February 12, 2024 - 7:00pm

Joe Biden’s advanced age lends an unusually heavy weight to his choice of a running mate, Vice President Kamala Harris. 

A recent Department of Justice investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents found the President to be “an elderly man with a poor memory” – so much so that a jury would likely not convict him of a “felony which requires a mental state of wilfulness”. During DOJ interviews, Biden did not remember when he was vice president or when his son had died, according to the report. 

“I am ready to serve. There’s no question about that,” Harris told the Wall Street Journal days before the report was published, adding that those who see her on the job are “fully aware of my capacity to lead”. 

Harris only spent one term in the US Senate before entering the White House, but her short time in office, her 2020 presidential primary campaign and her time in Californian politics paint a picture of what her presidency might look like. 

Crime

Harris’s work as a prosecutor, district attorney and attorney general of California has haunted her political career, with critics calling her a “cop” and pointing to her record of defending the police, raising San Francisco’s conviction rate and criminalising truancy for parents. 

As she rose up the ranks of the Democratic Party, she became increasingly sceptical of the police and has more recently called for ending the death penalty, ending federal mandatory minimum sentences and solitary confinement, and legalising marijuana. She urged her X/Twitter followers to donate to a bail fund to help get protesters out of jail in the summer of 2020. 

Her complicated record on crime leaves much to the imagination about how she would handle the issue in a future presidency. But rising public concern about crime creates an opening for a Democrat with prosecutorial bona fides to shed the party’s soft-on-crime reputation. 

Immigration

As president, Harris would likely be soft on immigration. She was one of only three Democrats in the US Senate to vote against a compromise that would have created a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, immigrants who were brought to the US illegally as children, while funding the border wall. She pushed for the resignation of Donald Trump’s Homeland Security secretary over family separations at the border.

Amid record-breaking illegal immigration under the Biden administration, Harris has focused on the “root causes” of immigration, promoting security and stronger economies in Central America. 

Social issues

Harris was one of the first American politicians to publicly endorse gay marriage, officiating same sex-marriages in 2004 as San Francisco’s district attorney which were eventually voided by the Supreme Court of California because it did not recognise same-sex marriage at the time. She has come out against state legislation restricting child gender transitions. 

The Vice President also toes the party line on affirmative action, which she has consistently supported. 

Healthcare

The California Democrat supported Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All in the Senate, but as a presidential primary candidate she moderated her position, calling for a choice for individuals between Medicare and heavily regulated private insurance. She has also consistently supported legal abortion

Trade and foreign policy

As Vice President, Harris has pledged that the US would support Ukraine in its war with Russia for “as long as it takes”.

In the Middle East, the Veep supports a two-state solution and Israel’s right to defend itself, and opposes BDS. She has strayed from her party on military spending, and in 2019 was one of only 10 Democratic senators who voted against a massive defence budget. 

Harris is sceptical of free trade agreements, which she says do not do enough to protect American workers and have inadequate environmental standards. She has said she would not have voted in favour of Nafta. 

She came out against Trump’s tariffs on China in 2018, arguing that they hurt American consumers, though she supported Trump’s inquiry into Chinese theft of intellectual property and has voiced concern about the CCP’s treatment of Uyghurs. 


Laurel Duggan is UnHerd’s US correspondent.