Harris will be a positive force for Biden

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Kamala Harris and Joe Biden will be an unbeatable ticket in the United States as Donald Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic has caused him continued erosion within his own party.

By Sheila Copps
First published in The Hill Times on August 17, 2020.

OTTAWA—Leaders came and went last week.

And the coming was so much better than the going.

Kamala Harris was revealed as the vice-presidential choice of Democratic White House nominee Joe Biden.

She ticked all the boxes. With a family tree straddling three continents, she can literally classify as an Afro-Asian American. She has political experience at the local, state and national levels and she represents the generational change that the American presidential race desperately needs.

The same day she joined the American ticket, Andrew Scheer spent his last day in Parliament as the leader of the Conservative Party.

And, oh, what a bitter exit it was. His final public statement was to challenge the prime minister to sue him, a reference to the heated campaign rhetoric when leaders were calling each other liars.

Scheer presented a rather sorry picture of a political leader who was wanted neither by his party nor his country.

It was a disappointing finale for a politician whose star seemed to shine brightly throughout his career.

An eastern-born westerner with a good command of French, he was the natural choice for House Speaker during the 10-year tenure of prime minister Stephen Harper.

The position came with its own set of perks, a house and a private apartment in Parliament. It also gave him a hospitality budget to wine and dine his fellow parliamentarians, preparing the way for his ascendance to the Conservative leadership.

All the while, Scheer was nurturing his brand as a smiling, softer Tory who managed to make friends on all sides of the House.

It wasn’t until he actually grasped the brass ring that we began to see the seedier side of Scheer.

His exit speech last week solidified that impression. Instead of using his time in Parliament to reflect on some of the positive things he was able to accomplish, the outgoing leader sounded like he was still on the election campaign. Painfully vitriolic was the tone of his final speech in Parliament, a far cry from the smiling young man who took his place as the youngest House Speaker in the history of Canadian politics.

Why would Scheer not follow in the footsteps of other outgoing leaders, with a gracious statement that unites people instead of dividing them?

It is to be expected that your first days in power are your best.

So, it is not surprising that Harris’ week in the news was a far cry from Scheer’s snarling exit.

She immediately hit the campaign trail with Biden and showed exactly why she was the perfect choice to be his running mate.

Donald Trump weighed in immediately, pointing out one of Harris’s few flaws; she did not do very well in the presidential runoff against Biden.

Trump hit the tweet scene to trash her. As one American commentator noted, the president seems to glean special pleasure when he gets a chance to trash-talk women, particularly women of colour.

But as others pointed out, Biden’s decision to embrace a former opponent also illustrates the glaring difference between the two presidential hopefuls.

Trump pushes every opponent away, even when they are public servants dishing up the advice that he appointed them to provide.

Just look at his relationship with Anthony Fauci.

Fauci speaks truth to power and Trump simply cannot abide someone who disputes his claim that drinking bleach can help clean out COVID-19.

Harris can expect some negative pushback from Trump supporters in the media, but they are becoming fewer and farther between.

Her selection will motivate women, uplift minorities and inspire a younger generation, all decisive players in the presidential election in November.

As for Scheer, his replacement will be voted on shortly and announced as soon as the complexities of the mail-in balloting system are conquered.

If it is Peter MacKay, you can expect Scheer’s standing in his party to diminish even further.

MacKay’s success will be dependent upon distancing himself from the Rebel right, and that was the crowd that Scheer cultivated so successfully to gain power.

If Erin O’Toole wins, Scheer will still enjoy a place of honour in a party with well-entrenched Western Canadian roots.

Meanwhile, Harris and Biden will be an unbeatable ticket in the United States as Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic has caused him continued erosion within his own party.

If the launch was any indication, Harris will be a positive force for Biden.

The same cannot be said of the outgoing Conservative leader.

He left Parliament with a bitter taste in his mouth.

Sheila Copps is a former Jean Chrétien-era cabinet minister and a former deputy prime minister. Follow her on Twitter at @Sheila_Copps.