Key Takeaways from Kamala Harris’s VP Nomination Speech

Amanda Hunter | Aug 20, 2020

Last night, Senator Kamala Harris was only the third woman—and the first woman of color— ever to accept a nomination as a running mate on a major party presidential ticket.  After 12 years since the last time a woman was in this position, there was no blueprint for her speech. Senator Harris was able to chart her own course.

Much attention has been paid to the racism and sexism Senator Harris has faced and will continue to face on the campaign trail. But there has been little emphasis on her advantages. Senator Harris has spent the majority of her career in public service, much of it in executive office, facing double standards and double binds.

Here are some initial takeaways based on our research:

  • Having her close family members introduce her is another example of how Senator Harris is a 360-degree candidate: It is difficult to stereotype Senator Harris or effectively use some tried-and-true tropes because she brings the whole of her human experience to the campaign trail. Rather than solely emphasizing her resume, she uses all of her expertise, background, and personal experiences to connect with voters.  Footage of her hugging and connecting with voters, officiating weddings, and bending down to address young girls is a contrast to the viral videos of her questioning witnesses during Senate hearings. Welling up talking about her mother looking down on her, and talking about her upbringing and her community gives voters a fuller picture of who she is on a human level.
  • Authenticity is Important: Senator Harris visibly smiled and maybe even blushed a little when she described meeting her husband on a blind date. We know from our research that authenticity resonates with voters. Earlier this week, her husband shared a casual photo of her watching the DNC from her couch, showing her watching the same way so many other people were.
  • Voters want candidates who are in touch with their lives: Senator Harris demonstrated she has deep empathy and stands up for everyday people when she talked about fighting for children, victims of sexual assault, and taking down the biggest predatory for-profit college as Attorney General of California.  She later recognized teachers, farmers, postal workers, and poll workers who are on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know from our research that for voters, electability is about empathy, toughness, and substance. Having a deep understanding of the challenges Americans face is the single biggest indicator of electability to voters.

As we move toward November’s election, we’ll be watching to see how Senator Harris charts her course on the trail.

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