Current VP Kamala Harris, on several occasions, has given pause to those who thought she had the gravitas for the office back in 2020. Her cackling laughter, off-topic responses, nonsequiturs to inquiries, and apparent tone deafness to basic politicking find her in deep water with senior members of the Biden team and quite unpopular with the electorate. But can she be replaced? Photo credit: Reuters/Kacper Pempel
As Joe Biden prepares to begin a long trek to re-election, certain team members acknowledge his age presents challenges, adding importance to the person serving as his understudy. Kamala Harris, the 49th Vice-President of the United States, brings no comfort to those concerned about Biden being just short of 82 when the next election happens – her performance in office has confirmed those misgivings.
Harris’ defenders will provide many reasons why she serves in the second highest office in the land. They will first point out her experience as a prosecutor (good law and order bona fides). Her service as District Attorney of San Francisco (2004-2011). Her role as the 32nd Attorney General in the state of California (2011-2017, a statewide office she won as the first woman of colour), and her campaign for Senator when Barbara Boxer announced her retirement in 2015. Harris easily defeated her Republican opponent with over 60 per cent of the vote and once again became the first woman of colour to hold one of the state’s senate seats.
Her 2020 campaign for President should have awakened these supporters to her limitations. Instead, after dropping out early in the process, despite showing promise, many began to push her for the Veep spot. When Biden signaled that he would pick a woman of colour as his running mate, several national Democratic figures rose in support, even though many considered Susan Rice, a former Obama aide, or Val Demmings, a member of Congress from Florida, potentially better candidates.
During the campaign, Harris did little to hurt or help Biden, but since the Biden-Harris Administration took office and greater scrutiny applied, her shortcomings have surfaced. The selection of an identity politics candidate seemed savvy in 2020, with George Floyd leading the news and Black Lives Matter protests a constant presence. Checking in almost three years later, some are taking a second look, revisiting this knee-jerk reaction to address systemic racism with blank cheques for equity appointments.
Harris, on several occasions, has given pause to those who thought she had the gravitas for the office. Her cackling laughter, off-topic responses, nonsequiturs to inquiries, and apparent tone deafness to basic politicking find her in deep water with senior members of the Biden team and quite unpopular with the electorate. How do you solve a problem like Kamala?
She has provided her critics with numerous examples of vagaries, speculations, and outright lies. Appointed as the point person for the Administration’s policy on the southern border she had trouble early in the job.
When describing her demeanor on Lester Holt’s NBC Nightly Newscast, Katelyne Carralle of the Daily Mail in June 2021 wrote, “the Vice-President lashed out at Lester Holt on Tuesday when he asked why she has refused to visit the border in the 76 days since President Joe Biden put her in charge of the crisis. ‘Do you have any plans to visit the border?’ the NBC host questioned Harris in an interview taped Monday in Guatemala during the vice president’s first international trip.’ We’ve been to the border. So this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border,’ she repeated. ‘You haven’t been to the border,’ Holt pushed back. ‘And I haven’t been to Europe,’ Harris snapped, then quickly turned it into her signature laugh.”
Since this highly embarrassing confrontation with a relatively friendly interviewer, Harris has found multiple ways to look like the kid in grade six who comes to school on book report day not having read the book.
Her word salads have become talking points for late-night comedians who would rather make fun of Republicans, but find the VP’s statements comic gold. In May 2022, speaking at the ASEAN Summit about the climate crisis, she said, “Our world is more interconnected and interdependent. That is especially true when it comes to the climate crisis, which is why we will work together and continue to work together, to address these issues, tackle these challenges, and to work together as we continue to work operating from the new norms, rules, and agreements, that we will convene to work together on to galvanize global action. With that, I thank you all. This is an urgent priority for all of us and I know we will work on this together.”
Such responses do not establish confidence for those listening, and certainly raise questions about whether this person is ready to communicate effectively to a nation of 330 million people. When America looks to the Oval Office for leadership, Many a thing you know you’d like to tell her. Many things she ought to understand.
In recent weeks, as Joe Biden ramps up his re-election bid for 2024, some on Team Biden have leaked to news sources that Harris may not be a shoo-in as Biden’s running mate for the next campaign. The New York Times, the paper of record in Democratic circles, recently admitted that many of its readers have grown impatient with Harris’ exploits, to the point of wanting someone new on the ticket. They don’t want Biden to run again because of his age, but they fear Harris could not beat any Republican, including Donald Trump.
Writing in City Journal, Dave Seminara reported on the Times piece, saying, “The most popular comments on the piece were so savage you might have thought you were reading a Fox News piece, not the Times. It isn’t surprising at this point that many liberals want Harris off the ticket, but what was eye-opening was that many, if not most, of the top-rated comments, criticized Harris as an identity politics pick, who lacks substance and isn’t up to the job.” If Democrats think this, then undoubtedly Ms. Harris’ future remains uncertain. But how do you fire a Vice-President?
It has been almost 50 years since a Vice-President was dropped from the ticket, going back to 1976 when Gerald Ford replaced the more liberal Nelson Rockefeller, the sitting Vice-President, with Robert Dole, the conservative Kansan. The excuse given in this case blamed Rockefeller’s advancing age. Rocky turned 68 in 1976, a mere babe compared to Biden. Since Harris, who will turn 60 in 2024, cannot be dismissed because of age, a better excuse must be offered.
One scenario suggests a Supreme Court appointment. That might work if an appointment were in the offing, but that does not seem likely unless someone on the Court dies or experiences a life-threatening illness. Harris could face trouble in a nomination process as well.
Switching her out for California Governor Gavin Newsom and sending her back to her home state to run for governor presents its risks. The progressive wing of the party brooks no challenge to its newfound power in the party. One of their own losing a premier position like the vice presidency would be stirring up a hornet’s nest, especially when the sitting president is already playing chicken with actuarial tables. No viable excuse exists for Harris’ exit from the Administration.
As an identity politics pick, Biden’s strategy seemed clever in 2020. As Seminara muses in his column today, “Harris’s election was supposed to break down barriers. Instead, her legacy may also be to illustrate the folly of identity politics. …many of the same Democrats who celebrated her rise are now calling her an empty suit, who needs to be dropped from the ticket…Any pollster today daring to ask if Harris was “qualified” would find themselves pilloried as sexist, but it’s increasingly clear that a majority of Americans would answer this unasked question with a resounding “no.”
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Kamala? Replacing her with a TV star named Oprah? The options are few, the choices limited, the time short, and the questions aplenty. Democrats face a problematic gambit renominating an elderly Joe Biden, but being beholden to equity politics, they now find themselves wondering how to dump a candidate who may sink the ship.
Dave Redekop is a retired elementary resource teacher who now works part-time at the St. Catharines Courthouse as a Registrar. He has worked on political campaigns since high school and attended university in South Carolina for five years, where he earned a Master’s in American History with a specialization in Civil Rights. Dave loves reading biographies.