Karine Jean-Pierre On Benefits Of A Biden/Harris Ticket
The virtual Democratic National Convention kicks off today. Former Vice President Joe Biden will officially accept the nomination along with his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris. With less than 80 days to the general election, we are in the fight for the “soul of the nation,” as Biden says.
Helping in that battle, standing in full support of Biden and Harris are a group of generals; a behind-the-scenes army whose only goal is to ensure victory. Top of the formation is former Obama staffer, veteren political analyst and activist Karine Jean-Pierre.
The 43-year-old has over a decade of experience working on high-profile political campaigns. She worked on former Democratic nominee for Vice President John Edwards and President Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. In 2016, she was the deputy campaign manager for Martin O’Malley’s presidential campaign and last year she was the co-national political director for Harris’ presidential campaign.
In May of this year, Jean-Pierre became a senior adviser to Biden’s presidential campaign and just last week, it was announced that she is the Chief of Staff for Harris who is the Democratic vice presidential nominee.
The first-generation, Haitian-American, who is also openly lesbian, sat down for for an interview with BET.com to discuss the Democratic National Convention, why the Biden/Harris ticket will not take the Black vote for granted, specifically, Black men and the real reason why Joe Biden is running for president yet again.
BET.com: Sen. Harris was just named as Biden’s running mate last week. What were your thoughts about that?
Karine Jean-Pierre: I remember when I learned that it was Joe Biden who had the wisdom and the courage to pick Kamala Harris, I got emotional — for many reasons. You just think about the history that we’re in. We are in the moment in this country that we’ve never seen before — COVID-19, a global pandemic and this country in a way that is devastating. More than 160,000 people have died. Mothers, fathers, daughters and grandparents who have lost their lives. You have a president who could care less, who doesn’t have a plan. We need a leader like Biden, who understands what it means to utilize the office with dignity and in a way that helps people.
Then you think about George Floyd, the moment of uprooting systemic racial injustices. We are talking about a diverse ticket that the Democratic Party is putting forth because Joe Biden made the decision to create a diverse ticket. I just couldn’t be prouder and that’s what I’m part of — this Haitian girl, this Haitian-American girl. It’s amazing and I’m excited and I’m thrilled. We’re going to go get to work.
BET.com: Today is the kickoff for the Democratic National Convention. What are you looking most forward to seeing?
Karine Jean-Pierre: I’m looking forward to continuing the energy that we’ve created. We’re going to have unity. You’re going to see an amazing production that the convention team has put together. It’s going to be another kind of introduction to this amazing ticket. You’ll hear some really powerful speeches and some real voices. We’re bringing the country together. That’s what the Democratic Party is about. We are a big tent. I’m excited to hear from Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, who will be accepting the nomination.
There’s something about this convention every four years when you unify and not just the Democratic Party, but the country — it’s showing, we’re here, we’re going to fight these next weeks to take our democracy back and to take our country back.
BET.com: The 1994 Crime Reform Bill keeps coming up with Vice President Biden. What do you say to young Black voters who say they won’t support Biden because of his support for the tenants of the bill which sent a lot of Black men to jail due to mandatory life sentences after two or more prior convictions for drug crimes?
Karine Jean-Pierre: I think that Biden is very forward thinking and he has put forth some ideas and some policies that’s really meeting the moment about where we are. Whether it is the economy, jobs and making sure that we have racial equities in those different industries, whether it’s clean energy, whether it’s manufacturing and infrastructure — those are the things that he’s putting forth to make sure that we are doing something that breaks the barriers around us that has held so many people of color back.
We have put out some really progressive policies that have been well regarded and well received. Those are the things that Biden’s going to keep talking about. If we don’t have that conversation, if we don’t say those words, how can we even begin to start fixing it? You have to be able to say it, acknowledge it, and then put real policy forward to really start addressing it. We have to keep putting our message out there. We have to seriously reach out to young people and let them know who Biden is today and what he wants to do in the future because that matters.
BET.com: There are reports that Black male voters aren’t feeling as seen or heard in the Democratic Party right now. What can we do specifically to make sure that Black men feel acknowledged by this party?
Karine Jean-Pierre: One of the things that we are doing, and you see it in the polls, is that we understand that we need to build a coalition. We understand that in order to win, you have to have that coalition. You have to speak to key constituencies, including Black men, and you have to speak to the issues that matter to them, that are important to them, and that’s what we’re going to do.
This is not a campaign that’s going to be like Donald Trump’s, talking to his small base and racially dividing people and putting out hate language. Last week was the anniversary of Charlottesville… and I will never forget that week. Charlottesville is the reason why Joe Biden decided to run for president in 2020. His announcement was about the soul of this nation.
We have to remember what’s happening in this country right now. Hate crimes are going up. We have a president who divides us and doesn’t unify us. As a ticket, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to bring the country together. We’re going to continue to do what we’ve been doing to make sure we’re on the ground in those key battleground states. Everything that we do is about continuing to build that coalition and reaching out to people.
BET.com: Some people have tried to discredit Sen. Harris because of her Indian and Jamaican heritage. How do we combat this narrative about the questioning of blackness for those whose family’s aren’t born in this country?
Karine Jean-Pierre: We should be so proud that we are this wonderful kind of mosaic of Blackness. We should lift up and honor our different backgrounds.
We can’t let [this narrative] divide us. When I’m out here fighting, I’m fighting for everybody. I don’t care about any of that… I’m fighting for the people who are the most vulnerable among us because I have a platform. I’m not going to allow this campaign out there to divide us. We can’t do that. We have too much to lose and we have so much to gain. Let’s just come together and continue to fight.
Be sure to check out more updates on BET’s 2020 DNC blog updated each day this week and to find out if you’re registered and prepared to vote or the rules in your state for mailing in your ballot, go to Vote.org or WhenWeAllVote.org.
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