WASHINGTON – What happened to Kamala Harris?
She smashed all kinds of ceiling glass when Joe Biden made California’s junior senator his candidate, and Harris was elected vice president. Since then, she has largely withdrawn from Washington’s daily chores and the rock-hanging drama that has surrounded the struggle for the president’s agenda.
Part of the answer is simple: What happened to Harris is that she became vice president.
Although she carries a number of political portfolios, even when she visits Paris this week to address the administration’s broken relationship with France, it is still a fact that job No. 2 in the White House is inherently declining.
It is neither racist nor misogynistic to point it out when the job owner happens to be Harris.
Virtually every vice president in modern history – except Dick Cheney, who played an unusually prominent role as guiding defense and foreign policy under President George W. Bush – has looked smaller than when he or she accepted the position.
This is because a major requirement of the job is to step away from the limelight, except when cheering on the president and his agenda.
This requires varying degrees of sycophancy. Mike Pence, no matter what else he accomplishes in life, has managed to set new standards for tolerance and self-humiliation.
But there were others, heightened expectations of Harris, primarily because of her groundbreaking choices. No one like her – the first woman, the first black person, the first Asian American elected vice president – has ever moved through Washington’s top row. All her movements would be unprecedented, and it seemed to deserve special attention and large amounts of news coverage.
But the one cardinal rule – never deliberately overshadowing the president or appearing eager to take his place – does not give way to history or fame. This is especially true when the CEO is a crisp 78-year-old.
So ever since she took office, Harris has made humility a top of her publicly-turned-agenda along with the tasks – voting rights, space exploration, women in the workforce, immigration from Central America and more – that the president has given her. It’s no surprise. Caution has long been a hallmark of Harris’ political career, and the submissive nature of the vice presidency, as well as the scrutiny of Biden loyalists who are sensitive to the mere hint of personal ambition, reinforce this tendency.
(There is a long history of tensions between the President’s and Vice President’s staff, and the Biden White House is no exception.)
Another reason Harris falls into the background is her thin Washington resume.
Typically, vice presidents are elected because they are perceived as “doing something that the president can not or cannot do very well,” said Chris Devine, who teaches political science at the University of Dayton and has co-authored two books. on the Vice-Presidency.
Biden, Cheney and Al Gore had the Capitol Hill experience that the presidents they served under – Barack Obama, Bush, Bill Clinton – lacked. Pence, a congressman for more than a decade before becoming Indiana’s governor, served as Trump’s envoy to the conservative and evangelical wings of the GOP.
There’s not much Harris can do that Biden cannot or has not already done – including acting in the job she now has.
The president served 36 years in the Senate and Harris only four – a large portion of them spent preparing for a presidential nomination in 2020 – so it’s not as if Biden needs Harris’ help in creating relationships with lawmakers or finding a way up Pennsylvania Avenue to the house. and the Senate. Although the vice president was among those who called last week from the war room set up to push Biden’s large infrastructure bill past the finish line, she has not played the role of legislator closer, as Biden did under Obama.
Harris, 57, is on his third trip abroad as vice president. Biden began traveling abroad as a senator when Harris was still in elementary school.
Harris was selected to run alongside Biden largely because she brought balance – relative youth, her race and gender – to the Democratic presidential ticket. In the White House, the president has sought to make his vice president a full-fledged partner in the “Biden-Harris administration.” In practice, however, she is more like an apprentice.
– Tribune News Service