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Harris promotes Biden to her sisters, using the network of black women
Harris promotes Biden to her sisters, using the network of black women

At a crucial moment in President Biden’s fight to save his candidacy, Vice President Harris on Tuesday called on an influential group of black women to rally behind the Biden-Harris platform, but she made no mention of the turmoil that has engulfed the president since his rocky debate performance two weeks ago.

“We know that when we organize, we move mountains,” Harris told members of the historically black Alpha Kappa Alpha fraternity gathered in Dallas. “When we mobilize, nations change. And when we vote, we make history.”

She added: “Our nation is counting on the leaders in this room to lead us into the future.”

The 19,000 black women in the audience, who frequently cheered Harris’ words, represented a central pillar of Biden’s political coalition that he must retain if he is to have any hope of re-election. In 2020, post-election polls showed that 90 percent of black women had voted for Biden, by far the highest of any voting bloc, although more recent polls suggest a decline in his support among voters of color.

The group would also be crucial to Harris’ prospects should she run for president again – or, as some in the party hope, replace Biden on the Democratic ticket for 2024.

“For 116 years, members of our sorority have been on the front lines of the fight to fulfill the American promise,” said Harris, wearing a pink suit in homage to the sorority’s pink and green colors. “This year, let us continue that work.”

In the days since Biden stumbled over his words at the June 27 debate against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, often lacking the words to finish his sentences, a growing number of Democratic leaders have suggested the president should seriously consider whether to continue running for re-election — or end his candidacy and make way for another Democrat.

Biden has firmly rejected that message, putting Harris in a tricky position as she hits the campaign trail this week to appeal to core Democratic groups: Her main job is to support Biden, but her audience is well aware that she is also trying to prove her own political skills should she win the election herself.

In her speech to the country’s oldest black fraternity, Harris made no mention of Biden’s ongoing problems in Washington. Instead, she focused on the administration’s successes and the importance of fighting Trump.

Harris, who graduated from Howard University in 1986, has long taken advantage of her status as a member of AKA. She has participated in several events since joining the Divine Nine, the group of historically black sororities and fraternities.

Later this month, she will meet in Indianapolis with members of Zeta Phi Beta, another historically black fraternity with a history of social justice.

In her remarks, Harris capitalized on her familiarity with the audience, calling them her “sorors,” or sisters. She thanked them for their help in electing Biden as president and her as first female vice president. And she also praised her colleague Shalanda Young, who serves as Biden’s budget director.

Harris listed the administration’s actions to address health care costs, reduce maternal mortality rates, reduce student loans and remove medical debt from credit reports. And she focused on abortion rights, which she described as one of the freedoms currently under attack in the United States.

“All of us here realize that while we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go. Across our country, we are witnessing a comprehensive assault on hard-won freedoms and rights,” she said, citing attacks on voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights and abortion rights.

The trip was part of a “summer of engagement” the White House announced for the vice president. While Biden is back in Washington this week hosting the NATO summit, Harris has been on the road serving as a top cheerleader for Biden and his administration.

On Tuesday, she vigorously defended Biden, calling him a “fighter” at a campaign rally in Las Vegas aimed at Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander voters. On Thursday, Harris will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina, her sixth time visiting a state Democrats are hoping to win for the Democrats this election.

She spent last Saturday at the Essence Festival in New Orleans, where she spoke to a crowd of mostly black women in a moderated discussion that focused on the significance of the election.

The public’s choice is no accident. In 2020, black voters’ support for Biden catapulted him to the Democratic nomination and then to the presidency, and ensuring those voters are still enthusiastically behind him in 2024 is one of the most important tasks of his campaign.

Harris plays a central role in these efforts and is regularly used as an ambassador to mobilize key segments of the Democratic electorate, including black, Latino, AAPI and younger voters.

By Everly