Vice President Kamala Harris was supposed to be a point of strength on the Democratic ticket, a young, non-white counterpoint to President Joe Biden.
But instead of strengthening the ticket, Harris has proven to be a point of weakness, compounding the problems that Biden himself brings and prompting Democrats to wonder whether they have the lineup necessary to defeat presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in the general election.
Kamala Harris on the ascent
Harris was once billed as an up-and-coming star of the Democratic Party. She was a prosecutor, the attorney general of the nation’s most populous state, and a senator. Her run for president during the 2020 election was received as an inevitability, the natural progression. Harris announced her candidacy on Good Morning America to a national audience and outsized fanfare.
Despite the high-profile, cable-network kick-off, Harris’s presidential campaign faltered out of the gate. She never gained anything resembling momentum. The closest she came to a campaign trail win was telling off rival candidate Joe Biden over student bussing policies he endorsed back in the 1970s. But the Harris campaign never polled above the single digits. She billed herself as a top-cop, tough-on-crime prosecutor, which was deeply out of step with a liberal base that would, just a few months later, call for defunding the police. With depressed poll numbers and growing public skepticism that Harris was the future of the party, campaign funds dried up.
Broke and unpopular, the Harris campaign suspended operations in December of 2019, marking a deflating, early exit from the race.
Harris gets the call
Harris’ presidential ambitions were revived the following summer when the recently nominated Biden declared he would choose a Black woman as his running mate. The short list of viable prospects included Harris, and she was chosen, pushing her back on an ascendant path — at least in theory.
Harris, though, never seems to have recovered from the failure of her 2020 campaign. Or rather, perhaps that failure was the first and most visible indication of a flawed candidate. Regardless, she has struggled to gain positive momentum as Biden’s vice president. The problem is significant enough that Democrats have long whispered about whether Harris needs to be replaced on the ticket.
Harris will face unusually high scrutiny during the 2024 campaign. Why? Because she is the running mate of the oldest presidential candidate ever. Joe Biden is already in his 80s. He looks fragile and sounds like he’s sundowning. People wonder, understandably, whether Biden can survive a second term. That line of thinking leads to a follow-up question: Do we want Kamala Harris serving as president? For many, the answer is no. Accordingly, Republicans have seized on Harris’ unpopularity, and on the likelihood she could be asked to fill Biden’s seat. They have made criticizing Harris a central tenet of the 2024 campaign.
Kamala Harris will stay on the ticket
Don’t expect Democrats to replace Harris, however. Despite the vice president’s weaknesses on the ticket, replacing her might cause more trouble than it is worth. Were Harris replaced, various affinity groups would protest the move as some variety of racism or misogyny, embroiling the Democratic Party in conflict at a time when it will want to unify itself around thwarting a second Trump term.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor and opinion writer 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.