How Harris Can Prove Her Worth As Vice President – OpEd


By Dalia Al-Aqidi

Back on Aug. 11, 2020, in a moment that would go down in history, then-Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his nomination of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. It was a decision that sparked hope and enthusiasm among many Democrats, as it symbolized a step toward a more inclusive America, with Harris destined to become the first female, first African American and first Asian American vice president.

In his announcement, Biden spoke passionately about the country’s challenges, emphasizing that Harris understood that they were in a battle for the soul of the nation. He highlighted the need for unity when confronting the crises plaguing America and working toward a better future. It was a message that resonated with many, especially those who thought that having a female vice president would empower women at every level.

Harris’ historic nomination was a moment of pride for many, especially those who longed to see greater diversity and representation in the highest echelons of power. Her journey to the nomination was marked by years of public service, including stints as California’s attorney general and San Francisco’s district attorney. Her roots in Oakland, California, and her background as a child of Jamaican and Indian immigrants added to the richness of her story. Harris’ decision to attend law school after participating in civil rights protests with her mother spoke volumes about her commitment to justice and equality.

According to Biden’s campaign, the selection of Harris came after weeks of careful consideration, during which several other highly qualified women were considered for the role. Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer were among the top contenders. Ultimately, Harris’ unique combination of experience, identity and vision for a more united America won her the nomination.

Before examining Harris’ performance as vice president over the past three years, it is crucial to understand the key factors that led to her selection. Her nomination was not a mere coincidence; it was a calculated decision driven by a combination of factors that spoke to both Biden’s strategy and the changing landscape of American politics.

First and foremost, age was a significant consideration. Aged 55 at the time of her nomination, Harris represents a younger generation of politicians, in stark contrast to Biden, who was inaugurated as president at the age of 78. During his campaign, Biden’s age was a prominent subject of discussion and it was predicted that it could become a weakness as his presidency progressed. This prediction appears to be playing out, with concerns about his health and stamina growing as he enters the final year of his term. Harris’ relative youth offered a reassuring counterbalance to those concerns and suggested she would bring a fresh perspective to the administration.

Identity also played a pivotal role in Harris’ selection. She is a Black and South Asian American woman, making her a trailblazer in US politics. Her historic nomination sent a powerful message about diversity and representation at the highest levels of government. In an unprecedentedly divided era, Harris’ identity resonated with a broad spectrum of the American population, providing Biden with a bridge to communities that claim to have been underrepresented in previous administrations.

Additionally, California, with its vast electoral votes and influential donors, has always been a coveted prize for Democratic candidates. It was no surprise when Biden selected a running mate from this political behemoth. Choosing someone from California was a strategic move, tapping into the state’s considerable resources and leveraging its electoral weight.

Moreover, Harris emerged as an outspoken advocate on race matters and the imperative for police reform. She was prominent in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death and the ensuing nationwide protests. Her stance resonated with the far left, the progressive movement and many other liberal Americans who demanded change and accountability in the face of racism.

However, Harris’ time in office so far has been marked by a series of notable difficulties and uncertainties.

One area where the vice president has faced criticism is her communication. Her tenure has been punctuated by a series of rhetorical blunders that have raised questions about her ability to effectively convey the administration’s message. Whether it was her choice of words or her delivery, there have been instances where her statements have drawn scrutiny or even attracted a backlash. Effective communication is a cornerstone of leadership and a crucial aspect of her role.

Another significant challenge has been the high turnover in her staff. A revolving door of personnel within her team has not gone unnoticed, prompting questions about leadership and management within her office. Consistency and stability in staffing are vital for any leader to accomplish their goals.

Politically, Harris has encountered missteps that have invited criticism. Whether it was the handling of specific policy issues or navigating the complexities of the political landscape, there have been instances where her decisions have been criticized. Clarity and coherence in policymaking are crucial to building public trust and support.

Furthermore, even among her allies, there has been a sense of uncertainty about the precise scope and focus of her portfolio as vice president. Defining one’s role and responsibilities is vital in any leadership position and there has been a lack of clarity about Harris’ specific areas of influence and the initiatives she has been spearheading. This ambiguity has created uncertainty about her role within the administration.

In the quest for true gender equality and representation, the hope was that Harris’ ascent to the vice presidency would help women across party lines, propelling them to the forefront of leadership in all sectors and ultimately positioning them to take the highest office in the land. However, the reality has been somewhat disappointing.

The lesson to be drawn from this experience is clear: women should not be chosen or evaluated based on their gender or ethnicity. Instead, they should be judged by their work content, achievements and unwavering commitment to their goals. True empowerment and equality come from recognizing and celebrating women for their merit and abilities.

Achieving true equality requires prioritizing substance, merit-based opportunities and an equitable environment for everyone. Only under these conditions can we expect women to rise to the most senior positions of power, free from the burdens of unmet expectations and the limitations imposed by identity politics.

  • Dalia Al-Aqidi is Senior Fellow at the Center for Security Policy. X: @DaliaAlAqidi

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *