Vice President Kamala Harris is at a pivotal crossroads.
As the first woman and minority woman to hold the office of Vice President, Kamala Harris had a steadier year in 2023, navigating the complexities of her role within the Biden administration with an eye on the future.
Preparing alongside President Joe Biden for the 2024 election, her actions and strategies are under the microscope as the Democratic Party evaluates its position and potential for the upcoming electoral contest. Despite the scrutiny, Harris has demonstrated resilience and a forward-looking approach to her political career.
Vice President Harris's tenure in the past year has been marked by a return of some tendencies from her 2020 presidential campaign. Critics have been vocal, yet she is beginning to look beyond the 2024 horizon, considering her long-term political trajectory. Her challenge has been to carve out her own identity while maintaining a united front with President Biden.
In the realm of public speaking and diplomacy, Vice President Harris has embraced significant responsibilities. She has focused on a range of issues, including reproductive rights, climate change, gun violence, and inclusivity, which are central to the Democratic Party's values and policy goals. Vice President Harris's presence on the international stage, with important meetings in London and Dubai and at the ASEAN meetings, has solidified her diplomatic credentials.
Joel Goldstein, a vice presidential scholar, has noted her upward trajectory:
More than most of her recent predecessors, she has embraced a role as public spokesperson for the administration regarding issues of importance, such as reproductive rights, climate change, gun violence, [and] inclusivity, and she has played an important diplomatic role, handling presidential assignments regarding central global and bilateral issues, most recently at the ASEAN meetings, in London at the [artificial intelligence] meetings, and in Dubai regarding climate change, and in her meetings there with Mideast leaders and public statements.
Harris's support for President Biden has been tested, particularly in how the administration deals with international conflicts and crises, such as the Israel-Hamas conflict and the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. These issues have placed her in the spotlight, prompting discussions about her stance and the implications for the Biden campaign's confidence as they approach the 2024 election. It is an intricate balance of loyalty and individuality that she must maintain.
Her role in the Senate, marked by her record-breaking 32nd tiebreaking vote, speaks to her active engagement in the legislative process. This action surpassed former Vice President John Calhoun's record and showcased her influence within the current political landscape. Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg is heartened by her performance, noting her expanded responsibilities and the adept management of her role.
Political science professor Barry Burden from the University of Wisconsin-Madison observed Harris's strategic building of a national network of allies, which could be crucial for future campaigns. This groundwork is a common strategy for politicians with higher aspirations, laying the foundation for broader support within the party and across the country.
The Democratic Party is not short of potential presidential candidates, with figures such as Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker being notable presences. However, Vice President Harris's unique position as the second-in-command gives her a distinct advantage in terms of visibility and experience. Her record-breaking role in Senate votes and her engagement with key issues align her closely with the current administration's achievements.
Cesar Conda, a former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney, suggests that Vice President Harris needs a public relations makeover heading into 2024. This reflects the continual need for public figures to adapt and refine their image to meet the changing political climate and public expectations. Stefan Hankin, a political analyst, casts doubt on the assumption that it will simply be Harris's "turn" after President Biden, highlighting the competitive nature of presidential politics.
Seth Schuster, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, emphasizes the campaign's focus:
Next year, you'll see a campaign laser-focused on the real issues that matter to the American people and aggressive efforts to meet voters where they are — undistracted from the beltway pundits who've counted us out before.