Now About Our Vice-President …

Vice President Kamala Harris isn’t front-and-center in the news very often, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t working.  Like President Biden, she quietly goes about her job rather than spend her time on a media blitz trying to keep her face on everyone’s news feed as some politicians do on a daily basis.  And, like the president, she is often the subject of criticism.

Donna Brazile, a political analyst who I have long admired, is a professor and contributor to ABC News, and she has written a thoughtful assessment of VP Harris that I found enlightening.  Certainly we all hope that President Biden remains hale and hearty throughout his presidency, but regardless of age, things sometimes happen to the human body, so we need to know more about the person who would step into his shoes if he were to die or become unable to fulfill his duties.  Ms. Brazile gives us a bit of insight into Kamala Harris and her path to the vice presidency.

The Excellence of Kamala Harris Is Hiding in Plain Sight

Donna Brazile

02 March 2023

Vice President Kamala Harris occupies an office that can be the butt of jokes and criticism. The only duties of the vice president spelled out in the Constitution are to cast tiebreaking votes in the Senate and to become president if the office becomes vacant.

I’ve never run for government office, but as a Black woman who has spent my life working in politics — including as manager of Vice President Al Gore’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2000 — I know what it’s like to be underestimated, over-scrutinized and unfairly criticized, just as Ms. Harris has been. Yet I’ve never been under such a glaring spotlight as hers.

I have watched politicians up close for decades. And‌ I have known Vice President Harris for years and urged Joe Biden to make her his running mate in 2020. I ‌believe that the criticism of her is unrelated to her performance as vice president and fails to account for the role she plays in the White House.

As a consequential and successful vice president himself for eight years under Barack Obama, President Biden has a keen understanding of the job he once held and he has tasked Vice President Harris with major responsibilities. She has done an outstanding job and her record in two years stands up to that of her predecessors. Has she solved every problem? No, but name me one vice president who has.

We should think about our expectations for the vice presidency. It was only starting with the presidency of Jimmy Carter, and the role Vice President Walter Mondale played in foreign and domestic policy, that the job became more than a ceremonial position. Vice President Harris ranks third in breaking Senate ties (and first in the first two years in office), after John C. Calhoun and John Adams. While some claim that her duties breaking ties in the Senate have limited her scope of influence, the reality is that Ms. Harris regularly traveled the country to meet with Americans even as she cast the tiebreaking vote on key legislation to better the lives of the American people, including the Inflation Reduction Act.

To advance President Biden’s objective to strengthen America’s foreign alliances, Ms. Harris has met (mostly in person) with more than 100 world leaders to repair damage to our international relationships caused by Donald Trump. At the Munich Security Conference in February she announced that the Biden administration has formally concluded that Russia is guilty of “crimes against humanity” in its war against Ukraine and warned China not to assist Russia in its invasion. Through public-private partnerships, she helped raise over $4.2 billion to address the root cause of migration from Central America.

Ms. Harris has pushed for federal legislation to secure voting rights, worked to expand access to the child tax and earned-income tax credits, is co-leader of the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, was an integral part of the White House’s push to get Americans vaccinated against Covid, and is the chair of the National Space Council.

Questions have been raised about the fitness of just about every vice president to move into the Oval Office should the president die or is unable to continue serving for another reason. Mr. Biden knew what he was doing when he selected Ms. Harris to be his vice president and had confidence that she would be up to the task of succeeding him if necessary. I hope that never happens, but if tragedy strikes, Mr. Biden’s judgment will be proven correct.

Ms. Harris has more experience in elected office than several past presidents and vice presidents — a successful record beginning in 2004 as San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general and including four years as U.S. senator. By contrast, Presidents Trump, Dwight Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover and Zachary Taylor never held elected office before becoming president. Many other presidents had fewer years in elected office than Ms. Harris has had.

Ms. Harris has been derided by some as an affirmative-action hire, perhaps because Mr. Biden pledged to select a female running mate when he campaigned for the Democratic presidential nomination.

On many occasions when people of color and women have climbed the career ladder we’ve heard criticism that they advanced only because of their race and/or gender. This was the case last year during the confirmation process for Ketanji Brown Jackson, a brilliant and extraordinarily qualified jurist who is the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.

For too many Americans, the idea that nonwhites and women actually got their jobs because of their qualifications, experience and talents is hard to believe. Maybe that’s because for most of American history, white men were the only people considered for high-level jobs in what amounted to affirmative action for them.

And as the first woman, African American and Asian American to serve as vice president, Ms. Harris has arguably faced greater — and a different type — of scrutiny than previous vice presidents.

The clothes and shoes she wears, the role of her spouse (Doug Emhoff, America’s first second gentleman), the way she sometimes laughs, her cooking skills and staff turnover in her office have all drawn greater attention than her predecessors experienced.

