The scrutiny of Kamala Harris
President Biden had a cancerous lesion successfully removed from his chest last month that was just reported. At 80, questions continue about his fitness to serve a second term. Questions also abound concerning Vice President Harris’ job performance and ability to lead the country if Biden cannot. And the questions are from various corners of the political spectrum — GOP, Fox News, and even Democrats.
After two years in office, Harris struggles to carve out a lane for herself, and she feels the weight of being the first Black and Asian American to be the nation’s VP. However, with an approval rating no higher than 39 percent from multiple polls, can Harris convince the American public for a second term?
Harris supporters contest that she is set up to fail with unwinnable assignments, like curbing the influx of immigration from Central America and expanding restrictive voting rights in GOP stronghold states. Both Republicans and Democrats, however, are unhappy with Harris’ job performance on immigration.
Republicans are having a field day pointing to the unstoppable high volume of migrant crossings and drug trafficking under her watch. They assert that Harris’ ineptitude as the border czar has aided and abetted Mexican drug cartels in intentionally contributing to the high incidents of fentanyl deaths in the U.S.
Republicans have made Harris the face of Biden’s immigration policy to win political ground in 2024. However, Harris isn’t scoring high within her party, either.
The Democratic party is holding out on enthusiastically endorsing Harris for a second term. Last month on Boston Public Radio, Elizabeth Warren full-throatedly endorsed Biden. However, when it came to Harris, she demurred, sending shockwaves throughout the party. When asked why she was not endorsing Harris now, Warren stated on BPR, “That wasn’t a hard no, but it wasn’t a hard yes either.”
Harris is between a rock and a hard place within her party. She stirred debate, ire and criticism in the progressive wing and with immigrant rights groups when she emphatically told Guatemalans “Do not come” to the U.S. because they will be turned away. Her directive was seen as a betrayal to immigrants seeking asylum, reactionary to right-wing pressure, and tone-deaf to why many flee their countries.
Harris blew up social media with her remarks. Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lambasted Harris on Twitter, stating, “It would be helpful if the U.S. would finally acknowledge its contributions to destabilization and regime change in the region. Doing so can help us change U.S. foreign policy, trade policy, climate policy, & carceral border policy to address causes of mass displacement & migration.”
The job of the VP is to support the president. Harris has to be politically adroit not to outshine Biden or to disappear in his shadow. Striking the right balance is difficult in this polarized era, especially for a woman of color in power who identifies as Black. The “angry Black woman” trope hovers over all sisters of African descent. Harris runs the risk of being too loud, too forceful, not knowing her place, not staying in her lane and being arrogant. Harris must walk a tightrope to avoid this misogynoir trope when asserting her power and authority. Research shows that Harris is one of the most targeted politicians on the Internet, and Fox News runs a constant thread of bogus articles about her.
The intersectionality of her race and gender is weaponized to discredit her ability. It’s unsurprising to women and people of color that Harris’ appointment as the highest-profile point person on immigration policy that previous administrations couldn’t resolve is a setup for failure.
Her blunders are magnified and her victories muted. “People need to cut Kamala some slack … she’s got a tough job. She’s not an eloquent speaker like Obama, but she’s strong in her delivery,” Corinne Copper, a white Southerner of Lewisville, North Carolina, told me. “Vice President Harris has cast the tie-breaking vote 26 times in an evenly split Senate. Her position may prove essential with women’s reproductive freedom under attack.”
Harris has accomplished a lot since taking office. Alongside Biden, Harris has helped America get vaccinated, helped rebuild the economy due to COVID, led Congress to protect voter’s rights by building a broad and diverse coalition, expanded workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain, and championed women’s issues and reproductive justice since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, as well as maternal health and child poverty.
In 2024, Harris will have my vote again.
Irene Monroe is a theologian and news commentator.