VP nominee Kamala Harris: a balanced Democratic ticket

Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares his insights on the biggest development in the US election this week:

Joe Biden has chosen his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris of California. She was the safe pick, she was the betting market favorite, she brings diversity to the ticket and a historic component, as the first woman of color to ever run on a major party ticket in the United States. Most importantly, what she does is she doesn't open up any obvious lines of attack for President Donald Trump and she doesn't bring the risk of creating a competing power center on policy inside the White House, the way a progressive candidate might have.


What are her weaknesses? Well, she only served in the Senate for four years and hasn't racked up a long record of policy achievements. Before that, she was attorney general of California, where she ran as sort of a tough-on-crime progressive, in a way that's sort of out of step with where the Democratic Party is. Her own presidential campaign also kind of flamed out but now she'll have four years, if they win, to gain some experience as vice president, maybe some foreign policy experience, and then run again, potentially as the favorite, should Biden not decide to run in 2024.

What's most interesting about this ticket, however, other than its historical nature, is how unremarkable it is. These are two sort of middle-of-the-road, generic Democrats that bring a lot of balance in terms of age, gender, racial diversity, foreign policy, domestic policy, and together they look a lot like right in the middle of where the Democratic Party is.

This also achieves Joe Biden's number one goal in picking a running mate, which is to not distract from President Donald Trump. He wants this to be a referendum on Trump's leadership, about the coronavirus, and choosing Senator Harris allows him to make that pick, move on, and keep it focused on President Trump.

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The Taliban’s never-ending crisis

Afghanistan has now become what the UN is labeling the planet’s worst humanitarian disaster. Indeed, last week the world body issued its largest-ever donor appeal for a single country to battle the worsening crisis there, caused by freezing temperatures, frozen assets, and the cold reception the Taliban have received from the international community since they took over last summer.

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What We’re Watching: China's problems, UAE vs Houthis, Nord Stream 2 split

China's mounting problems. Xi Jinping is not off to a good start in 2022. First, Chinese economic growth slowed down to 4 percent in the last quarter of 2021, almost a percentage point less than the previous period. While annual GDP was up 8.1 percent year-on-year, beating government expectations, the trend is worrying for the world’s second-largest economy. Second, annual population growth fell in 2021 to its lowest rate since 1949, when the ruling Communist Party took over. Although Xi probably saw this one coming, he's running out of ideas to encourage Chinese families to have more children — which the government needs in order to sustain growth and support the elderly over the long term. Third, and most immediate: the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics canceled ticket sales for domestic spectators — foreigners were not invited — as the more transmissible omicron variant has driven up COVID infections in China to the highest level since March 2020. It's only the latest sign that Xi's controversial zero-COVID policy is setting itself up for failure against omicron without mRNA vaccines. What'll it take for China to reverse course?

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Hard Numbers: Tongan volcano, Ukrainian cyberattack, Zemmour fined over hate speech, NK-China border reopens

100,000: We're still waiting for news from the Pacific nation of Tonga, two days after a massive underwater volcanic explosion triggered a tsunami that was felt thousands of miles away and sent a plume of ash 100,000 feet into the sky. With communications mostly cut off, Australia and New Zealand have sent airplanes to assess the damage.

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Iran’s nuclear program runs hotter

Talks between Iran’s government and world powers over the future of Iran’s nuclear program continue. The US and Iran are still not communicating directly; Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia are shuttling between them.

The good news is that they’re all still talking. The bad news is that, after eight rounds of negotiations, the main players haven’t agreed on anything that would constitute a breakthrough.

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Omicron is here. The bad news is that it's more contagious. The good news is that mRNA vaccines work against death and hospitalization. COVID may soon become endemic in some parts of the world.

Not in China, where Xi Jinping's zero-COVID approach faces its toughest test to date with omicron. Why? Because China lacks mRNA jabs, and so few Chinese people have gotten COVID that overall protection is very low.

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January 6 laid bare "the deep divisions, the partisan infighting, the polarization within our society," says Fiona Hill, the former US senior director of the National Security Council. In a GZERO World interview, she spoke with Ian Bremmer about her concerns about the state of democracy in the United States.

Hill famously testified against her impeached boss, Donald Trump, who stayed in power after being acquitted by the Senate of abuse of power and obstructing Congress. She also notes that divisions actually make America look weaker on the global stage — particularly to someone like Russia’s president Vladimir Putin.

Watch this episode of GZERO World: American strife: Will US democracy survive? Fiona Hill explains post-Jan 6 stakes

Kevin Allison, director of geotech at Eurasia Group, is concerned about the rise of very powerful tech companies disrupting centuries of geopolitics led by the nation-state.

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