Editorial: In picking Harris over Whitmer, Biden bows to Dem base

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's bid to be Joe Biden's running mate on the Democratic presidential ticket ended Tuesday with his selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris for that position.

Whitmer would be right in feeling flattered to make it to the very final rounds of the VP sweepstakes. As a first-term governor who only recently emerged onto the national stage, it is a genuine honor for her to receive such serious consideration. In vetting a vice-president, the 77-year-old Biden knew he also may have been screening the next president. 

Harris, 55, satisfies the intensifying call to place an African-American woman on the ticket. She also, as a U.S. senator, has more experience than Whitmer in dealing with issues that face a president.

Harris also would seem to satisfy the party's progressive wing — although that might be too big a job for anyone, given the many fractures on the Democratic left.

But she is an advocate for Medicare for All, a shopping cart of government giveaways, open immigration and most other progressive demands.

Criticism of her has centered on her tough-on-crime days as San Francisco prosecutor and California attorney general. But that could prove an asset with voters who fear Democrats are too accommodating of criminals.

She's also a spirited puncher, as Biden himself learned during the Democratic presidential primaries, in which she challenged the former vice-president's credentials on race.

That Whitmer was a serious contender for so long speaks to the importance of Michigan in the presidential election. The state helped put Donald Trump over the top in 2016, and Democrats are determined to win it back  this time.

California is already in the bag for Biden, so Harris doesn't help with the Electoral College map.

But she may keep aboard the Black voters who stayed at home in 2016 and enabled Trump's win.

As for Whitmer, it's time for her to turn her full attention to Michigan, which is still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and an economy struggling to recover from the shutdowns she ordered.

Voters had good reason to believe over the past several months that her decision-making was at least in part driven by her vice-presidential ambitions. Those doubts were enhanced when she hired a high-level communications guru to manage her national image.

We have suspected Whitmer's unilateral power grab during the pandemic was also influenced by her desire to be on the ticket.

She should now focus on collaborative governing and rebuilding relations with the Republican-controlled Legislature.

First up, Michigan must get a budget crafted over the next six weeks, and is looking at a $3 billion revenue shortfall. 

Managing that fiscal crisis will take all of her resources, and should leave little time to wage her ongoing public feud with Trump.

She had a good run in the national spotlight, which should culminate in her virtual address to the Democratic National Convention Monday night. 

After that, it should be back to Lansing and back to work.  

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