Published November 18, 2021
CNN has a much-discussed report giving readers an inside look at dysfunction in the White House, and in particular the dysfunction afflicting the do-nothing vice presidency of Kamala Harris.
The Biden administration, as observers are by now well aware, isn’t faring especially well, and CNN’s report suggests that putting out various fires has left the West Wing with little time to prop up Harris, making her supporters “frantic.”
“Key West Wing aides have largely thrown up their hands at Vice President Kamala Harris and her staff — deciding there simply isn’t time to deal with them right now,” the reporters note, adding that the vice president is “struggling with a rocky relationship with some parts of the White House, while long-time supporters feel abandoned and see no coherent public sense of what she’s done or been trying to do as vice president.”
The report’s next line gives a helpful hint as to why we’re witnessing this ineffective vice presidency: “Being the first woman, and first woman of color, in national elected office is historic but has also come with outsized scrutiny and no forgiveness for even small errors, as she’ll often point out.”
Rather than tout her policy acumen, her accomplishments, or her ability to help with tough votes on Capitol Hill, Harris prefers to remind observers of how historic she is. Evidently, we are meant to believe that this alone makes her vice presidency a smashing success. Indeed, this was the implicit defense of Harris offered yesterday by White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who insisted that criticism of Harris is the fruit of sexism and racism.
Harris “wants to be seen as the talented, experienced, you know, expert, substantive policy person, partner to the president, that she is,” Psaki said. “But I do think there have been some attacks that are beyond because of her identity.”
The reality is something closer to the opposite. During his crusade for the presidency, Biden pledged to supporters that he would select a woman as his running mate. This promise later morphed into a general consensus that he would select a woman of color, given pressure from much of the Left to do so out of deference to the race-obsessed climate of last summer. This pledge doomed Harris before she ever set foot in the West Wing.
Despite ending her lackluster campaign for president with a mere 3 percent support among the Democratic electorate, Harris was nevertheless the most obvious pick within the narrow bucket to which Biden had been confined. (Never mind that the apex of her support during the primary campaign came when she savagely attacked Biden on the debate stage, essentially calling him a racist for opposing busing during his time in the Senate, and that she repeatedly said she believed women who had accused Biden of sexual misconduct.)
The simple fact is that Harris is not a good national politician. She is ineffective and unlikeable at best, and, at worst, so unpopular that she’s actively damaging to the administration, likely why Psaki has had to turn to absurdities in an effort to defend her. (Democrats have developed a nasty habit of responding to voters who don’t like them by accusing said voters of racism.)
In Harris’s case, these excuses are because the truth hurts. She has little to no sway with key votes in Congress. She has next to no relevant policy or diplomatic expertise. These facts shouldn’t come as a surprise, seeing that she holds her office not because of her popularity or any relevant skillset but primarily because of her identity.
Had she not been picked as Biden’s running mate, she would’ve remained in a far more advantageous position, keeping a comfortable position in the Senate that would be nearly impossible for her to lose. She was already a media darling, popular among progressives for her supposed ability to “own” conservative nominees during hearings. Rather than winding up in a position with little chance to showboat or collect media accolades, she might’ve remained right there, where her lack of popularity with the national electorate was essentially irrelevant.
In a backwards way, Harris finds herself holding a position in which she’s ill-equipped to succeed precisely because of identity politics, which motivated Biden to pick a running mate so ill-suited to the job.
Alexandra DeSanctis is a staff writer for National Review and a visiting fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.