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Why Kamala Harris’s Big Night was bittersweet

August 20, 2020, 12:58 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The EU responds to elections in Belarus, women’s sports struggle with how to address transgender athletes, and Kamala Harris makes history. Have a productive Thursday.

– Kamala’s Big Night. It was a historic night in Delaware. On night three of the all-virtual Democratic National Convention, Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) officially accepted the party’s nomination for vice president, becoming the first woman of color to ever get the nod on a major party ticket.

In her speech, Harris did what Joe Biden selected her to do: act as his chief surrogate and fiercely prosecute the case against the president. “Donald Trump’s failure of leadership has cost lives and livelihoods,” she said.

She also decried “structural racism,” a cause that has drawn millions to the streets to call for the kind of change that Harris herself—arguably—represents.

“[T]here is no vaccine for racism,” she said. “We’ve gotta do the work.”

Harris also addressed her barrier-breaking status head on: “That I am here tonight is a testament to the dedication of generations before me. Women and men who believed so fiercely in the promise of equality, liberty, and justice for all.”

But the evening also had a bittersweet feel to it, as Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, used her 2016 loss to Trump as a means to get out the vote. “This can’t be another woulda-coulda-shoulda election,” she said.

Clinton’s comments were a stinging reminder that being a first doesn’t mean you don’t fail; that female politicians are still judged by a different set of rules; that Americans still see women in power as a novelty.

Even with all the digital fanfare surrounding her nomination, Harris is no doubt profoundly aware of those realities. In fact, she and Clinton both mentioned the suffragette movement in their speeches. In paying tribute to the activists who a century ago Tuesday won (white) women the right to vote, they recognized a movement whose legacy is not a one-and-done battle but a fight that started seven decades before Aug. 18, 1920 and endured long after.

“These women and the generations that followed worked to make democracy and opportunity real in the lives of all of us who followed,” Harris said. “And these women inspired us to pick up the torch, and fight on.”

Claire Zillman
claire.zillman@fortune.com
@clairezillman

Today’s Broadsheet was curated by Emma Hinchliffe

ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Primary report. On Tuesday night, Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming went to the polls. Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, was behind her opponent for Miami-Dade county commissioner by just 1% of the vote. GOP primary winner Kat Cammack is now expected to succeed Rep. Ted Yoho (yup, that Yoho) in his Florida district. In Wyoming, all major-party nominees for Congress were women, which means the state will send its first woman to the Senate; Republican Cynthia Lummis, previously a congresswoman in the House, is favored to win in November. 

- NYT CEO. How did Meredith Kopit Levien become the New York Times' youngest CEO in its history? In this profile, colleagues describe Kopit Levien's remarkable work ethic (one former boss tried to keep up with her laptop use on an Amtrak until 1 a.m.) and how she's pivoted along with the news industry. Digiday

- EU on Belarus. The EU rejected the recent election in Belarus that led opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya to flee the country. She had called on the EU to reject the "fraudulent elections;" the coalition, however, did not call for a new election. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Plaid hired Capitol One SVP, chief counsel, regulatory advisory, Meredith Fuchs as general counsel. Total Brain hired Maven chief revenue officer Melissa Frieswick in the same role. Checkr hired SmartRecruiters VP of marketing Prachi Gore in the same position. Sparks & Honey added to its advisory board former U.S. ambassador Kathleen Doherty, African Star Communications founder Farah C Fortune, FutureMatters cofounder Lynn Lin and WIN/WIN founder Nim De Swardt.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Power couples. Jill and Joe Biden have campaigned for together multiple times over their decades of marriage. Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff, in comparison, have been married for six years, two years longer than Harris has served in national office. The potential Second Gentleman's unofficial campaign slogan for his wife is: "I’ve got you." Washington Post

- Athletic decisions. Sports leagues around the world are developing rules—with little standard between them—around the participation of transgender women in women's sports. Meanwhile, in the U.S., some states have attempted to bar transgender women from competing in these leagues. New York Times

- WFH—but where? Is the home office sexist? Elizabeth Patton, author of Easy Living: The Rise of the Home Office, connects its history to the study or den, traditionally a male domain in the home. Women are more likely to work from a table in the kitchen or other non-dedicated work space. Fast Company

ON MY RADAR

Olivia Wilde tapped to direct untitled female-centered Marvel movie Deadline

Britney Spears seeking substantial changes to conservatorship New York Times

The mythology of Karen The Atlantic

Vivian Stephens helped turn romance writing into a billion-dollar industry. Then she got pushed out Texas Monthly

PARTING WORDS

"Why am I carrying laundry?"

-Tracee Ellis Ross on speaking up about her Black-ish character doing gendered chores onscreen