President Joe Biden is old. Accordingly, Biden’s vice presidential pick will be scrutinized not just for her merits as a vice president – but for her merits as a prospective president. In all likelihood, Biden’s running mate for 2024 will once again be Kamala Harris.
And Harris already invites a healthy amount of scrutiny based simply on her performance.
Can Kamala Harris withstand the additional scrutiny which will accompany serving beneath an octogenarian president?
Joe Biden is Old
The U.S. male life expectancy is 76 years old. Biden is already 80 years old. If he were elected again, he would be 82 on the day he was sworn in for a second term. The second term would extend through Biden’s 86 birthday, making him, by far, the oldest president ever – as he already is the oldest U.S. president.
To simply survive through a second term, Biden would need to live ten years beyond the life expectancy.
There’s no guarantee that any president will survive their term in office. Even the vice president of a 40-something president can expect to be scrutinized as a prospective president. But the vice president of an 80-something president will be viewed not merely as a prospective president but as a likely president. This is why the GOP has been targeting Harris so ruthlessly in the lead-up to Biden’s 2024 announcement.
The GOP Targets Kamala Harris
The GOP has paid especially close attention to Vice President Kamala Harris lately – a wise choice because, one, Harris’ potential to ascend to the presidency and two, Harris’s underperformance and unpopularity as vice president make her an easy target.
Even Democrats are concerned with the prospect of Harris becoming president.
Why? Because Harris’ vice presidency has simply not gone well. The consensus on Harris’s performance through two years in the Biden administration: invisible and irrelevant.
Kamala Harris is less prominent within the Biden administration that Antony Blinken or Ron Klain or Pete Buttigieg. Kamala Harris did not influence Biden’s signature legislative accomplishments; she has not made discernible progress on the tasks assigned to her (i.e. immigration reform, voting rights).
And apparently, Harris’ office operates in a state of perpetual dysfunction; Harris burns through staff members – many of whom have been successful in other high-visibility, high-stress positions. Reports from the inside indicate that Harris reportedly demeans her staff while failing to properly prepare herself. The resultant mass resignation has hampered Harris’s ability to get into any sort of productive rhythm.
The GOP recognizes all of the above and has made it a central theme of their Biden criticism. Because, thanks to Biden’s age, the GOP is able to say ‘do you really want a Kamala Harris presidency?’ For most Americans, even many Democrats, the answer is no.
And that was clear back in 2019 when Harris joined the 2020 race for president. Harris, despite running with plenty of mainstream fanfare, failed to convert the fanfare into actual constituent support; Harris never broke out of the low single-digits, and her funding depleted rapidly; she exited the 2020 race in December 2019 – before Marianne Williamson, Julian Castro, or John Delaney.
Of course, Biden hasn’t declared his 2024 candidacy yet. Neither has Biden confirmed that Harris will join him on the ticket. When those two things do happen, when Biden declares and when Biden names Harris as the VP pick, the GOP criticism of Kamala Harris will only intensify further.
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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.