Kamala Harris makes history as the new vice president-elect

A ceiling has been broken. A door has been opened. A ladder has been extended to those who previously lacked the rungs to climb.
Image: Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris speaks at a campaign stop at IBEW Local 58 in Detroit, Mich., on Oct. 25, 2020.Jeff Kowalsky / AFP - Getty Images

In 2008, ahead of Barack Obama's election, there was an enormous amount of discussion about whether Americans were ready for a black president. Four years later, during Hillary Clinton's candidacy, there was a comparable focus on the prospect of the nation's first woman president.

Perhaps it's a sign of societal maturity that the United States has chosen its first woman of color for national office, and this was not a point of obsession for pundits and political chatter in recent months.

With Joe Biden now projected to win the presidency, his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, also solidified her place in history Saturday by becoming the first woman, the first Black American and the first South Asian American elected vice president in U.S. history.

To an important degree, there's no defense for the nation's male-dominated record. There have been American presidential administrations for nearly a quarter of a millennium, and in that time, exactly zero women have been elected to national office -- until now.

To be sure, there have been breakthroughs. Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to appear on a national ticket; Nancy Pelosi was the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House (third in line of presidential succession); and Hillary Clinton was the first woman to lead a major-party national ticket. But after 2016, there were some who suggested voters wouldn't elect a ticket unless it was dominated by men.

This week, Americans proved them wrong.

To be sure, it was not easy. Harris' presidential bid peaked early and ended before the first primary/caucus votes were cast. After Joe Biden invited her onto his Democratic ticket, Republicans struggled to define the senator, but they nevertheless lashed out wildly at her, to the point that Donald Trump publicly questioned whether Harris -- a native Californian -- was "born in this country."

The president's political operation at one point sent a solicitation to donors that sounded a bit like a frustrated tween, insisting Harris is the Senate's "meanest" and "most horrible" member, and a candidate who "hates America."

As Election Day drew closer, the Republican incumbent didn't seem to know what he wanted to say about Biden, so Trump tried running against Harris, seeing her as an easier target.

The senator proved otherwise.

NBC News' report added:

Andra Gillespie, an associate professor of political science at Emory University, told NBC News in a phone interview that Harris' election shows Black women taking their "rightful places of leadership within the party, given how important they are to Democratic victories around the country." "I think that's actually really important because it is centering women of color in the history and story of women in the United States in ways that they haven't been before," she said. Gillespie added, "Now it becomes a question of, who else does she open doors for?"

A ceiling has been broken. A door has been opened. A ladder has been extended to those who previously lacked the rungs to climb. And a nation has been made better and fairer in the process.

Postscript: If you haven't seen the brief video of Harris and Biden chatting over the phone this afternoon, it's worth watching.

Second Postscript: As long as we're on the topic of historic firsts, it's worth noting for context that the vice president-elect's husband is Jewish. It'll be the first time a Jewish American has been the spouse of a national officeholder.