Party members were too slow to publicly acknowledge her many flaws
Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a telling interview earlier this week. First, when asked whether Joe Biden should run for re-election in 2024, Warren responded with an enthusiastic yes. But when asked if Biden should pick Kamala Harris again as his vice-president, Warren deflected and refused to say whether Harris should be on the Democratic ticket.
This might seem inconsequential, but it’s not. Warren is one of the most powerful politicians in the Democratic Party, and her comment is part of a broader trend of Democrats publicly expressing doubts about Harris. A Washington Post article published on Monday included comments from over a dozen Democratic leaders and activists who are disappointed with Harris’s tenure as vice president and see her as a political and electoral liability.
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It’s good that Democrats are finally coming to this realisation and are confident enough to say so publicly, because Harris is indeed political deadweight. The problem is that this realisation has come far too late. If this scepticism had been aired publicly a year or two ago, then Biden could have begun laying the groundwork to select a different running mate. But this late into the game, Biden has no realistic option other than to choose Harris again as his second-in-command. Dropping her from the ticket would bring intense backlash from corners of the party that would see it as a snub to the first black female vice-president. That is a political risk that Biden, an old white man at the head of a party that’s increasingly obsessed with identity, cannot afford.
The fundamental problem for Democrats is that Biden turns 81 this year and would be 82 by the time of his second inauguration. It’s entirely possible that he might face a health crisis midway through the campaign or during his second term, and Harris would have to fill in for him on the campaign trail or in the White House. Such a situation would likely spell disaster for the Democrats. Harris’s 2020 presidential run was a mess, and she’s accomplished little in the White House other than occasionally going viral for embarrassing interviews or public appearances. Nothing suggests that Harris would suddenly become competent were she to get a promotion.
In other words, Democrats sleepwalked into making Harris the heir to Biden’s presidency because they were reluctant to publicly acknowledge her many flaws. And while some within the party are finally beginning to speak up, it’s too late to make any difference. Seeing this unfold has been like watching an oil tanker slowly heading for an iceberg. And only when the ship is just about to crash does the crew finally realise what is happening and try to change course.
If there’s any silver lining for Democrats, it’s that the party may learn a valuable lesson: in the long run, treating politicians with kid gloves is unwise. Because when it’s taboo to criticise your party’s top brass, then flawed politicians like Harris are able to climb their way into leadership positions. And by the time everyone else realises what’s happening and finds the nerve to speak up, it’s too late.