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Vice President Kamala Harris: a historic moment | COMMENTARY

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris addresses the nation Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, from Wilmington, Delaware, after she and President-elect Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Vice President-elect Kamala Harris addresses the nation Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, from Wilmington, Delaware, after she and President-elect Joe Biden defeated Donald Trump and Mike Pence. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

There’s no question that this election was a referendum on Donald Trump. That’s generally the case with any incumbent president vying for a second term, but the particularly strong feelings people hold for or against Mr. Trump made the presidential election of 2020 — more so than any other race in recent memory — less a contest between a president and a challenger, or Republican and Democratic, than a contest between those who love or hate The Donald.

As with most things involving this Republican president, it has largely been all about him — right down to the public reaction that followed the announcement this weekend of his projected defeat by Democrat Joe Biden. But whether you were among those popping champagne and dancing in the streets over Donald’s demise, or waving signs with what are thus far baseless claims of a stolen election, there’s a historic significance to this vote that deserves more attention from all of us.

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For the first time in our country’s history, a woman has been elected as part of the presidential ticket. As vice president elect, California Sen. Kamala Harris has finally cracked a glass ceiling that many of us hoped would be shattered in 2016, in an election that turned out to be a referendum on Hillary Rodham Clinton. But in the end, feelings about her, too, were strong — so strong that, while Ms. Clinton won the popular vote, she ultimately lost the office to a man who’s made an art form out of belittling women.

Indeed, throughout the campaign, President Trump encouraged sexist rhetoric against Senator Harris — whom he called a “totally unlikable,” “nasty” “monster,” and one of his campaign advisers deemed an “insufferable lying bitch.”

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Her election should represent a rebuke to such behavior. Before now, half of the U.S. population — including those suburban housewives who so consumed Donald Trump’s focus — has never seen herself reflected in the country’s highest offices. There’s no excuse for that. Vice President Elect Harris finally rights that wrong a full century after it was enshrined in the U.S. Constitution that no one is to be denied the right to vote on account of their sex. Of course, we know many Black women and men continued to be excluded for decades beyond the ratification of the 19th Amendment because of their race, and such insidious voter suppression efforts continue today, largely through restrictive voter-ID laws.

In addition to his misogynistic remarks, Mr. Trump also sought to undermine Ms. Harris through racist tropes and conspiracy theories. The president falsely claimed that Senator Harris, whose father is Jamaican and mother is Indian, wasn’t eligible for office because her parents were immigrants, in a reprisal of his fearmongering over Barack Obama’s birthplace. President Trump also purposely mangled the pronunciation of Ms. Harris' first name and tried to brand her with the bigoted stereotype of the angry Black woman, repeatedly telling interviewers that she came across as “mad” and mean.

That Senator Harris is also the first person of Indian descent and the first Black individual of any gender to take on the office of the vice presidency makes her win doubly significant, especially during this time of national reckoning on racial inequality and the president’s embrace of white supremacist groups.

As a little girl, Ms. Harris was among the second class to integrate her public schools in Berkeley, California, bused across town every day as a first grader in the early years of integration. She went on to become that state’s first female attorney general and its first Black attorney general, as well as the first South Asian American senator in the U.S. Congress. And this month, she broke through her biggest barrier yet.

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While President Trump has vowed to legally challenge his loss, we have no doubt that he will again come up short in court. And we will not let his phony fraud claims take away from the substantial consequence of Mr. Harris' win. She is smart, she is skilled, she is capable, and she has earned the vice president position, not because of her gender or race, but because of her qualifications.

We here in Baltimore feel a particular kinship, remembering that it was our city, one so maligned by the current administration, where Ms. Harris chose to set the site of her campaign headquarters for her earlier presidential bid. While it was ultimately unsuccessful, who knows what could happen in 2024. We certainly expect her to continue setting firsts and are proud to have her represent us on the world stage.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, or The Donald spectrum, this is a momentous occasion that deserves celebration. Our daughters are set to finally have a role model in the White House.

The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.

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