The New York Times profiles the vice president, Kamala Harris, and her quest to “make the case for herself”: The presidential election is now just a little over a year away, and with most polls declaring the race a near-tie, a lot of eyes are on the Democratic ticket.
President Biden is almost certain to once again be the Democratic nominee, and he has been clear that Kamala Harris will be his running mate. Despite all kinds of weird rumors and conspiracy theories, it is not possible that the party will be able to “switch out” Biden and replace him with a different candidate at the last minute, especially with the filing deadline to be included on the ballots in all 50 states.
Is This the Real Kamala Harris Problem?
So, Biden and Harris, it will be. And this week, the New York Times ran a profile of Harris. The thesis of the piece, authored by Times reporter and longtime Kamala Harris chronicler Astead W. Herndon, is that “the vice president is still struggling to make the case for herself — and feels she shouldn’t have to.”
Herndon reported from six cities — including a visit to Munich when Harris addressed the Munich Security Conference — and interviewed 75 people for the profile. It paints a picture of a vice president still trying to find her place, while still grappling with the regular indignities that are often built into the vice presidency.
“If Biden’s age is the Democrats’ explicit electoral challenge, Harris, 59 this month, is the unspoken one. Three years after she and Biden were presented as a package deal, a two-for-one special that included a younger, nonwhite candidate to counterbalance Biden’s shortcomings, Democrats have not embraced the president in waiting,” the Times piece said.
What do the 75 people quoted think of Harris, going into the 2024 campaign?
“In interviews with more than 75 people in the vice president’s orbit, there is little agreement about Harris at all, except an acknowledgment that she has a public perception problem, a self-fulfilling spiral of bad press and bad polls, compounded by the realities of racism and sexism,” the Times said.
While Republicans regularly state that Harris is an obviously weak candidate — and GOP presidential contender Nikki Haley frequently declares that Harris, not Biden, is the party’s real 2024 opponent — the Times piece quotes several Democrats expressing doubts about the vice president, including multiple elected officials, including Nancy Pelosi, declining to say on television that Harris is the best candidate for the vice presidency.
It’s gotten to the point, per the Times, that “White House senior advisers have exhorted Democrats to stop criticizing Harris to the press, on the record or off, telling them that it’s harmful to the overall ticket.”
The piece added that “the tight-knit group of Black women in national Democratic politics” who are supportive of Harris are “becoming incensed with how she’s being treated,” although Harris herself does not tend to speak about that publicly.
“It’s disrespectful,” Laphonza Butler, a former Harris adviser who has since been appointed to California’s U.S. Senate seat, told the Times. “And the thing that makes it more disrespectful is that we’re talking about a historic V.P. who has been a high-quality partner and asset to the country at a time when everything is at stake. Right now is the time to respect what she’s done and what she brings.”
Harris did speak on the record with the Times.
“My career, for the most part, has not been one of being focused on giving lovely speeches or trying to pass a bill,” the vice president told the newspaper. “And so that’s how I approach public policy. I’m probably oriented to think about, What does this actually mean, as opposed to how does this just sound?”
The piece also argued that Harris has struggled to define herself. Much of her public experience has been as a prosecutor, but that’s not exactly the sort of record that resonates in today’s Democratic Party- especially following the “Kamala is a cop” criticism during the 2020 campaign.
“Without a clear ideological brand, and because she has avoided the issue with which she has firsthand expertise, the historic nature of Harris’s role seems to have boxed her in,” Herndon writes. “A year away from the election and a heartbeat away from the presidency, Harris is an avatar for the idea of representation itself, a litmus test for its political power and its inherent limits.”
Among many other pieces about Harris over the years, Herndon also authored a memorable chronicle in late 2019 about how Harris’ 2020 presidential campaign “unraveled,” with 50 staffers on the record, which appeared just days before the future vice president dropped out of that race.
Author 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. Stephen has authored thousands of articles over the years that focus on politics, technology, and the economy for over a decade. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @StephenSilver, and subscribe to his Substack newsletter.