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  • Eliot Fuller

The Missed Opportunity of Vice President Harris

In 2008, Barack Obama defeated John McCain to become America’s first black president. It was a historic moment, and I’m willing to bet a lot of people remember where they were when the news first broke. I certainly do, even though I was just six years old at the time. 12 years later, Kamala Harris made electoral history of her own, becoming the first woman to serve as vice president in our nation's history. She’s also the first person of color to hold the office. Harris and Obama may seem to tell a similar story, but less than a full term into Kamala’s tenure as vice president, we’ve seen major indications that they may not end up standing together on history’s stage.

Barack Obama’s election was undeniably the story of the year in 2008. He was the most famous man in America. He immediately implemented his legacy as one of the most important and well-known figures in American history. He drew the largest inauguration crowd ever, with over a million people there to witness history being made. Obama often looms larger than life, while Kamala Harris seems to have shrunk into the shadows. She’s served as vice president for nearly three years now and currently sits at an approval rating of just 37%. We don’t see her often, despite the historic nature of her role. It’s unclear how frequently she and President Biden talk, nor do people have a solid perception of their relationship. You don’t see shirts or hats with her name on them, like you might for someone like Obama. None of this is a knock on the Vice President—I like her, I have a ton of respect for her, and I think she’s done some good work throughout her political career. But why is there a general lack of enthusiasm for someone of such historical nature?

To answer that question, we have to remind ourselves that Harris is a woman in politics. Women in politics have long faced a series of challenges, specifically the issue of likability—just ask Hillary Clinton. If Vice President Harris laughs too much, she’s seen as unserious and gets treated like a joke. If she doesn't laugh enough, people think she’s uptight. When she raises her voice, she’s too intense, and when she gets emotional or angry, people ask if it’s her time of the month. No matter how she conducts herself, she can’t win under the scrutiny of the public eye.

It’s also worth exploring the complete and total failure of the Biden administration to utilize Harris’s role correctly. She should be given far more opportunities to speak, and any time the camera’s rolling, she should be found somewhere in the shot. She works alongside an 80-year-old man who often rambles and stutters—why not prop her up as the fresh, eloquent face of the administration? Instead of being given tasks like serving as the border czar, a position that was given to her by Biden in 2021, Vice President Harris should lead the charge on issues that are more manageable and popular in the public eye. It’s hard to handle the southern border in a way that’s generally well-received, and as tensions over immigration grow, she ends up taking the blame for a lot of our current system's negative aspects. It should also be made very clear to the public that Harris is a key player in our federal government—not someone who’s fallen off against the backdrop of her elderly running mate.

Harris was originally supposed to be a transitional candidate, potentially taking over from Biden after his first term as president. Instead, she finds herself even less popular than he is, and the only time people see her is in “Kamala Harris cringe” videos on social media. The vice presidency is a hard position to thrive in because nobody really knows what that individual does on a daily basis. But her team, along with White House strategists, needs to create a new approach for her role. Kamala Harris is a historical first. History should remember her fondly as both a giant of the feminist movement and a relevant governing figure. Let’s make sure she gets the credit she deserves and is given an opportunity to thrive. Vice President Harris can easily find herself one day alongside Obama on the decorated walls of our nation's past, but there needs to be some changes before this can be ensured.



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