Kamala Harris was once a rockstar in the Democratic Party and looked to have a bright future. She even took on Joe Biden pretty hard in one 2020 Democratic Party Primary debate and hurt his chances of winning the Oval Office. Can she ever take the prize herself someday?
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Typically vice presidents are viewed as natural successors to their bosses.
Typically, vice presidents are viewed as prospective future presidents.
Kamala Harris, too, has been earmarked as a prospective future leader of the Democratic Party.
Yet, Harris’s track record leaves room for significant doubt, which has reduced her standing, and made her less of a shoo-in successor to Biden than one might expect a young, ambitious vice president to be.
Kamala Harris: A Trouble Vice Presidency
The vice presidency is an exceptionally well positioned launching pad for the presidency itself. Most vice presidents are chomping at the bit to serve as president; many vice presidents are selected as vice presidents after their attempt to become president fizzled out in the primary. Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H. Bush, and Joe Biden all served as vice presidents before ascending to the top of the Executive Branch. Walter Mondale and Al Gore were both nominated for the presidency after serving as vice president but lost in the general election (to Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush respectively).
So naturally, Harris is viewed as a prospective successor to Biden.
Yet Harris’s vice presidency has been rocky.
Internal factors and external factors have degraded Harris’s performance in office, raising doubts about her potential.
Internally, rumors abound that Harris treats her staff poorly, that the staff has been “wilting in a dysfunctional and frustrated office, burned out.” Harris has been called an “inconsistent and at times degrading principal who burns through seasoned staff members who have succeeded in other demanding, high-profile positions.”
The result seems like an administration that is stuck in second gear. Whether Harris is directly responsible for the turnover, or burnout, amongst her staff I couldn’t say but the rumors are consistent enough at this point that it’s fair to question whether Harris has the management style necessary to win or operate the presidency.
For example, Harris was tasked with sorting through illegal migration and voting reform. Sure, Harris has been given some difficult tasks – but if the vice presidency were easy, well, anyone could do it.
And if Harris is eyeing the presidency, which is commonly understood to be the most difficult job in the world, she’ll be expected to handle the world’s most complex and demanding problems; she’ll be expected to solve unsolvable problems. So, don’t cut her too much slack.
A Troubled Candidacy
Harris ran an atrocious presidential campaign in 2020.
Despite coming out of the gates to fanfare and hoopla (Harris announced her candidacy on Good Morning America), Harris bowed out of the race early, polling in the single digits, having exhausted her resources. Several lower-tier candidates, like Julian Castro, Marianne Williamson, and John Delaney lasted longer into the primary than Harris.
And obviously, John Delaney didn’t get to announce his candidacy from Good Morning America.
Harris spent the 2020 campaign promoting herself as a top-cop-former-prosecutor. The problem was the left was in the mood for progressive criminal justice reform – not hardcore prosecution. So, Harris, who used to prosecute the parents of truant teenagers, marketed herself in a way that cut against the zeitgeist.
That’s stupid stuff.
If you’re going to win the presidency, you’re probably going to want to be aligned with the cultural-political moment; perhaps, you’re even going to want to define the cultural-political moment. Politicians have bounced back from bad presidential campaigns before; Joe Biden’s first presidential campaign, in 1988, ended with plagiarism, his second, in 2008, puttered out, and of course he won on his third shot. So, one shoddy presidential campaign doesn’t necessarily mean game over for Harris.
But Harris’s 2020 campaign raises legitimate questions about whether Kamala Harris has the capacity to win a presidential campaign.
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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.