By Ricardo Romo, PhD

Joe Biden made history with his selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate.  As the first Black and Asian woman to join the nation’s highest election ticket, she adds strength to the political team given the diversity of the United States. She is also the first  Democrat  born  West of the Rockies to join a team seeking  to serve in the White House. There is excitement across America, especially among women, Blacks, Asians, and Latinos at her selection.

Harris was born in Oakland, California, the daughter of two academic parents  who came to the United States, from Jamaica and India respectively, to study at UC Berkeley.  Her father, a Black Jamaican, returned home when she was five years old,  leaving Kamala’s mother alone to raise two children.

Kamala grew up in Black neighborhoods and  in the second grade attended a newly  integrated school. She grew up surrounded by Black culture, but also close to Latinos, Asians, and other international  immigrants in the Bay area. After attending Howard University, a  Historically Black College [HBCU] in Washington, DC, she returned to California to practice public law.

Harris is well known to Latino voters in California, having won a majority of Latino voters in her successful race  for State Attorney General of California  in  2010 and again in 2014.  In the 2016  U.S. Senate  race, Harris defeated Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, with strong support from the Latino community.

Following Joe Biden’s  announcement of Harris as his running mate, Voto Latino released a poll taken shortly  before the decision which found  that 59 percent  of Latino voters in key battleground states were  excited about  Harris as Vice President.  In addition,  52 percent   of those polled said that the selection of Harris would make them more likely to vote for Biden.

A key to a Biden-Harris victory is voter  turnout. Obama energized the electorate in 2008 and 2012, resulting in a total of 63.3 percent of eligible American voters   going to the polls that year. The Obama-Biden ticket garnered  the majority of the 126 million Americans who voted—giving Obama a  five million advantage over  Mitt Romney. In comparison, the Trump-Clinton race  drew only 61.3 percent of the American voters, a twenty year low. Clinton lost the race because too many voters who had turned out strongly for Obama  decided to sit out  the 2016 race.  The stakes are higher in 2020 and this cannot happen again.

Harris  is fully capable of  energizing not only  younger voters,  but also Black, Latino, Asian, and white  voters.  Asian American voters accounted for 73 percent  of the Democratic voters in 2012, a margin higher than even Latinos who  showed a 71 percent  preference for Obama.

Furthermore, a New York Times story [8-16-20] noted that an estimated 23 million immigrants, roughly 10 percent of the electorate, will be eligible to vote this November.  Democratic political strategists  believe that the vast majority of that group of new voters will vote for the Biden-Harris ticket.

To win, Biden is counting on a  record turnout of  Latino voters in key battleground states such as Florida, Arizona, and Texas where Latinos have significant electoral presence.  Latinos in California, New York, and  Illinois are expected to help the ticket, but to win the 2020 electoral college vote, the Biden-Harris team has to do well in states that Trump won in 2016.   Polling experts also predict  that a higher turnout will favor the Democrats since more  Democrats  are registered to vote  than Republicans.

Today, there are 235 million  Americans  eligible to vote.  While Biden currently has a 50-42  lead over Trump nationally,  the election is nearly  three months away.  The Biden-Harris team is fully prepared for  a close race.  High turnout may well be the key in battleground states  where polls currently show Biden leading in four of the five states.

Latinos gave George W. Bush 40 perecent of their vote in 2000, and that margin is one of the reasons Bush defeated Al Gore. Bush reached out to Latinos and his early appeal carried him to a second term in 2004.   The Latino vote cannot be taken for  granted.  Trump received 30 percent of the Latino vote in 2016, a sizable number that helped him win several midwest battleground states.

As a Latino, I am greatly  perplexed as to why  Trump has voter traction with Latinos. Trump has called Mexicans rapists, drug dealers,  and murderers.  His administration allowed the Border Patrol to separate  immigrant families  seeking asylum, placed  children in fenced cages,  and illegally transported  their  parents to other states.  Trump  has made every effort to crush the hopes of  nearly 700,000 Dreamers with his policies and attacks.

Harris will be a powerful voice for policies that matter to Latinos, in areas such as immigration, education, and health.  The election may well be the easy part. With a horrifying pandemic causing widespread illness and death, with an economy experiencing massive job losses, and with nationwide protests highlighting a broken criminal justice system, the Biden-Harris team will  need to collaborate with the Congress to undo extensive damage perpetuated by  the Trump Administration.

A  Biden-Harris victory will require  an unprecedented  Latino voter turnout,  as well as  broad financial support from grassroot voters.  A strong  showing for Biden-Harris in November  will make it possible to add more Democrats to the Senate and expand the Democratic political power in the House.

Ricardo Romo

Editorial Board, La Prensa Texas

San Antonio, Texas