Many Americans are now looking at Kamala Harris as if for the first time

Many Americans are now looking at Kamala Harris as if for the first time

Elaina Plott Calabro writes:

When Ron Klain admitted to me a year ago that the White House could have worked harder to elevate Kamala Harris’s profile, he didn’t know that the Democratic Party, and perhaps American democracy itself, would soon be riding on her readiness to be president. But perhaps he should have.

It was July 2023, and while interviewing President Joe Biden’s former chief of staff in his law office in downtown Washington, D.C., I’d asked if the administration had done enough to showcase Harris as a governing partner to the oldest president in history. Promoting one’s vice president is “always hard,” Klain, who was known to be an advocate of Harris’s, told me then. “Obviously, I wish, you know—you could always do more, and you should do more.”

Four months before the election, and one week after Biden’s disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump, Harris’s capacity to lead the Democratic Party and the free world has never been more relevant. And yet many Americans, after three years of the West Wing’s poor stewardship of Harris, are now looking at their vice president as if for the first time.

In another version of the Biden presidency, this would indeed be Kamala Harris’s moment. A growing list of prominent Democrats, including Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina and, in a conversation with me this week, Senator Laphonza Butler of California, are touting Harris as the candidate best positioned to take on Trump in the event that Biden decides to withdraw from the race. Tim Ryan, the former congressman from Ohio who challenged both Biden and Harris in the 2020 Democratic primary, has taken his support one step further, calling on the president to “rip the band aid off” and promote Harris immediately. A recent CNN poll shows the vice president now running closer to Trump than the president is.

It is precisely the sort of moment that the 81-year-old Biden had once professed to anticipate, or at the very least to be ready for: when, after assessing soberly the diminishing returns of his leadership, he would stand aside for a new generation. But if you believe Biden ever took seriously that it could come to this, that he would be pressured to cede his party’s leadership to her, then I have a bridge to sell you in Wilmington.

That would be the same bridge, of course, that Biden marketed to voters in 2020, when he pitched his presidency as a reset to a nation clamoring for normalcy, a lawn-tending exercise just until the party’s next leader was ready to step in. “Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” he said in March 2020, campaigning alongside then-Senator Harris, Senator Cory Booker, and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a few months before he formally selected Harris as his running mate. “There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.”

Four years later, it is fair to ask how seriously Biden ever took the work of bridge-building. [Continue reading…]

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