Plagued throughout her vice presidency with bad press, Kamala Harris has of late been going on the attack against Republican opponents.
Can she still make herself the likely successor to President Biden as the Democratic standard-bearer?
Kamala Harris: Can She Make a Comeback?
There are two famous maxims about vice presidents: That the second person on the ticket, whether during a campaign or their actual time in office, serves as an “attack dog” against the administration’s opponents.
The other has been attributed to FDR-era Vice President John Nance Garner, who is believed to have said that the vice presidency “is not worth a bucket of warm spit.”(There is some doubt among historians whether Garner actually said that, however.)
Harris in the Veep Role
Throughout her time as vice president, Kamala Harris has haunted, you could say, by the latter maxim.
She has been contracted, somewhat, by the natural limits of the vice presidency, a job that does not prescribe any specific powers or duties, aside from succeeding the president should he die or be incapacitated. Therefore, Harris has been assigned intractable tasks, such as dealing with the border.
However, of late, Harris has begun to embrace the other traditional role of an attack dog.
Speaking in April at the annual convention of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Harris ripped Republicans and warned that America’s “founding principles are under attack.”
“We all love our country,” the vice president said at the event in New York. “That’s why we fight so hard, we love our country. And we stand in the long tradition of those who have faithfully believed in the founding principles of our nation.”
She then launched into what has become a frequent Democratic message about Republicans in the Biden era.
“Extremists across our country attack the freedom to vote,” Harris said. “They ban books to attempt to erase America’s full history. They attack the ability of people to love openly with pride. They attack the freedom of a woman to make decisions about her own body instead of the government. They attack medication that for 20 years the FDA ruled as being safe. And just yesterday in Florida, extremists there signed a six-week ban before most women even know they’re pregnant.”
Approval and Line of Succession
That introduces a dynamic that has happened less frequently with vice presidents in the past: If Biden, who at 80 is the oldest president in history, were to pass away or otherwise become incapacitated during his current term, Harris would of course assume the presidency. That would also be the case should Biden be re-elected in 2024, and have something happen to him during his second term.
But if Biden decides for some reason not to run again, Harris would not necessarily emerge as the no-doubt frontrunner. She would likely emerge as one of several Democrats vying to succeed Biden – which, should Biden either win or lose in 2024, will likely happen in 2028.
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.