What We Know: Kamala Harris Has a Problem
Vice President Kamala Harris came into office as a trailblazer, both the first woman and the first person of color to serve as vice president. But her vice presidency has also been plagued by frequent bad press.
In February, for instance, the New York Times wrote about the vice president’s struggles, noting that “even some Democrats whom her own advisers referred reporters to for supportive quotes confided privately that they had lost hope in her.”
How much of this is deserved? That’s hard to say.
Sure, the vice president has committed some blunders, but that’s true of everybody in politics. Kamala Harris has also contended with both the traditional constraints of the vice presidency and has also been tasked with portfolios — such as the border —that is somewhat politically intractable.
Politico did note back in January that Harris’ bad luck was “turning,” in part because the Democrats’ Senate majority increased from 50-50 to 51-49, making it less necessary for her to break ties in the Senate.
“She no longer is tied to the whims of an evenly split Senate, where she had been called to cast more than two dozen tie-breaking votes,” Politico correspondent Eugene Daniels wrote at the time. “And they [allies and aides] say she no longer feels her every move is being eyed in the context of a potential 2024 Harris presidential campaign since her boss is highly likely to seek another term.”
Why She Matters
Kamala Harris is part of a unique dynamic: She is the vice president to a president who, at the age of 80, is the oldest in history. This led many to believe that he would step away after one term and make way for his vice president, but that doesn’t appear to be happening, with Biden stating Monday that he’s likely to run again.
If Biden were to not run again due to a change of heart or sudden health emergency, Harris would be far from assured of succeeding him as the Democratic standard bearer. Whether in 2024 or after a second Biden term, there would likely be a crowded Democratic primary, with Harris facing off against many other members of a younger generation of Democratic officials.
However, there’s always the possibility, albeit a morbid one, that Biden could pass away or become incapacitated, bringing Harris to the presidency, either before the 2024 election or after a Biden election victory. It’s also highly unlikely that Kamala Harris would be replaced on the ticket prior to 2024.
In the meantime, in a piece of very smart politics, Harris has attached herself to the cause of two Tennessee state lawmakers who were expelled from the state legislature after participating in a protest in favor of gun control. Per CNN, Harris visited Nashville over the weekend and met with Tennessee Democratic Reps. Justin Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson, and then delivered a fiery speech on their behalf.
The trip had come together at the last minute.
“Let’s not fall for the false choice, which suggests that you’re either in favor of the Second Amendment or you want reasonable gun safety laws, we can and should do both,” Harris said in the Nashville speech. “The underlying issue is one that we are witnessing, over and over again, this community experienced it firsthand just 11 days ago.”
President Biden had also spoken out about what happened in the Tennessee legislature.
“Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee,” Biden said, per CNN. “A strong majority of Americans want lawmakers to act on commonsense gun safety reforms that we know will save lives. But instead, we’ve continued to see Republican officials across America double down on dangerous bills that make our schools, places of worship, and communities less safe.”
Expertise and Experience:
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.