March 23, 2024 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Ignore the hate. No one is better prepared than Kamala Harris

Calls for her to step aside are laughable in the extreme.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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I have seen people say the president should step aside for the good of the country on account of him being an old man. But I hadn’t seen anyone say the vice president should do the same thing for the same reasons, not until I read Kathleen Parker’s column. I suppose, since Kamala Harris is not only a woman but a biracial woman, it’s OK to hold her responsible for someone else’s life.

Parker’s argument goes something like this: there was a time and place for the success of “identity politics,” during the covid pandemic and before the 2020 election, but that time and place are gone. Harris is now more trouble than she’s worth. She’s bad at doing stuff. She’s unpopular. It even looks like Joe Biden is trying to keep her under wraps. If she sticks around long enough for Biden to die in office, it will be a “disaster.” Please, Madame Vice President, stand down, please.

I’m being only slightly uncharitable. Here’s the nut-graph. Harris “was picked because she was Black and female, a combo tantamount to job security,” Parker wrote. “Now that she has become a burden to the Democratic ticket, Biden can’t fire her. He can’t risk alienating his base. Full stop. The seriousness of this situation can’t be overstated. Biden’s diminishing faculties, notwithstanding his relatively successful State of the Union address, and his increasing physical frailty are concerning.”

Whatever she was lacking before 2020, the vice president now has in abundance thanks to being Joe Biden’s proxy for the last four years.

Parker goes on to say that, in the beginning, she was pulling for Harris. “She had pizzazz and a reputation for being a tough prosecutor,” she said. “She had moxie and swagger, and she leaned centrist.” But her performance has been disappointing, she said. In addition to “rambling remarks and a laugh that erupts from nowhere about nothing obvious to others,” Parker cited her “colossal failure as border czar.” She cites polling in which Americans seem cool on her. “There’s no reason to think her ranking would spike were she suddenly promoted to the Oval Office,” Parker said. “Instead, most signs point to disaster. This is why I propose with all due respect that Harris step away from the ticket.”

A couple of things. First, polls about vice presidents are garbage. Most people most of the time are not paying attention to any kind of political news, much less political news about Kamala Harris. My friend Matt Robison has a great piece at the Washington Monthly about that very phenomenon. He explains how Donald Trump, despite his many horribles, seems to be leading Biden in polling. Most people just don’t know about his many horribles, Matt argued, even though his every word and deed dominate political news. But it’s an election year, Matt said. They will start paying attention. That’s when things will change.

One thing won’t change, however. That’s public opinion about Kamala Harris. Why? Because — my second point – no one cares about vice presidents! The only people who are paying attention to this one are people who say she was “picked because she was Black and female.” Moreover, if voters know nothing else about her, and they almost certainly know nothing else about her, because no one pays attention to vice presidents, they do know she’s Black and female, and they know that fact very well, because people who say she was “picked because she was Black and female” can’t stop won’t stop talking about it. 

It’s telling that Parker cited Harris’ “colossal failure as border czar” as the most substantial reason for saying she’s “a burden to the Democratic ticket.” I mean, I don’t know about you, but I forgot the president made her the White House’s point-person on “the border crisis.” In the meantime, I have been paying attention to Biden, Trump, GOP governors, the House Republicans who impeached Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the Senate for not having yet received those articles of impeachment – anyone but Harris. I forgot about her, because, like everyone else, I don’t pay attention to vice presidents.

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Anyway, it doesn’t make sense to say Kamala Harris has been “a colossal failure as border czar,” because vice presidents don’t get out in front of presidents. Why? Because presidents don’t let them. That, among other things, is why no one pays attention to vice presidents. They are generally invisible to the public eye because presidents want them to be – they are always a stand-in for the president. What the vice president says is what the president says, never vice versa. If you want to call the border a failure, then it’s the president’s failure, not the vice president’s. It’s laughable in the extreme to suggest otherwise. 

I have no doubt Parker knows this. She has decided to pretend she doesn’t for the sake of arguing that peril awaits us if Biden dies. That peril, she said, would be a new president who isn’t good at stuff, who isn’t popular and who “was picked because she was Black and female.” Implicit in Parker’s argument is the view that “identity politics” is performative politics, hollow gestures and empty values. A President Harris would be the embodiment of that, and it would be a disaster.

It wouldn’t be. In the event of Joe Biden’s death, a Kamala Harris administration would be a continuation of his. Whatever she was lacking before 2020, she now has in abundance thanks to being Biden’s proxy for the last four years. Indeed, perhaps because he is aware of his advanced age, and future uncertainties, he has brought her in close to him, governing together almost as equals, as if in preparation for the inevitable. So even if it were true, and it’s not, but even if it were true that Harris’ only qualification for being vice president was being female and Black, all that changed the day she became vice president. Literally, no one is better prepared to take charge if needed than Harris is.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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