Saturday, November 13, 2021

Is Vice-President Kamala Harris Irrelevant?

Being the Vice-President can be a thankless job. Other than being a "break in the case of emergency" Presidential replacement and voting to break ties in the Senate the Vice-President doesn't have much power in our political system. 
The influence and power of the Vice-President is entirely up to the President. Some Vice-Presidents, most notably Dick Cheney in recent years, have convinced Presidents to give them their own power center and set of responsibilities, or have been tacitly or openly acknowledged to be key Presidential advisers. Some Vice-Presidents influence access to the President. 
But most Vice-Presidents spend their time  duly repeating whatever talking points the Administration wants emphasized, attending funerals, and avoiding contradicting the President or otherwise embarrassing the Administration. Stand behind the President, look supportive and clap when  it's time to do so.  It's a pretty low bar to reach.
So if you happen to be a Kamala Harris supporter, it's probably a bit of a downer to see that Vice-President Harris is apparently having a bit of trouble reaching that minimal "meets expectations" B minus job evaluation. 
Harris' portfolio was supposed to be immigration and voting rights. Nothing substantively progressive has occurred on either of those fronts. 
In fact it seems as if after splashy announcements that Vice-President Harris would be overseeing the Administration's initiatives on those subjects Harris disappeared from view. Perhaps she had no interest in either subject. 
Perhaps she realized that both areas were out of her ability to influence. 
Whatever the case it is a fact that the Biden Administration has been unable to influence enough Senators to vote to make federal laws that would reverse the Supreme Court's gutting of the Voting Rights Act or to stop many Republican dominated states from putting in more seemingly neutral laws specifically designed to prevent Black voters from exercising their franchise. 
In addition illegal border crossings are at levels not seen before.
Apparently some people are in their feelings about Harris' seeming lack of progress on her assigned initiatives. CNN pundit and former Democratic Representative Bakari Sellers claimed that Harris' portfolio was trash and that the President wasn't supporting her. I think that claiming that your friend's work is too hard might not be the best way of making her look good to detractors. Perhaps in retribution for this comment,  some White House personnel involved in immigration debates said that Harris was "completely irrelevant".
One reflection of the White House’s struggles is the low profile of Vice President Kamala Harris, who has little role in the internal debates, the current and former officials said, including two who characterized her as “completely irrelevant.”

A Harris aide said the vice president is regularly briefed on immigration, together with Biden and separately. Harris is also in touch with the president on major decisions, said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the dynamic.
Biden last spring tasked Harris with addressing the “root causes” of illegal migration from Central America. She quickly fell into a political morass of Republican mockery and left-wing outrage at her calls for migrants to stay home.

Since then, Harris has mostly kept her distance from border issues, and the growing share of migrants arriving from beyond Mexico and Central America has left the root-causes strategy looking inadequate.

Now obviously some of this is just the normal back and forth political backstabbing, scapegoating, and blameshifting that occurs in any organization with more than two people. It is what it is. 
But given that Harris has a lower approval rating than her boss and has previously shown incompetence when pressed (see her primary campaign which imploded in truly spectacular fashion) it's fair to wonder if (a) Harris is attempting to operate above her capacity and (b) if Harris will still be around for the 2024 ticket. 
Yes it's very early. Things will probably become politically better for the Biden Administration between now and 2024. 
But if I give someone some assignments I don't want to hear that the person is completely irrelevant to the success or failure of those assignments. I'd rather see someone working, doing their best, and messing things up than someone pretending that they didn't hear me give them some work to do.
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