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Saturday, June 29, 2024

Kamala Harris was the unexpected winner of Thursday’s presidential debate

Kamala Harris was the unexpected winner of Thursday’s presidential debate

“She was very clear about the stark contrast Americans need to see between Biden and Trump.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks June 18 at a Juneteenth Block Party campaign event outside her new campaign headquarters in Atlanta. (Arvin Temkar/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

And on that stage, Trump ran wild, delivering a mad hatter’s night full of bluster, misinformation and outright lies. Biden just seemed lost, his voice faint and his movements stiff. The debate seemed to go so badly for Biden that moments after the debate ended, CNN’s John King was reporting that there were discussions among distraught top democratic insiders, donors and strategists about whether Biden should stay in the race.

And then there was Vice President Kamala Harris, the silver lining on a somber night for Democrats.

Harris was a bright light for those who fear for American democracy should Trump get reelected. Harris’s post-debate interview with Anderson Cooper was simply presidential. She was crisp. Strong. Forceful. Honest. And she was very clear about the stark contrast Americans need to see between Biden and Trump. Watching her, I found myself screaming “yes!”

She made the case we had all hoped Biden would make in the 90-minute debate: Trump is a threat to the very fabric of our democracy and to our most basic individual liberties and freedoms. And she made it well.

The problem for most, though, is that Biden did not make that case.

Consider that the debate was in Atlanta. Right where Trump has been indicted by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis for allegedly trying to shake downGeorgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, to “find” more votes after Trump lost the 2020 election in Georgia by just slightly more than 11,000 votes.

In Atlanta, of all places, Biden should have pointed out that the other man on the stage was under investigation in that very place for trying to steal the 2020 election.

Biden just could not pivot to land those slam dunks on Trump.

But Harris did make the necessary layups. She might have just become the biggest asset for the rest of the campaign. She is smart, savvy and laser-focused on women’s reproductive rights and protecting Americans’ freedoms.

The campaign has been sending her to talk to Black audiences — she’s been in Georgia enough recently that she might have to change her official residency. But she’s been hidden from wider audiences and seen as a liability by the Washington punditry class. That’s a mistake. Put her front and center.

The downside of that, of course, is that Harris now also becomes a target. She’s already been the target of gross racist attacks, and we should expect that to get only worse. But we should not let the worst impulses of a minority of Americans overshadow the simple fact that Harris is an asset to the Biden campaign — and to the nation.

Harris is up to the challenge. She is young (in this race, anyway), and she is experienced on the world stage. She is ready to lead Democrats forward through the 21st century — and, if necessary, to serve as the nation’s first female commander in chief.

After Thursday’s debate, the one things that is clear is that should Biden decide it is time for him to retire and pass the torch to a new generation of Democratic leaders, Kamala Harris is ready and able.

Sophia A. Nelson is a CNN contributor and the author of “Black Woman Redefined : Dispelling Myths and Discovering Fulfillment in the Age of Michelle Obama” and “E Pluribus One : Reclaiming our Founders’ Vision for a United America.”`

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