“Critical stretch” seen for Kamala Harris: The Administration appears to have given the vice president more to do, and there have been fewer negative stories in the press about her of late, as the election approaches. Does the media treat her unfairly – especially on the right? Is that the ‘real’ Kamala Harris problem?
Kamala Harris: Treated Unfairly?
While the conservative media has written the same story about Vice President Kamala Harris dozens of times — she’s dumb, she’s a deer in the headlights, her cackle is annoying, “I just don’t like her voice,” and once Joe Biden keels over dead any day now, a Harris-led Democratic Party is doomed — Harris seems to be getting a more favorable reception from the mainstream press of late.
Back in February, the New York Times wrote that Harris’ allies were “tired of waiting,” and had trouble getting anyone to praise her on the record, the media coverage environment for Harris appears to have changed.
Take a Politico piece that ran this week. It begins by describing a strategy document that was prepared for the vice president, laying out a plan for Harris to follow in 2023.
“It recommended that Harris get on the road as much as possible and posited that Americans weren’t seeing and hearing from their leaders enough and that they’d be wise to fix that,” Politico said of the document. “The plan also called for Harris to lean into issues they felt suited her skill set. The fight to try and shore up abortion rights across the country stood atop the list.”
Early on, Harris was given such issues as the border and voting rights as part of her portfolio, but more recently she has been speaking more about the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which is seen as a much better issue for Democratic candidates.
The story added that Harris’ team believed the six months leading up to the presentation of the document had been her “best stretch as vice president,” following the “shifting portfolio items and bad headlines that marked her first two years.” However, Harris’ overall approval ratings remain low.
Now, that plan is manifesting itself, as the 2024 campaign approaches. The Harris-Biden ticket is running for re-election and contrary to all sorts of silly rumors, Harris is not being dropped from the ticket.
And the Biden-Harris ticket’s opponents don’t want anyone to forget that.
“Republicans have made clear she will be used as a cudgel to go after the president, making the case that his age effectively makes her the head of the ticket,” Politico said. “How she performs over the next few months will determine whether those attacks stick. It also will go a long way in sealing the confidence within Biden world about having her in a more public role.”
The story added that Harris has been an active participant in fundraisers, and the changing makeup of Congress means that she needs to stay in Washington to break ties in the Senate less often.
“It’s a time to get the objective viewer to take a second look. She needs a pivot to that second look,” Jamal Simmons, who formerly worked for the vice president, told Politico. “Most of the bad news about Kamala Harris is old news.”
“Somehow the frame is that she has a worse negative than Biden when it’s the exact same statistical negative,” Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher told Politico. “The vice president’s going to fall and rise with the top of the ticket. This is politics. It is inherently unfair because what we’re asking of her is what is not something we’ve asked of any other vice president.”
A New York Times analysis earlier this month, by Paul McAdory, placed the criticism of Harris’ speaking style and supposed verbal gaffes in the context of how vice presidents are normally treated.
“What’s fascinating about the particular embarrassment pinned on Harris is how much it feels like the recurring story of the office itself. A vice president makes countless public appearances that will be mostly ignored unless something humiliating happens — something that serves to make him or her look like the hapless lightweight who symbolizes an entire administration’s ineptitude.” There have been similar moments involving past vice presidents, especially Dan Quayle, but also Biden, during his time as veep, as well as Mike Pence.
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.