When Joe Biden selected Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate on August 11, 2020, he hoped to galvanize his liberal base by selecting the third woman and first person of color as a running mate –– and it worked. But now that Harris is well settled in Number One Observatory Circle, things don’t look quite so peachy for Madame Vice President.
CNN reported in the past few weeks that Harris doesn’t feel valued or taken seriously enough in the White House. Many of her supporters have gone even further and publicly accused Biden of setting her up to fail. Honestly, these allegations aren’t completely ridiculous.
Case in point: on her first foreign trip as vice president, Harris was sent to Mexico and Guatemala to seemingly do Biden’s dirty work. At a press conference in Guatemala City with President Alejandro Giammattei, she asserted Biden’s immigration policy: do not come. She also struggled in an interview on NBC, where she could not answer whether or not the administration had visited the border and laughed nervously. Interesting that Biden had his vice president publicly state one of his most controversial policies instead of saying it himself.
Harris has also reportedly felt ignored by the administration, especially when it comes to defense. For example, when Pete Buttigieg, the Secretary of Transportation and the first gay cabinet Secretary, took paternal leave after adopting twins with his husband, Fox News slammed him for the decision. The White House quickly came to Buttigieg’s defense. Harris reportedly felt betrayed, as sexist insults towards her on Fox have nearly become daily rituals, yet the White House has not issued a strong condemnation as it did for Buttigieg.
News outlets have also reported that Harris has not taken very prominent roles in decision-making despite being the second highest-ranking official in the United States. When Biden and his allies were scrambling to secure votes for the Infrastructure Bill, Harris was touring a NASA space flight center. Though she did attend some key meetings with House lawmakers, she missed the majority of them, and it was considered abnormal when she showed up. Frankly, all this makes sense for one key reason: re-election.
Harris embodies many firsts: the first female vice president and the first vice president of color. That served as a major campaign tool for the Biden campaign when it came to pandering to progressive, liberal voters. In 2020, moderates were likely to support Biden, because Trump tanked the economy by not reacting promptly to the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, with the 2020 Presidential Election solidly behind him, Biden has to think about how to not put off moderates who may not support a ticket with a woman of color as vice president under normal circumstances.
Not allowing Harris to take on a very public role is likely a key tenet of this plan by drawing attention away from the first woman of color to serve as vice president. The problem has gotten so bad that even The Onion, a satirical news network, mocked the Biden Administration with the headline “White House Urges Kamala Harris To Sit At Computer All Day In Case Emails Come Through.”
Harris’s supporters have noticed this, and they are not happy, to say the least. Some are concerned that if Harris fails, it will be too easy for racist and sexist politicians to generalize about the ability of women and people of color to effectively run the state.
Biden is caught in a tough spot: balancing publicizing Harris to make himself look liberal, and appealing to moderates, especially pressing considering the 2022 Midterm Elections are less than a year away. So for the time being, Madame Vice President is unfortunately as much of a liability as an asset to the Administration, a far cry from the enthusiasm that greeted her selection a year ago.