicare.
Harris wants to make this plan a reality in the space of a decade. “At the end of this ten-year transition, every American will be a part of this new Medicare system,” Harris wrote on Medium. “They will get insurance either through the new public Medicare plan or a Medicare plan offered by a private insurer within that system.”
This is of particular importance for women and Harris’ healthcare platform goes hand-in-hand with her one on abortion rights. “Every woman deserves safe, affordable access to comprehensive reproductive health care,” Harris has tweeted, “including abortion.”
Racial equality and police reform
Following the death of George Floyd, there is widespread unrest over police brutality and racial inequities – real change needs to be made through the Black Lives Matter movement and beyond. Harris continues to be vocal on racism and police misconduct, and she has joined protesters on the streets of Washington.
As a Democratic presidential candidate, Harris released plans outlining her vision for criminal justice reform and how to “stand up for Black America.” As part of the plans, she called for ending mass incarceration, cash bail and the death penalty; creating a national police systems review board; and making attending historically Black colleges and universities debt-free for students.
Earlier this summer, Harris introduced police accountability legislation known as the Justice in Policing Act and sparred with Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, after he blocked a bill that would have made lynching a federal crime.
On the subject of gun control, Harris is firm. After the recent spate of mass shootings, the politician has spoken out about banning assault rifles and high-capacity magazines.
Though Harris supports the second Constitutional amendment, which is the right to bear arms, she does not support gun ownership remaining unchecked throughout the nation. Harris has summed this up as the distinction between advocating to seize everyone’s guns and ensuring that gun ownership is legal, regulated and safe.
“There are people in Washington DC, supposed leaders, who have failed to have the courage to reject a false choice which suggests you’re either in favour of the second amendment or you want to take everyone’s guns away,” Harris has said. “We need reasonable gun safety laws in this country, starting with universal background checks and a renewal of the assault weapon ban. But they have failed in the courage to act.”
Prior to announcing her election campaign, Harris was always a big advocate for fighting climate change. This is unsurprising, perhaps, given that the senator hails from California, where climate change occupies a large part of the state agenda and has played a role in such things as the tragic 2018 California wildfires. She has a 100% voting record when it comes to energy and environmental issues.
It’s why Harris was one of the co-sponsors of the Green New Deal bill, spearheaded by her fellow democrats including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. In fact, the pair have teamed up on a climate change bill called the Climate Equity Act, which will work in partnership with the Green New Deal. The act will basically work as a means of holding congress accountable when it comes to fighting and defeating climate change.
“Climate change is an existential threat — it’s critical we act now to achieve a cleaner, safer and healthier future,” Harris said in a statement to Refinery29. “But it is not enough to simply cut emissions and end our reliance on fossil fuels. We must ensure that communities already contending with unsafe drinking water, toxic air and lack of economic opportunity are not left behind.”