Just Don’t Stand Out

She originally wanted to become president herself. As vice president, Kamala Harris mostly works in the background. However, in a potential second term, her role is likely to change.

Kamala Harris might have the most thankless job in the American government. As vice president, her main responsibilities are first, not to stand out negatively because that could be embarrassing for the president, and second, not to stand out positively because she could overshadow the president. According to this premise, she is doing outstanding work. Most of the time, she doesn’t stand out at all.

She recently traveled through Florida where she emphasized the importance of research on climate change. On Tuesday, the day of Joe Biden’s big announcement, she was scheduled to visit a NASA base in Maryland with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol, after all. This visit was also supposed to be mainly about the climate.

Her days are filled with appointments such as these, and while she sometimes complained at the beginning of her term that she wasn’t being assigned more important tasks, it seems that she has come to terms with things since then. Being No. 2 just doesn’t mean being almost No. 1. Vice presidents traditionally operate in no man’s land, staying prepared for emergencies. They step in if the president can no longer carry out the duties of office.

Eight presidents have died in office. Four died of natural causes; four fell victim to assassination, including Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. In such cases, No. 2 takes over. Cynics will say the only exception to this rule was during George W. Bush’s term while the president enjoyed good health throughout, but Vice President Dick Cheney was pulling the strings.

Bush was so perturbed by the gossip that, according to his memoirs, he considered firing Cheney at the beginning of his reelection campaign in 2004 in order to show that he really was in charge. He then reconsidered, perhaps at Cheney’s recommendation.

Whenever an incumbent president runs for reelection, there is speculation that he is looking for a new running mate. This speculation rarely becomes reality. In 1976, Gerald Ford fired Vice President Nelson Rockefeller in light of poor poll numbers and replaced him with Bob Dole. It was no use; Ford lost to Jimmy Carter. Dole later tried what many vice presidents eventually try: He ran for president himself. In 1996, he ran against Bill Clinton; however, he faced the persistent charge that he was far too old. Dole was 73 at the time, which, in comparison to next year’s anticipated candidates, is downright youthful. Once during Dole’s campaign, he referred to the previous evening’s Dodgers game; referring, however, to the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Dodgers moved to the West Coast in 1958 and had been called the Los Angeles Dodgers from that point on. The ever present critics consequently saw the matter as a matter of Dole either being senile or living in the 1950s.

Originally, Harris sought the presidency herself; running against Biden during the primaries. At one debate, she accused him of not advocating enough for Black children as a senator — an accusation Biden resented. After that attack, BIden’s wife, Jill Biden, used an expletive to describe Harris. Nevertheless, Biden later made her his No. 2. Harris became the first female and first Black vice president of the United States

As is so common in politics, there was also speculation this time about whether Biden would replace her. This proved to be about as credible as the people who try to sell New York City tourists tickets for the Staten Island Ferry, which is free. It is clear, at least since the video was released on Tuesday, that Biden will run with Harris once again. He essentially owes female and Black voters for his nomination as the Democratic candidate and for his election in 2020. It was, therefore, always considered unthinkable that he would show Harris the door.

The interesting question is what Harris plans for the future. For example, during his eight years as Ronald Reagan’s vice president, it was always clear to George H. W. Bush that he would seek the presidency, which he won in 1988. Four years later, he suffered the same fate as Dole, losing to Clinton.

If Biden wins reelection, Harris would begin a four-year term that would be more relevant than her first four years. The second half of a second term — especially for her — would be about positioning herself as a presidential candidate, which means she would have to break away from the old rule of not standing out as much as possible.

Biden, by the way, knows from experience what it’s like when people speculate about replacing a vice president. When Barack Obama’s poll numbers fell in 2011, there were rumors that he intended to replace Biden with Hillary Clinton. The White House later denied this. Obama and Biden campaigned together again in 2012 and won.

About this publication

About Michael Stehle 102 Articles
I am a graduate of the University of Maryland with a BA in Linguistics and Germanic Studies. I have a love for language and I find translation to be both an engaging activity as well as an important process for connecting the world.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply