We are at the end of the year, and it’s been an extremely hectic one, politically and otherwise.
But the big story of the year was the Red Wave That Wasn’t, in which the Republican Party had thoroughly defeated itself and kept itself from winning significant majorities in the House and Senate and completely undermined its own agenda heading into the 2024 presidential cycle.
The Democrats have taken the 2022 election results and turned them into some sort of a mandate to keep doing what they were doing. The biggest question mark for them right now is whether or not Joe Biden runs for re-election or tries to hand it off to a successor – of which is has limited choices.
It seems like the Democrats know it, and their allies in the media know it, as well. There seems to be an effort underway to clean up the resume of at least one of his possible successors, Vice President Kamala Harris.
In the past 24 hours, two major publications have released major puff pieces hyping Harris up as someone who has had a good year and is looking into the future with her plans. The first of these pieces was an opinion piece published in the Washington Post. Titled “Kamala Harris had a most excellent year,” the opinion seems to be creating a reality that is as detached as it gets.
Vice President Harris walked into her ceremonial office at the White House with a broad smile and easy confidence when we sat down for an interview on the Monday before Christmas. And why shouldn’t she smile? President Biden’s electoral right-hand ma’am is finishing a banner year filled with domestic barnstorming and high-wire diplomacy.
This is quite the interpretation of someone whose “ceremonial office” has been relegated to making public speeches that are barely comprehensible at times. On top of her frankly embarrassing public appearances is her absolute lack of appearances at the southern border, which is one of the responsibilities she was given by the Biden administration – to understand and work on issues surrounding the immigration problem.
She has, by all accounts, done nothing. Or at least she’s done so little that the White House cannot actually tell you what she’s done.
Nonetheless, this particular writer at the Washington Post believes her stellar year is the result of the Dobbs decision, her stance on Ukraine, and her being present at a foreign conference last month.
To understand Harris’s 2022, I suggest looking at it as a tent held up by three poles. One is the Munich Security Conference in February.
Biden sent Harris to Germany on a critical mission at an important moment. In a Feb. 19 speech and in a private meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that same day, Harris warned of the looming threat to the rules-based international order posed by Russian troops massed for invasion. Harris sounded the alarm ahead of Russia’s assault on Ukraine that began on Feb. 24.
Another tent pole in Harris’s year is the U.S. delegation she led to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Thailand in November. North Korea made sure her third trip to the region was eventful by launching an intercontinental ballistic missile. Harris responded by coordinating the allied response to Kim Jong Un’s latest provocation.
Most notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Harris had a brief encounter on the sidelines of APEC. Harris told me the message she delivered echoed Biden’s comments to Xi days earlier in Bali. “We invite competition. We do not seek conflict. We do not seek confrontation,” she recalled telling the Chinese leader. For an Indo-Pacific region wary of China and concerned about the potential for war, the message of rivalry without violence was a huge relief.
To me, the third tent pole is the most important. After the leaked draft in May of what would later become the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision to end the constitutional right to abortion, the former California attorney general saw plainly the implications for other rights, such as marriage equality. She was eager to speak out, Harris told me, and instructed her staff: “I’m getting the bleep out of D.C.”
An alleged mealy-mouthed statement to Xi Jinping, and getting out on the road to stump for abortion? That’s her good year?
Well, one op-ed on the matter isn’t exactly a sign that the tide is turning again to Harris’ future as a presidential contender. But a second one might be the start of something, and this absolute fluff feature by Molly Jong-Fast at Vanity Fair is the fluffiest journalism you can find outside of a magazine devoted to cotton candy.
Sitting across from Harris had me thinking about how I’ve devoted a good deal of my life to analyzing how the media, and Americans more generally, treat powerful women. And here is the most powerful woman—quite literally one heartbeat away from the presidency. She is the first female, first Black and first South Asian American vice president. But before that, she was the first female district attorney in San Francisco and first female attorney general of California. “In this year of our Lord 2022, it is a shame that we are still making firsts,” Harris said, recalling how her mother would say that while she “may be the first to do many things,” she should make sure she’s not the last. “That’s why it is very important to me to make sure that I create a path and widen the path for others,” she said.
But despite such achievements, it occurs to me during our interview that the vice president of the United States is actually trying to make me feel comfortable. Perhaps it’s a function of the world we all inhabit, but the female vice president is way friendlier and more accommodating than a man in her position would ever be. There is an anxiety in her office—the staff is obsessive about getting every last detail right. No one says it to me explicitly, but you can sense in the carefulness and precision of every word and gesture that the success of the vice president is about more than just her. Harris is saddled with the burden of being first. Anything she does will attract more scrutiny, anything she doesn’t do will attract more scorn. There is a tension that permeates the world surrounding her. Being first is never comfortable.
This absolute monstrosity of journalism is only meant to remind people that Harris is just like us. She’s human. She has feelings. She’s also a woman who gets treated unfairly by a cruel, male-dominated society that does not properly reward her for her contributions to the country.
Whatever her accomplishments are, there is still a feeling that we must respect Kamala Harris solely because she is a black woman occupying the Vice Presidency, and that we have to treat her as qualified for even higher office because of it.
But no amount of puff pieces and revisions of modern history can make up for the fact that Democrats have overwhelmingly rejected Harris for the presidency already. She was dead last in the 2020 primary – out before the first primary even began. She was absolutely destroyed on stage by Tulsi Gabbard and never recovered. She was chosen to be Biden’s running mate because she was a black woman, had been a Senator like Biden was, and there was some hope that her time as a prosecutor would make her an asset for attacking those who would attack Biden.
Harris has been an absolute flop, however, and we now know that Biden knew early on that he’d made a mistake. But the press, like some in the Democratic Party, are still trying to make Kamala 2024 a thing because Biden’s own public perception isn’t great and his inability to remain coherent for more than 10 minutes at a public event has become an embarrassment even to his own most ardent supporters.
Harris doesn’t bring anything to the table that Biden doesn’t already, in terms of policy, and there are plenty of progressives who want to see someone more in line with them than a former prosecutor who locked up black men, prosecuted drug crimes harshly, and hasn’t been a letdown on the most progressive issues.
Biden is the only Democrat who would have a chance of winning in 2024. But if he doesn’t, want makes Harris or her supporters think she can pull off something her own party wouldn’t consider her for four years ago?