That Kamala Harris’ first six months as Vice President have gotten off to a rocky start is something I don’t think anyone outside of her staunchest defenders on the left would argue against.
We’ve written about it extensively here, from the disastrous way she’s handled the border crisis to date to the numerous reports detailing allegations from former and current staffers that a divaesque Harris is extremely difficult to work with and has skewed priorities to boot.
It’s gotten so bad for Harris that there are now murmurings from various Democratic camps that she will not be welcomed as a campaign surrogate for vulnerable Democrats going into the 2022 midterms.
With all of that in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that a 2024 reputation-rehab strategy is emerging for the VP in the event President Biden decides to only serve one term in office. For the most part, the strategy is predictable, but regardless it’s one the GOP needs to take note of now so they can be better equipped to counter it once the full force of it hits.
Per Axios, “a group of the Democratic Party’s most influential women met for dinner at a home in the nation’s capital last month” in order to strategize over the best way to fight back against current and future attacks on Harris. According to the report, what appeared to be first and foremost to tackle was the supposed “sexist” and “gendered” treatment of Harris by the press:
The women discussed how they could leverage Harris’ record as a prosecutor, California attorney general and U.S. senator to blunt criticisms of her performance as vice president, including her answers to questions about the border crisis.
-Another source familiar with the dinner said attendees saw sexist overtones to the Harris coverage, and discussed how they could “make sure the press knows this.”
-“Many of us lived through the Clinton campaign, and want to help curb some of the gendered dynamics in press coverage that impacted HRC,” this source said. “It was like: ‘We’ve seen this before.’ It’s subtle. But when things aren’t going well for a male politician, we ask very different questions, and they’re not held to account the way a woman leader is.”
And in an article at The Atlantic on how Harris “needs to win over the voters who approve of Biden, but not of her performance,” writer Peter Nicholas, while noting some policy areas that could use some fine-tuning and that there was still some “resentment” from Dem voters of how she treated Biden in the primaries, suggested that the “simplest explanation” for why more voters approved of Biden than Harris was, you guessed it, sexism and racism:
The simplest explanation for the Biden-Harris approval gap is sexism and racism. Men view Harris unfavorably by an 18-point margin, and she is a convenient proxy for conservative pundits who have demeaned her through sexist tropes. In April, the Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield aired clips of Harris laughing and likened her to the “Wicked Witch of the West.” Jesse Kelly, a guest on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show last month, said she “started out her political career as [former California Assembly Speaker] Willie Brown’s bratwurst bun,” a reference to reports that the two had once dated.
“As a woman of color myself, and having worked a long time trying to elect the first woman president, there is just a different standard for a woman in politics,” Patti Solis Doyle, who managed Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, told me. “I don’t think that Vice President Harris has performed any less than any other recent vice president in modern history.”
Nicholas also quoted former Arizona Senator Dennis DeConcini (D) as saying that “it will be very difficult for her [to defeat the Republican presidential nominee], for the obvious reasons, and it shouldn’t be that way,” with the insinuation being very clear that he believes her race and sex will be her biggest obstacle.
Let’s game out a scenario where Harris wins the 2024 Democratic nomination and a Republican man (like maybe Gov. Ron DeSantis) wins the GOP nomination. It will be her handlers and the media more so than Harris herself who will default to the racism and sexism cards, and in few places will that be more apparent than the debates that will be held. What’s the best way for the GOP nominee to push back on the bogus narrative that she’s being attacked based on her race and sex?
Remind voters of her poor management of the border crisis (and any other crisis she was tasked to manage along the way). Point out her legislative accomplishments or lack thereof as a Senator. Point to her missteps as California’s top prosecutor (Tulsi Gabbard blew that door wide open in the second presidential primary debate in 2019). Note her dueling positions on believing women as an example of how Harris will say anything to get elected (although maybe that line of attack might best be left to female surrogates). Reference the fact that she didn’t even make it to the first primary in 2020 because she polled badly even among black and female Democratic voters, a core voting bloc for the party.
And, as always, be prepared for the gender-based questions about abortion, transgender rights, and equal pay, because they’ll be coming, too.
There are effective ways to combat the inevitable cards that are going to be played heading into 2024, but the GOP as a whole must have the guts to hit back at them without apology and must resist falling into the traps the media and the left like to set on these matters. Trump was able to successfully do it in 2016, and the 2024 GOP nominee needs to be well-equipped to do the same.