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Can Kamala Harris Be Saved?

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris speaking with attendees at the 2019 Iowa Democratic Wing Ding at Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

One Top Democrat Is Trying To Save Kamala Harris: Donna Brazile has a new opinion piece in The New York Times arguing that despite the commonly accepted sentiment that Vice President Kamala Harris has been a dud in office, she has actually done “an outstanding job” and that “her record in two years stands up to that of her predecessors.”

Kamala Harris Is Wonderful? 

Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s 2000 campaign and who “urged Joe Biden to make [Harris] his running mate in 2020, acknowledges that Harris hasn’t solved every problem, but asks which vice president has?

To make the point that Harris has actually done alright as VP, Brazile encourages us to “think about our expectations for the vice presidency.”

“It was only starting with the presidency of Jimmy Carter, and the role Vice President Walter Mondale played in foreign and domestic policy, that the job became more than a ceremonial position,” Brazile wrote, adding that the vice presidency is an “office that can be the butt of jokes and criticism. The only duties of the vice president spelled out in the Constitution are to cast tiebreaking votes in the Seante and to become president if the office becomes vacant.”

And by that standard, according to Brazile, Harris has done well because first, Harris ranks third in breaking Senate ties, trailing only behind John C. Calhoun and John Adams; second, Harris regularly travels around the country to meet with Americans; and third, Harris has met “mostly in person” with over 100 world leaders “to repair the damage to our international relationships caused by Donald Trump.”

What Should We Think? 

Okay. I have a few counterarguments.

First, ranking third in breaking Senate ties is really just a matter of circumstances. Harris occupied the office at a time when the Senate was split 50-50. Of course, she was going to be breaking a lot of ties.

And there’s nothing superlative about breaking ties, she just needed to be there when it was time to break a tie. Had Harris not broken the ties she would have been an instant pariah within her own party.

Two, I don’t think we should be celebrating the fact that the vice president has made the time to meet with everyday Americans – that should probably just be a bare minimum requirement for being vice president.

Third, it’s wonderful that Harris is meeting with world leaders. Is that superlative? Or just standard operating procedure for the vice presidency? And how are we going to quantify that Harris has repaired the relationships? Or that the relationships were damaged in the first place? The third point is Brazile’s strongest, but still raises questions.

The Race and Gender 

In defending Kamala Harris against her detractors, Brazile goes where just about everyone goes. Race and gender.

“Ms. Harris has been derided by some as an affirmative-action hire,” Brazile wrote. “Perhaps because Mr. Biden pledged to select a female running mate when he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination.”

Well, to be clear, as I know Brazile knows, Biden didn’t pledge to select a female running mate, which would have limited his choices to just 50 percent of the population – Biden pledged to select a black female running mate, which limited his choices to about six percent of the population.

Now, I don’t know if Harris was an “affirmative-action hire” or not. But I do know that Harris’s presidential campaign went belly-up in December 2019, despite the initial fanfare, because Harris’s message failed to resonate, and her fundraising dried up; I know that she was no longer relevant to the Democrat ticket until Biden made his super specific pledge.

So, the idea that Harris was an affirmative-action hire is not beyond the pale; it’s a pretty reasonable assumption given the fact pattern of the 2020 election. And playing the race/gender card is a pretty lame deflection of what is earned and measured criticism of the Kamala Harris vice presidency.

In conclusion, Brazile states that “it shouldn’t be so hard for a leader like Ms. Harris, so visible in the office, she holds, to get some credit where credit is due.”

I would argue that it’s not, that rather Democrats are overly eager for Kamala Harris to earn some credit and assuage the collective trepidation over who is going to assume the presidency once Biden is out of the picture.    

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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 listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.