There are two kinds of vice presidents, those who enter the office with chops and those who don’t. For purposes of the vice presidency, chops can be earned by high level service, by having mounted a credible presidential campaign, or by being the leader of a wing of the president’s party.
Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, and Dick Cheney are probably the best examples in my lifetime of vice presidents who took office with chops. Spiro Agnew and Dan Quayle are good examples of ones who didn’t.
Chops don’t guarantee that the president will listen much to his VP. Johnson had very little influence with President Kennedy. Humphrey didn’t have much with President Johnson.
But if a vice president lacks chops, it’s very likely that he (or she) won’t be taken seriously.
Kamala Harris lacks chops. Her presidential campaign was a fiasco, remembered only for the cheap shot she took at the man who will be her boss. Harris never distinguished herself in office. She wasn’t a leader in Congress, never served a president, and never ran a state. Nor does Harris lead a wing of her party. Biden leads one wing, Bernie Sanders leads the other.
Harris made the ticket only because of her race and gender. Race and gender are not chops.
This doesn’t mean that Harris will be treated like the cipher she deserves to be. Because Biden is so old and so far past his prime (such as it was), members of his administration will know that Harris might well become president before Biden’s first term is over. Harris might also become the presumptive nominee in 2024. Thus, she will have to be treated with some respect by everyone below the president. Biden can treat her any way he wants.
The Washington Post reports that Harris’ “allies” are concerned that she will have little influence with Biden. The allies in question consist of left-wing Black activists.
According to Post writers Chelsea Janes and Sean Sullivan, the concern about Harris’ role is “sharpened by Democrats’ disappointing performance in congressional races, which has dramatically limited Biden’s maneuvering room.” It should be sharpened by the reality that Black activists helped caused the performance to be disappointing.
One Black Harris ally insists:
Black people won this election. Alongside Black-led organizations around the nation, Black Lives Matter invested heavily in this election. . . . We want something for our vote. We want to be heard and our agenda to be prioritized.
Actually, Biden/Harris underperformed among Black voters. It was Biden’s ability to attract White centrist voters that carried the day. With less “activism” from BLM, Democrats likely would have been more satisfied with the outcome of the elections.
Black voters did win Biden the Democratic nomination. But that’s because they preferred Biden’s approach to the more radical agendas of Bernie Sanders and Harris herself.
In the end, however, I think the BLM crowd will win its share of victories under Biden, though not because of Harris. I expect influential positions below the cabinet level to go to hard left Democrats. These are the folks with the ambition, the will, to gain power. More moderate professional Democrats, a vanishing breed, will be more prone to stay on the sidelines and make lots of money.
Most of the hard leftists who populate the Biden administration will be White, but their ideology fits well with that of the BLM movement — more so than do the views of James Clyburn and other Black critics of portions of the BLM agenda. And, of course, the bureaucracy is dominated by hard leftists.
Biden himself seems enthralled by aspects of BLM and wokeism. In any case, there’s little reason to believe he’s capable of standing up to them effectively.
Finally, I want to draw attention to this passage from the Janes/Sullivan collaboration:
As a youthful woman of color and daughter of immigrants, she represents an increasingly diverse, liberal Democratic Party — while serving a president who reflects an older, whiter, more centrist America.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the mainstream media refer to Harris as youthful, but it’s fake news. Harris is 56. That’s not young. It’s middle age for a politician and late middle age for the rest of us.
I know. I’ve been there.