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The year 2022 should be too early to get into heated speculation about the Democrats’ 2024 candidate for president. But since it’s already begun, now would be a good time to resist arguments for making Vice President Kamala Harris the nominee.
First off, the current president, Joe Biden, has not ruled out seeking reelection. Though up in years, Biden is overseeing a functional presidency. The economy is boffo. And he got passed a desperately needed infrastructure plan that eluded his predecessor, forceful tweets notwithstanding.
Such a program, Donald Trump tweeted in March 2020, “should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!”
So where was it?
A second term for Biden is not to be dismissed, especially if Republicans decide to choose another whack job more intent on dismantling the democracy than rebuilding roads, bridges and water systems. Or the same whack job, for that matter.
But we digress. As Biden’s vice president, Harris has not done anything very objectionable, and she’s brilliant in some ways. But her political skills are plainly lacking. That’s why her Democratic cheering squad needs to be countered.
Harris’s penchant for identity politics is both dated and political poison. Recall her performance in the first Democratic presidential debate, back in 2020, when she all but called Biden a racist for allegedly being against busing children to desegregate schools. Declaring herself “the only black person on this stage” was her claim to authority on such matters.
As it turned out, the federally mandated busing in the ‘70s was roundly disliked by whites and Blacks alike. She also misrepresented Biden’s position. He was opposed to forced busing, not the voluntary kind. Harris later said that this was, actually, her position as well.
Harris’ obvious mission was to unfairly smear a primary opponent, and the hell with Democratic solidarity. Although she self-dramatized as a member of a disadvantaged racial minority, her mother was, in fact, a medical researcher from India, and her Jamaican father was a professor of economics at Stanford University. (That Biden made her his running mate surprises me to this day.)
Even now Harris is doing the identity thing, complaining that the news coverage of her would be different if she were white and male like the other vice presidents. You don’t hear that victim talk from Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina born to Indian immigrants — and possible member of the Republican ticket in 2024. The busing issue was long ago, but Republicans would undoubtedly move it front and center should Harris be the nominee.
As vice president, Harris had been tasked with addressing border issues. But when Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat representing part of the Rio Grande Valley, had staff call Harris’ office to discuss her upcoming visit, no one bothered to call him back. He said that from now on, he’d go directly to the president’s office to discuss problems at the border rather than the vice president’s.
Harris is very much a product of the coastal liberal establishment in a party whose House leader is from San Francisco and Senate leader is from New York City. This year, Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart has written no fewer than three adulatory columns about Harris. One imagines she returns his calls.
Democrats badly need voices from the rest of the country in positions of prominence. That and Harris’ lack of nuance in dealing with genuinely complicated issues should prompt Democrats to look elsewhere for their next presidential candidate. All this assumes, of course, that Biden doesn’t run again. He very well might.