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Kamala Harris completes Biden’s ticket. Next up: conventions

This year did not disappoint, but this election season has been like no other. We explore the impacts on our lovely state.

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Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden retrieves his face mask from the podium as his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., prepares to speak at a campaign event at Alexis Dupont High School in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday, Aug. 12.

Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press

For many decades, summers leading to national party conventions have provided entertainment, intrigue, posturing and strategy. This year did not disappoint, but this election season has been like no other. We explore the impacts on our lovely state.

Vice President Mike Pence and California Sen. Kamala Harris will be squaring off in the only vice presidential debate at the University of Utah on Oct. 7. What will be the implications on local politics of Joe Biden’s selection of Harris as his running mate? 

Pignanelli: “Black women have long stood as the bridge between despair and relief for American democracy and long impacted the landscape of politics for centuries. … Black women bring a radical reimagination and envisioning of America.” — Jamar A. Boyd II   

In fall 2008, the country was confronting the Great Recession. Democrats nominated an African American as a presidential nominee, and Republicans offered a woman as a vice presidential contender. This unprecedented diversity at the highest levels reminded Americans, in a difficult time, of our country’s greatness.

Supporting or disagreeing with Harris’ past and current policies is an appropriate — and necessary — exercise of democracy. But especially in this present turmoil, the importance of her on the ballot must not be dismissed. Harris was selected for her characteristics, prompting a long-overdue recognition of the contributions made by Black and Indian Americans.

Harris is unlikely to alter the outcome of Utahns’ preference for president in November. But she will make a difference. As with the candidacies of Barack Obama and Sarah Palin 12 years ago, Utahns should find comfort that our nation is a vibrant beacon of confidence. Hopefully, this increases voter participation and civic engagement.

Webb: I’m not a fan of Kamala Harris as she’s far too liberal for me. But I congratulate her and Joe Biden on the historic nature of her selection. That’s worth celebrating. 

Unfortunately, her selection was somewhat diminished by Biden’s announcement that he would only consider women as his running mate, thereby excluding half the population solely because of their gender. That is blatant gender discrimination — affirmative action in vice presidential selections. 

It would have been much better had Biden selected Harris based on her qualifications, because she was simply the best choice. Certainly, a prospective vice president’s gender can be one factor in a selection. Deciding that a woman balances the ticket is a legitimate strategy. But announcing in advance that all men were excluded from consideration because they are men was a great example of sexism.

It’s important to remember that if Biden wins, Harris will likely be the Democratic presidential nominee 2024. A President Harris is not a comforting thought. I disagree with her on many issues, especially her position on abortion, taxes and her savaging of conservative judicial nominees.

For more than a century, the Republican and Democrat national conventions were huge events that attracted global attention. This year they will be minor electronic activities with little or no live audiences. Is this just an outlier because of the pandemic or a trend of the future?

Pignanelli: A weird political nerd, I watched every national convention of both parties since 1976. Over time, they have become increasingly irrelevant to millions of television viewers. Networks decreased coverage as a result. The pandemic illuminated that society disregards this once important activity. (Utah party delegates voted at unprecedented levels this year, demonstrating a preference for an electronic format over a convention.)

Humans (especially the political subspecies) love social events. So, there will always be organizing and promotional political events to keep activists engaged. But the big national conventions are now a relic.

Webb: The conventions will produce no drama or surprises. But I hope more than just political junkies will pay attention. Listening to the speeches will reveal a lot about the two political parties and their presidential tickets — their ideologies, positions on issues, how far left or right they are, etc.

My guess is both parties will try to keep speakers in the mainstream, hiding their most extreme positions. But watch the speeches and then ask yourself, “Which party, candidates and positions best represent my personal political views?”

Utah’s congressional delegation is split in the level of support for the executive orders issued by President Donald Trump as a backup to congressional failure to extend benefits. Could this become an election issue? 

Pignanelli: Candidates not supportive of executive orders will be accused of insensitivity to struggling Americans. Yet, those who do support them will receive similar condemnations. Thus, a campaign issue is born. Unfortunately, this masks Congress again surrendering a fundamental legislative power to the executive branch.    

Webb: It was a bit of a surprise that Mitt Romney didn’t lambaste the president for signing executive orders to provide further pandemic relief. I suppose it was an acknowledgement that Congress is paralyzed and unable to get anything done, so the president is filling the vacuum. Democrats have been quick to blast Trump’s executive orders, but Obama did the very same thing multiple times when he couldn’t get Congress to act as he desired. 

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Email: frankp@xmission.com.