Historic Harris pick marks high-tide moment for Biden campaign: OPINION

The question becomes whether the Democrats can keep up the momentum.

August 12, 2020, 12:02 PM

If anyone has spent time on or near the oceans or a large body of water, you begin to understand and appreciate the tides that rhythmically and predictably come in and out throughout your time. At low tide the boats moored on the water are often stranded on the sand, the water pulls back and we aren’t able to launch, and debris is often revealed along the shore and on the bottom. At high tide we can launch out on the water usually much easier; the waves and water come closer to us and we can dive or walk in and refresh ourselves.

The ebb and the flow of tides is often matched by the ebb and flow of our own lives, in our relationships, in the gravitation pulls of two people and also in politics. We can each feel stranded at times, unable to move easy through life, or life can seem to have high points where it refreshes us and allows us to explore the beauty. The same goes for our dealings in intimate ways with others. At low points sometimes we pull back and don’t have the ability to embrace another, or at high points it all seems seamless and the relationship brings us to a new level and takes us to new lands and harbors.

As we examine this moment in politics in the aftermath of the historic pick of Sen. Kamala Harris as vice-presidential nominee, and as we are about to head into the party conventions with the Democrats going first in this tragic time of COVID-19, the tides provide us with a creative understanding of political movements.

In the general elections of presidential campaigns there are key moments when campaigns have high tides in their favor. The pick or launch of the vice president is one of these. You have a high of media coverage at least initially when the campaign can feature the biography, sail more openly with your message, and cross the water smoothly. Though even in high tide the water can be treacherous and if your campaign isn't prepared for rough waters, the positivity of the launch can turn negative fairly quickly.

Sen. Kamala Harris hugs Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden after introducing him at a campaign rally at Renaissance High School on March 09, 2020 in Detroit.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Harris pick is not only historic in nature but also has many elements that make it a powerful positive moment for the Biden campaign. The ticket of Biden and Harris is not only one of racial diversity, but also gender and generational diversity. Also in the Harris pick, Biden was able to blend the two most powerful social movements of the last five years in one person -- MeToo and Black Lives Matter. This is a compelling way to take advantage of a high-tide moment.

Because Harris recently ran for president, is smart, savvy, and communicates very well, has been vetted, and the Biden campaign is a disciplined and experienced operation, its ability to avoid any dangers in high tide is likely in this moment and the two are equipped to come through this with a positive wake. So far the Biden campaign has been smart anchoring itself in safe water waiting for high tide as the Trump campaign flounders in the low tides of COVID and the economic distress.

The question becomes, can the Democrats keep this momentum moving through the days ahead, put more distance between Biden and President Donald Trump, and sail strongly into the next high-tide moment of the conventions next week, or will they hit the ground in low tide before the the Democratic Convention opens and have to restart again Monday evening? We shall see, but my bet is they navigate well through these two high-tide moments ahead over the next week.

Former Vice President Joe Biden talks with Senator Kamala Harris after the conclusion of the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Sept. 12, 2019.
Mike Blake/Reuters, FILE

In the aftermath of the Democratic convention, the Republicans will have a high-tide moment of their own convention to see if they can reclaim momentum and attempt to take a lead in the race. One of the problems for Trump is that unless he changes running mates and makes Mike Pence abandon ship and drops him from the ticket as VP, he will not have a similar high-tide moment that the Harris pick is providing the Biden campaign. And that is a significant advantage for the Democrats as they tack across the waves of this campaign.

The days ahead will be fascinating to observe and are a watershed moment in our country’s history, and the likely winner will be who can best navigate the various low and high tides ahead. And just as in our relationships, what we learn along the way in both the ebb and flow and how we handle success and adversity will surely determine the occupant of the big White House near the shores of the Potomac.

Matthew Dowd is the chief political analyst for ABC News. Opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of ABC News.