Mr. Emhoff summarized the challenges confronting his wife in a 2021 interview. “She has faced challenges as a groundbreaker her whole career,” he said. “When you’re breaking barriers, there’s breaking involved and breaking means you might get cut sometimes, but that’s OK.”

Vice President Harris is fulfilling the dream of the empowerment of Black women advanced by the Rev. Willie T. Barrow, a Black woman who was a field organizer for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and a co-chair of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and supporter of his presidential campaigns.

Ms. Barrow, who was an inspiration to me when I was a young member of the staff on Mr. Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign, died at age 90 in 2015. She was a mentor to Mr. Obama before he entered the White House but didn’t live long enough to see Ms. Harris become vice president.

Ms. Barrow never received the accolades and fame she deserved for her work because the most visible leadership roles in the civil rights movement, government and elsewhere were reserved for men. But I have no doubt that she and other Black female civil rights pioneers paved the way for Ms. Harris to climb to the second-highest office in our government.

Vice President Harris stands on the steely, unbowed shoulders of Black women like Willie Barrow and others who broke barriers before her. It shouldn’t be so hard for a leader like Ms. Harris, so visible in the office she holds, to get some credit where credit is due.

26 thoughts on “Now About Our Vice-President …

  1. I’m glad you’re sharing Donna Brazile’s piece, Jill. VP Harris has not received the coverage and plaudits she warrants. She traveled the country talking about the importance of democracy—and the people’s determination to uphold it—before November’s election. She is a strong voice in support of reproductive rights, which remains a critical issue to more than 60% of Americans. And she has been traveling abroad now, doing very well, based on what I’m seeing and reading. She is no lightweight. Unfortunately, Black women have to be super-human. That’s our nation’s problem—not hers. PS: Her husband, the first Second Gentleman, is fabulous; I caught a snippet of an interview Jonathan Capehart did with him, which will air tomorrow (Sunday), in which he denounces “toxic masculinity” and gives his definition of masculinity: caring for others and standing up to bullies. They seem very happy together—a fact that increases my comfort level even more.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Annie! Yes, she has been kept in the shadows, but in fairness, most VPs are. And yes, Black women have two strikes against them from the beginning and it’s a lot to overcome, but I think Kamala has done a great job keeping a level head and going about the business of doing the job she was elected to do. I love Jonathan Capehart and I’ll make sure to look for that video this morning! Thanks for the heads up! Like you, I think they seem like a well-adjusted, happy couple … not easy to achieve, given her position, and I find that comforting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The VP often lives in the shadow of any president. She seems to be doing a good job, but had she been the front runner, I am not sure she would have won the presidency. Her main hope is to have to take over from Biden so that she can prove her worth in the top job before the next election.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No, I would be money she could not have won the presidency, just as Hillary couldn’t. And it all boils down to one thing … women are still believed to be incapable of such a high position, at least by enough people — even a large number of women — who believe that. I agree … if she ascends to the office … mind you, I’m not wishing for anything to happen to Biden, for he is a good man and a good president — but if she does gain the Oval Office, she will have an opportunity to show the nation just how capable a woman is. The UK, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries have already learned this, but on this side of the Atlantic, we seem to be shrouded in ignorance in some ways.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had almost forgotten how beautiful she is. As for her qualifications, I think she could and would make a good president. We need more people like her, not worried about publicity or getting her name and face in the press and on TV all the time but doing the job she was elected to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I fully agree with you! I’m amazed by the number of people, including women, in this country who still believe that somehow women are incapable of being a good president. Think of Thatcher in the UK, Ardern in New Zealand, Merkel in Germany … but the U.S. … no, we are so far behind the times in our thinking. Although Hillary DID win the popular vote in 2016 by nearly 3 million votes! And yes, Kamala Harris is not a media hog, doesn’t care about being on the news 24/7, but would rather put nose to grindstone and do the job for which we elected her. I admire her greatly.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It is years past time for a woman to be President, especially since the men elected lately have run the country into the sewer and seem intent on keeping it that way. Women have been cleaning up the messes made by men for all eternity and are perfectly capable of cleaning up the one made by Trump as well. Not all women but Kamala is definitely one I would vote for if she ran for the rest of our lives. She is getting her part of the job done now and would have us back on track without a lot of fanfare or posturing on media of all kinds. But you are right about how even some women are reluctant to vote a woman in. They are the ones who don’t seem to mind being dominated by a man. Hopefully they will wake up and realize some day soon that the domineering men can’t get along without them and are hoping the women will never discover that fact. WAKE UP LADIES! THEY NEED US MORE THAN WE NEED THEM!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well said, my friend! I have long said that if Hillary had won the electoral college (she DID win the popular vote by nearly 3 million) and taken her seat in the Oval Office, the nation would have fared much, much better during those four years. But alas, the Republicans gerrymandered their own unqualified candidate into the Oval and we will be cleaning up his messes for the next 50 years!

