In the campaign commercial President Biden released to announce his re-election campaign, there was one person who was prominently displayed – Vice President Kamala Harris.
Since the moment Biden selected her as his running mate in July 2020, there has been no shortage of commentary about Harris and her role as vice president. No honest person can dismiss the fact that being a woman of color has been a political handicap for her. As a woman of color and a biracial one at that, Harris has to deal with the twin evils of “Jim Crow and Jane Crow.” The term was espoused by pioneering legal scholar Pauli Murray in 1970.
President Obama was biracial, but Obama was also a man running for president in an era that, although relatively recent, was not as politically fractured and divisive as the current climate.
Harris, the first Black woman and first Asian American vice president, has faced plenty of detractors during her 2 1/2 years as vice president, claiming she’s failed to define an effective role in the administration. Some of her assignments have included the difficult tasks of solving Central American migration along the southern border and ensuring voting rights amid a barrage of new state election laws.
Various factors aside, the indisputable reality is that Harris was not the most inspiring candidate. Indeed, a number of people, myself included, were both intrigued and taken aback at how surprisingly ambiguous the vice president has come across to the larger public. She has routinely struggled to explain her policy stances and seems to routinely equivocate when asked where she stood on an issue. At other times, she seems to be vague in her responses.
The truth is we are in an era where voters want a candidate who is unmistakably definitive in their beliefs and free of any ambiguity. At the present moment, the American people, across the political spectrum, hunger for candor. Indecisive commentary will be soundly rejected.
Harris (at least at this point) has failed to heighten her stature or convince a plurality of voters she harbors the politically vital ingredients necessary to step into the presidency, should Biden be incapable of serving a full second term.
Political flaws imagined or real, Kamala Harris remains popular among Black women. She recently traveled to Nashville, Tenn. to demonstrate support for the two lawmakers who were callously expelled, then reinstated to the state legislature. Her journey to Africa last month and her most recent visit to her alma mater, Howard University, discussing abortion rights have earned solid marks from pundits and other political observers.
Both Biden and Harris must make a persuasive argument to fellow Democrats and swing voters why she remains the best choice to succeed him. It is something that both must do unequivocally and unambiguously.
Elwood Watson is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies. He is also an author and public speaker.