opinion | Give Kamala Harris the credit she deserves
Vice President Kamala Harris occupies a position that can be the subject of jokes and criticism. The vice president’s only duties, set out in the constitution, are to cast crucial votes in the Senate and become president when the office becomes vacant.
I’ve never run for government office, but as a black woman who’s worked in politics my whole life — including managing Vice President Al Gore’s unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2000 — I know what it’s like to be underrated, overrated and being underestimated and unfairly criticized, as was Ms. Harris. And yet I’ve never been under such a glaring spotlight as you.
I’ve been observing politicians up close for decades. And I’ve known Vice President Harris for years and have urged Joe Biden to make her his running mate in 2020. I believe that the criticism of her has nothing to do with her performance as Vice President and does not take into account the role she plays in the White House.
As a consistent and successful vice president himself for eight years under Barack Obama, President Biden has a keen understanding of the work he once held and has entrusted Vice President Harris with great responsibility. She has done an excellent job and her record in two years is not inferior to that of her predecessors. Did she solve every problem? No, but name me a vice president who has.
We should think about our expectations of the vice presidency. It wasn’t until the presidency of Jimmy Carter and the role that Vice President Walter Mondale played in foreign and domestic policy that the job became more than a ceremonial office. Vice President Harris rows third in severance ties with Senate (and first in first two years in office) after John C. Calhoun and John Adams. While some claim that her Senate duties have narrowed her sphere of influence, the reality is that Ms. Harris regularly traveled across the country to meet with Americans even as she was casting the crucial vote on important legislation designed to improve Americans’ lives people, including anti-inflation law.
To advance President Biden’s goal of strengthening America’s foreign alliances, Ms. Harris has met (mostly in person) with more than 100 world leaders to repair the damage Donald Trump has done to our international relationships. At the Munich Security Conference in February, she announced that the Biden administration had officially concluded that Russia was guilty of “crimes against humanity” in its war against Ukraine, and warned China not to blame Russia in its war against Ukraine support invasion. She helped raise them through public-private partnerships over $4.2 billion to address the root cause of migration from Central America.
Ms. Harris has pushed federal legislation to secure voting rights, worked to expand access to child taxes and earned income tax credits, co-chairs the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, and has been an integral part The White House push to have Americans vaccinated against Covid and the chairman of the National Space Council.
Questions have been raised about the eligibility of almost any vice president to move into the Oval Office if the president dies or is otherwise unable to continue in office. Mr. Biden knew what he was doing when he selected Ms. Harris as his vice president and was confident that she would be up to the task of succeeding him if necessary. I hope that never happens, but if tragedy does occur, Mr. Biden’s judgment will be proven correct.
Ms. Harris has more experience of elected office than several previous presidents and vice presidents – a successful track record that began in 2004 as San Francisco District Attorney and California Attorney General and spanned four years as a US Senator. In contrast, Presidents Trump, Dwight Eisenhower, Ulysses S. Grant, Herbert Hoover and Zachary Taylor never held an elected office before he becomes president. Many other presidents have had fewer years in elected office than Ms. Harris.
Ms. Harris was derided by some as an affirmative action stance, perhaps because Mr. Biden pledged to select a female running mate when campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination.
On many occasions when people of color and women have climbed the corporate ladder, we have heard criticism that they have advanced solely because of their race and/or gender. Such was the case last year during the confirmation trial for Ketanji Brown Jackson, a brilliant and exceptionally qualified lawyer who is the first black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
For too many Americans, the idea that people of color and women got their jobs because of their qualifications, experience and talents is hard to believe. Perhaps that’s because for most of American history, white men were the only people considered for high-level jobs, which to them was tantamount to positive action.
And as the first woman, African American and Asian American, to serve as vice president, Ms. Harris was arguably subject to greater — and of a different kind — scrutiny than previous vice presidents.
The Clothing And Shoes she wears that role of their spouse (Doug Emhoff, America’s First Second Gentleman), like her laughs sometimesher cooking skills And employee turnover in her office all have attracted more attention than their predecessors.
Mr Emhoff summarized the challenges his wife is facing an interview in 2021. “She has faced challenges as a trailblazer throughout her career,” he said. “When you break barriers, there is shattering, and shattering means sometimes you get cut, but that’s okay.”
In doing so, Vice President Harris is fulfilling the dream of empowering black women promoted by the Rev. Willie T. Barrowa black woman, the field organizer for Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and co-chair of Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition and a supporter of his presidential campaigns.
Ms. Barrow, who inspired me when I was a young staff member on Mr. Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign, died in 2015 at the age of 90. 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 awards 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 pioneers in the civil rights movement paved the way for Ms. Harris to become 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 through barriers before her. It shouldn’t be that hard for a leader like Ms. Harris, so visible in the office she holds, to get some recognition where recognition is due.
Donna Brazile teaches in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at Georgetown University and writes for ABC News.
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https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/02/opinion/kamala-harris-vice-president-expectations.html opinion | Give Kamala Harris the credit she deserves