          Liked by 1 person

          • How long has the Oval Office been for sale to the highest bidder? It seems to me that it has been years since only qualified people ran for Prez, but maybe I’m dreaming. But the fact is that women should have been running for President at least since the ’60’s. So many of us have bought into the man as our only source of income/life/love/resources/god I know too many women who think they have to have a man in their lives. They run for a new husband or lover minutes after the old one is officially out of their lives Sad!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Good question, my friend. The qualifications per the Constitution are fairly simple … age, citizenship, residence. But for as long as I can remember, candidates had experience in government and at least some form of relevant education. Apparently with Trump, that all flew out the door, although Biden certainly has both the experience AND the education. Hillary Clinton also had both, as did President Obama, so I wouldn’t say it’s been years since only qualified people ran, but already the 2024 election is looking a lot like the clown exhibition in a Barnum & Bailey circus! Like you, I know too many women who are still shackled to the 1950s and before mentality that a woman “needs” a man and that she is secondary to him. It is sad, and it is … in my view anyway … a lack of education that feeds those views. We simply MUST do a better job educating people!!! Instead, we’re turning the clock back!!!

              Liked by 1 person

              • I hear that, my friend. Unfortunately the young people are being educated by older people who have formed so many wrong decisions. Too many of them are trying to rewrite history or deny what is written They are also getting a first hand view of how dirty politics can be rather than examples of the good people out there who refuse to run because of all the mud that is slung. I sure wouldn’t want to be in politics. All the lies are being told as truth and what example have we set for them lately? Trump, DeSantis et al. It confuses me so what is it doing to the young who see their parents voting for sleazy fast talkers who can afford to buy the office while the ones who should be getting the votes are left out just because they didn’t have a rich relative behind them. The only good answer is not legal and I’m against murder anyway. One of my brothers wanted to immigrate to Australia but they had closed the borders to Americans at that time. It’s enough to make me throw up my hands and cry. Butt that would just cause a bad headache without changing a single thing for those coming behind me. Ah, what’s the point any more. I know I have to change that attitude but again, what’s the point. We’ve been lazy for so long, not encouraging people to vote, accepting the candidates pushed before us as if they were angels from on high..

                I’m pretty tired right now so this might have been the wrong time to think about it all. I’m going to attempt to post something and then go to sleep — unless of course I fall asleep trying to write a post that makes sense. Hang in there my friend and take care of yourself. You are the voice of reason in a crazy world.


  4. As much as I admire and appreciated Kamala Harris as a congresswoman I didn’t feel she was the right choice for VP, ( she had no personal experience in foreign affairs and many other facets required to be President. Of the US) I did feel that she was selected to appease particular voter groups. Many of my friends have said they voted for Biden despite his VP choice and would not feel comfortable with Harris as a President. I fear should he run again she will be more of an issue than before.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well … I do understand the concerns, and you’re right, she came into the position with very little experience in foreign affairs. But remember … the former ‘president’ had even less experience with any affairs (other than those we won’t mention), either foreign or domestic. He had never even read the U.S. Constitution. I’m certain that in part the decision to choose Ms. Harris was diversity … it’s far past time for this nation to accept that women and people of colour are just as capable, intelligent, and qualified as white males. However, she had 20 years in government, more experience than many who have held the title. As I said, I do understand your concerns and others, but I think that she might surprise you, given half a chance. I hope so, at any rate. Think of this … if Biden dies, and if something happens to Kamala, Kevin McCarthy is next in the line of succession! Compared to Kevin, Kamala is 10 thousand times more qualified!

      Liked by 1 person

      • There’s absolutely no comparison between The twice impeached disgraced insurrection former president with President Biden or VP Harris. I would vote for most anyone opposing the con man in order to save our democracy. That’s the point, we need very high quality candidates to defeat MAGA extremists and too many voters are turned off by the thought of Harris as President in the event It came to that. I am simply saying Harris was a big mistake , as much as I like and admire her ( pardon the repetition) and now it’s too late to choose a more suitable V P running mate.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Agreed! And yes, the Democratic Party needs to be polishing and parading some of their most qualified candidates for the future. At the moment, much as Democrats keep saying that ‘Biden is too old’, they really do not have a viable alternative. I think eventually Pete Buttigieg might be a good candidate, but he needs more experience and needs more positive exposure. Others? I don’t know.


  5. Jill, thanks for sharing this piece. Irrespective of the veracity of her job performance, in this tribal political environment, it is imperative for opposition, be it Republican or progressive Democrats, to paint her (and Biden) far more poorly than warranted. As with Biden, she is doing a pretty good job. Just helping return the White House to normalcy from the chaotic predecessor is a huge step forward. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, compared to the previous administration, they are doing great. Unfortunately, much of what they’ve both had to spend their time on is, as you say, cleaning up the messes left by the former guy. I’m frankly tired of the constant criticism from both Republicans AND Democrats. Seems like we should be thankful we have a team in the White House who actually understand what good governance is and who remember that at the end of the day, they work for We the People.


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