Vice President: With President Biden attempting to put out fires on several fronts, questions are being asked around Vice President Kamala Harris’ role in the administration. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter. Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore (CC 2.0)
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Roughly a week ago, we noted that it’s been a tough stretch for President Joe Biden. Various polls showed his approval rating has fallen to its lowest point since he took office. Afghanistan, inflation, and immigration represent the president’s greatest struggles. On the last point, however, Biden set out to delegate some of his responsibilities to his number two: Vice President Kamala Harris. In March, Biden announced that Harris “will be the White House’s point person on immigration issues at the nation’s southern border,” Eugene Daniels reported for POLITICO at the time. Now, obviously, this issue isn’t an overnight fix. At the same time, it doesn’t appear to be getting any better. On Wednesday, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed there were more than 200,000 migrant encounters at the southern border in August. This marks the second month in a row that the number has surpassed 200,000 and a 317% increase over last August 2020, which saw 50,014 encounters. In regards to not only immigration but other topics bogging down the Biden administration, the president has been hit with most of the flak. This makes sense since the buck ultimately stops with him, but it does beg the question: where’s Kamala? Here’s what both sides are saying.
On The Left
Left-leaning commentators believe the vice president is caught between a rock and hard place. President Biden has tasked her with two of the thorniest issues out there—immigration and voting rights. Some are concerned about her popularity, while others think she will be just fine.
“Kamala Harris is in a really tough spot” Raul Reyes, CNN: “She needs to be better prepared to discuss migration, and to sell President Joe Biden’s policies to the American public. And this will be no easy task, given that the GOP — and by extension, conservative media outlets — often rely on simplistic views of a complex situation. … When it comes to immigration, it is a waste of time for the Biden administration to try to blunt partisan attacks. Consider that Republicans have seized on Harris’ [June] trip [to Guatemala] as a failure, emphasizing that she has not visited the border. … The administration needs to come up with more succinct messaging to counter the GOP’s very successful and inaccurate fearmongering. It is time for the Biden administration to make a firm break with the failed, inhumane policies of the past– and that will ensure more support from progressives. … It [also] may well be that as a woman of color and a daughter of immigrants Harris is being held to an impossible standard for success. Multiple administrations have wrestled with problems at the border, and people expect Harris to solve it in a matter of months?”
“Kamala Harris Can’t Find a Lot of Support, Even Among Her Supporters” Ian Spiegelman, LA Mag: “With Vice President Kamala Harris coming up short in one favorability poll after another … even the people who want to see her succeed worry that it just might not be doable. The Los Angeles Times spoke to voters in Democratic bastion Philadelphia as well as the key swing area of Bucks County … and Harris’s detractors and fans said much the same things: namely, that they don’t see a lot of her; that Biden has stuck her with a miserable To-Do list; and that racism and misogyny will remain formidable hurdles. … Conversely, Biden’s successes shine no light at all on Harris for some voters. … Some voters, like Philadelphia administrative assistant Edwina Thompson, a Black woman who declined to give her age, think that while racism and sexism are making Harris’s problems much worse than they’d be for a white man, she also isn’t doing herself many favors. ‘She’s got her act together, but sometimes when she says things, it comes across a bit abrasive and maybe too aggressive.'”
“Why Kamala Harris will be hitting the campaign trail” Noah Bierman, Los Angeles Times: “Her advisors have yet to plot an agenda for her in 2022 but promise a robust one. … [The advisors point to] Harris’ success in raising campaign cash and the number of requests she’d gotten from local candidates and parties. Data from the Democratic National Committee show she is second only to Biden in raising money through emails and social media, with the ability to connect with 73 million people on such platforms. … Former Vice President Mike Pence had similar polling numbers at this point in his tenure and was widely regarded as a valuable surrogate. He was often deployed to groups in his sweet spot, including evangelicals and business Republicans. Harris may be deployed in a similar manner. But modern elections are based on turnout from core supporters. So there’s a case to be made that she can help get the vote out in highly contested states including Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, and North Carolina.”
On The Right
Right-leaning commentators show no mercy for the vice president, saying her absence is notable and not in a good way. A few harp on her lack of press conferences and think that keeping her from the public eye is actually the wrong decision.
“Kamala Harris has accomplished the rare feat of being invisible and unpopular” Greg Gutfeld, Fox News: “So it’s been really hard to gauge the vice president’s performance during this Afghanistan fiasco. Mainly because she’s been harder to find than a non-binary Taliban leader, which basically means he sleeps with both women and goats. It’s almost like she was abducted by aliens! And not the ones pouring across our southern border. And honestly, I am starting to miss her. Her gravitas. Her sincerity. Her compassion towards looters and arsonists. But also, I really miss, her soothing laugh. … Fact is, Harris has been as quiet as Don Lemon after he sees his ratings. She’s been as closed mouth as our president when he loses his chompers. … Since she took office, she’s not held one solo press conference. And she’s no longer doing one-on-one [interviews]. Wow, what a powerful display of feminism. … One shouldn’t be surprised. This is what happens when you’re chosen based only on intersectionality, not competence. … It’s a rare feat to be both invisible and unpopular. Which might be why Kamala’s secret service code name is silent but deadly. She’s the human version of carbon monoxide.”
“The absentee VP by design” Joe Concha, The Hill: “Kamala Harris may have crashed and burned as a 2020 presidential candidate, dropping out well before the first votes were cast in Iowa. But Biden chose her as his running mate anyway. It’s not clear exactly what Harris brought to the ticket outside of checking off a few demographic boxes. Foreign policy credentials? Nope. Business experience? None. A track record of working with Republicans to pass important legislation? Not even close. In fact, an analysis by the nonpartisan GovTrack showed that she was the most liberal member of the Senate, even further to the left than democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). … Last year, then-Vice President Mike Pence held dozens of press conferences as the head of the White House coronavirus task force, taking tough questions on an almost daily basis from the onset of the pandemic. Since Harris took office, she has yet to hold even one formal solo press conference. Not one. … If the White House thinks its strategy of keeping Harris out of sight, out of mind is working, they should think again. Because we haven’t seen vice presidential approval numbers this low so early in an administration since Dan Quayle under George H.W. Bush.”
“Kamala Harris has officially been thrown under the bus, and for good reasons” Jazz Shaw, Hot Air: “The bits of business supposedly assigned to the Veep have either been catastrophic (Border Czar) or off of everyone’s radar. (What was she doing in Vietnam while Afghanistan was going up in flames?) … The rumor mill inside the Beltway suggests that Kamala Harris’ handlers are intentionally keeping her out of the limelight. … Perhaps that’s why the press was blocked off from her when she recently stopped in Hawaii to tour Pearl Harbor. … It’s kind of amazing to see Harris racking up numbers that poor when she’s barely been visible since the day she was sworn in. … The Invisible Veep may turn out to be more of a problem for the Democrats in 2022 and 2024 than anyone is imagining yet at this point. And this strategy of keeping her out of the public eye doesn’t seem to be helping as much as the team thinks it is.”
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According to a Los Angeles Times analysis of polling data (cited by Noah Bierman above), Harris is, on average, viewed negatively by 49% of voters, compared with 43% who give her a positive rating. “The hits on Harris’ numbers have come from a variety of places, some surprising.” Bierman continues, “Only 36% of voters under the age of 30 approve of her, for example, compared with 49% who disapprove, according to YouGov. That’s a steady drop from earlier this year, when she won approval from a plurality of younger voters.” For some historical perspective, at the end of August, an NBC survey found she currently has the lowest ratings since Al Gore in 1993.
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