If Kamala Harris Is the Future of the Democratic Party, It’s Doomed
When Kamala Harris announced her presidential candidacy in January 2019, she was met with glowing profiles, grassroots excitement, and ready donors. Rolling Stone praised “her intensity and intelligence,” and NPR declared that “Harris says she was bent toward a career fighting for civil rights almost since birth.” The Washington Post gushed about the firsts—”the first woman, the first African American woman, the first Indian American and the first Asian American”—she would bring to the presidency. In the first 24 hours after Harris’ announcement, her campaign reportedly raised $1.5 million. Vanity Fair asked, “Is Kamala Harris the New 2020 Frontrunner?” MSNBC host Rachel Maddow was even more direct. “Honestly,” she said, “I think there is a good chance that you are going to win the nomination.”
Eleven months later, Harris left the race. Her campaign had been plagued by inconsistent and vague policy positions, disarray and disagreement among her campaign staff, and a tough-on-crime past come back to haunt her.
Harris had made her law enforcement experience central to her pitch, often suggesting she was the best one to “prosecute the case” against President Donald Trump. Yet she appeared flummoxed—stumbling or deflecting—when asked to defend moves she had made as a prosecutor. For instance, when Anderson Cooper asked about fellow candidate Tulsi Gabbard’s criticisms of Harris’ criminal justice record, Harris responded not by making a case for her record but by calling herself a “top-tier candidate” and pointing out that Gabbard was polling far beneath her.
Harris’ stumbles led many to wonder whether the candidate, who had climbed the political ladder in California’s deeply Democratic circles, was really fit for a national campaign.
Yet she ended up on the Democratic presidential ticket anyway, at least partly because of party pressure on Biden to pick a black woman as running mate. As The New York Times reported in November 2020, “no other candidate scored as highly with Mr. Biden’s selection committee on so many of their core criteria for choosing a running mate, including her ability to help Mr. Biden win in November, her strength as a debater, her qualifications for governing and the racial diversity she would bring to the ticket.”
After a tumultuous election, she followed Joe Biden into electoral victory as the vice president. Suddenly, the candidate who couldn’t hack the campaign trail was a heartbeat away from the presidency.
And not just any presidency. Not only is Joe Biden the oldest president in U.S. history, but he has presided over a period of widespread dissatisfaction with the direction of the country under Democratic Party rule. Inevitably, that led to questions, even within his own party, about whether he would—or should—run again. “Should Biden Run Again? The Question Is Dividing Democrats,” read a September 2022 headline in Time. Around the same time, Biden himself was circumspect, saying his intention to run again is “just an intention. But is it a firm decision that I run again? That remains to be seen.” Even after Democrats’ relatively successful showing in the November midterms, Biden was guarded about his future: He said he expected to run again but wouldn’t make an official decision until 2023. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni didn’t seem certain: Two days after the election, he wrote that the president was “no sure thing for 2024,” citing Biden’s “age” and “energy.”
But if not Biden, then who? In some ways, Harris looks like his natural successor. Not only is she the vice president, but polls showed her running ahead of other potential Democratic contenders. Yet Harris’ time as vice president has been marked by the same sorts of stumbles and false starts that plagued her campaign. In her nearly two years since assuming office, Harris has failed to find a signature issue or define herself in any way. The biggest headlines she has garnered come from a series of silly gaffes and awkward interviews, and from turmoil among her staff.
The result has been an odd not-quite-succession plan that says as much about the state of the Democratic Party’s electoral fortunes and its penchant for box-checking diversity candidates as it does about Harris’ individual weaknesses. Whether or not Biden chooses to run for reelection in 2024, Harris is widely understood to be the Democratic front-runner in waiting—or at the very least a leading light of the party’s up-and-coming next generation. Yet no one can quite explain why.
No Signature Issue
In October 2022, when a Harvard-Harris poll (no relation) asked Democratic voters whom they would vote for if Biden doesn’t run, Harris came out on top, with 25 percent of respondents. That was up from 19 percent in May 2022, and it was a far better showing th
Article from Reason.com