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Columnists

Dismissing Kamala Harris Is Political Naivete

Leading the way among widely respected left-leaning publications, the New York Times and the Atlantic have sounded the alarm – albeit with the volume not at full blast – that Joe Biden is too old to run again in 2024.

Over at the Wall Street Journal, the office pool consensus was that the Dems would throw Biden under the bus immediately after a midterm election trouncing at the hands of the Republicans, but one keen prognosticator there correctly guessed the intraparty Biden bashing brigade would begin much sooner.

It’s on: the Democrats’ mad scramble to keep America safe from Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, or any other Republican they can’t stomach (they realize the only way Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney would make it to the White House is on a guided tour).

Amid the conventional wisdom, or more appropriately lack thereof, is the suggestion that if Biden’s not going to be the 2024 Democratic nominee, then the party really needs to find a strong replacement, because Vice President Kamala Harris hasn’t got a chance. As Trump likes to say: wrong!

The argument that Harris isn’t electable is twofold: first, that her poll numbers were dismal when she attempted to run for president in 2020; and second, that she’s been such an embarrassment as vice president thus far that the administration keeps her safely tucked away from the public eye.

Recent history teaches us, though, that a dismal presidential campaign followed by an eminently unremarkable vice presidency nonetheless can lead to a victorious presidential run at a future date. There’s a fellow by the name of Biden who’s living proof of that. Biden was such an afterthought when he challenged his boss-to-be Barack Obama in 2008 for the Democratic presidential nomination that few remember he even ran and fewer yet remember anything about his platform. All eyes were on Obama vs. Hillary, so when Biden finally got a question in a primary debate, he joked it was about time.

Why, then, was Biden able to successfully fend off over 20 Democrat rivals in 2020 and win the party nomination? Because he “wasn’t Trump?” Well neither was Harris, or Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Andrew Yang, and a host of others most Americans probably forgot about or never knew in the first place.

Biden may have won the general election because of his vivid contrast to Trump (the only vivid thing about him, really), but he got there in the first place on name recognition: people remembered he served eight years as second-in-command to President Obama.

All but the most rabid Obama-bashers will acknowledge that his was a successful presidency, validated by at least three significant indicators: 1) he was elected to a second term; 2) his approval ratings consistently remained above 50 percent (even if barely); and 3) the Democrats still point to him as a positive example for future contenders to emulate. We can also point to the most recent C-SPAN presidential rankings poll, which has Obama at number 10: granted, a preposterously high rating, but even if they’re off by 10 slots, that’s still pretty good.

An obvious rebuttal might be that, at least to this point, the Obama presidency is widely considered more successful than the Biden one. To most observers that’s true enough, but does it really make a difference?

Unless another Ronald Reagan or Dwight Eisenhower Republican nominee emerges, who can transcend ideology and win in a landslide, the choice on the GOP ticket will either be Trump himself, or a candidate much made in his image. Would Democrat voters really be so indifferent as to stay home rather than show up to vote (or mail in one) for Harris?

Let’s not forget that Harris is a woman, and that glass ceiling hasn’t been broken yet. She is also African-American, and while many savvy rank-and-file black women consider Harris to be too bourgeoisie, sharply contrasting her to Michelle Obama’s authenticity, white upper middle class suburban women will show up in droves to vote in Harris, thinking they’re pleasing their black friends and thus feeling good about having done their part to advance race relations.

What about Klobuchar? She’s a woman. And Buttigieg is gay. And Elizabeth Warren is Native American (okay, I’m just kidding about that last one). If the appeal of checking off one of those boxes wasn’t enough to sway Democrats for voting for the old white guy, it doesn’t seem likely they’ll do so now when in Harris they can check off “black” and “female” and let’s not forget, “Asian!” Talk about a Democratic demographic fantasy trifecta!

Besides, Klobuchar and Warren have been virtually invisible since they dropped out of the race in 2020, Buttigieg as Transportation Secretary may be remembered most for the supply chain debacle during his watch, Bernie, who’ll be 83, is almost certainly not running, and Hillary dismissed her entering the race as “out of the question.”

Those who think the Democrats’ answer is Michelle Obama clearly don’t understand her. She doesn’t want that spotlight; not everyone does.

Some will think I wrote this piece to artificially build up Harris as a candidate, just so she can lose in a Republican cakewalk. But there’s one big flaw in that theory: I don’t delude myself into thinking I have nearly enough of a following to influence public opinion on a national level. I’m just stating what I think is the obvious.

Also, because I join the many who don’t want Harris to be our next president, I’m hoping enough people don’t take her potential electability for granted. I’m not saying she’ll be the nominee, I’m just saying don’t dismiss her chances to glibly.

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