The Historic Nomination of Kamala Harris and What it May Mean for November

The Historic Nomination of Kamala Harris and What it May Mean for November
Conventional wisdom says a vice presidential pick doesn’t do much to budge the outcome of the presidential election. But this year, it might be different. (Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

This is a monumental day: Kamala Harris has become only the second Democratic woman to become a vice presidential nominee, and the first woman of color to be nominated.

Celebratory statements have been pouring in from all over the U.S. and the world.

Conventional wisdom tends to argue that a nominee’s vice presidential pick doesn’t do much to budge the outcome of the presidential election either way.

But this year it might be different.

The “feminist factor”—first identified by Ms. after the 2012 elections—indicates those who identify as feminists are more likely to vote or lean Democratic. Earlier this year, the Pew Research Center released a report showing that 61 percent of U.S. women said the world “feminist” describes them “very” or “somewhat well”—a record high.

With more women than men registered to vote and with women turning out to vote at higher rates, a woman on the ticket is likely to play a larger role than ever before in the elections. After all, the women’s vote—especially women of color—has become so critical to electing Democrats. 

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Granted, let’s not mistake this moment for more than what it is. Women’s representation—especially for women of color—in elected office is severely lacking. 

Currently, only 23.6 percent of Congress members are women. And of the 127 women serving in the 116th Congress, 48—or less than 38 percent— are women of color. 

And out of 50 U.S. states, just nine are led by women governors. And in the history of gubernatorial races, just three women governors of color were elected—none of whom were Black women. 

So as Harris breaks ground, feminists around the nation, like Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty, cautiously warn:

“Congratulations for standing on the cusp of history! Now, get ready for an onslaught of online misogyny unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”

Cue: The #WeHaveHerBack campaign, brainchild of top feminist thinkers: Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center; Ilyse Hogue of NARAL; Valerie Jarrett, Alexis McGill Johnson and Melanie Newman of Planned Parenthood; Debra Ness of the National Partnership for Women and Families; Cecile Richards of Supermajority; Jess Morales of Rocketto; Hilary Rosen, Stephanie Shriock and Christina Reynolds of Emily’s List; and Tina Tchen of TimesUp.

Addressed to top media news executives, a letter from these women leaders cautions that without thoughtfulness, sexist tropes and stereotypes will undoubtedly “seep into coverage, and thereby seep into the public consciousness as voters are seeking to understand those seeking office.”

Ms., alongside the #WeHaveHerBack campaign, will continue to call out the likely sexist and potentially racist reporting that will follow this historic announcement. 


The team is a collection of Ms. print and digital editors and writers.