The perception and optics of her near-one-year run have not done the controversial ex-prosecutor any favors.
For 85 minutes on November 19, 2021, Kamala Harris was the President of the United States. See here for a CNN report, detailing the historic hour-plus when executive powers were officially transferred until Joe Biden was released from the hospital for a routine colonoscopy.
If the U.S. was attacked by an overseas enemy, Harris maintained all decision-making powers until Biden re-assumed his position. Such considerations punctuated the importance of the transference.
I was personally overjoyed when the duo of Biden and Harris assumed the White House. I was a fan of Harris; though I did not agree with all of her decisions as a prosecutor, I found her consistently tough, generally bullish on issues important to me, and one who did not suffer fools.
My support of Kamala Harris was unqualified.
Things changed along the way.
From Harris’ official White House biography, courtesy of WhiteHouse.gov: Kamala Devi Harris is an American politician and attorney who is the 49th and current vice president of the United States. She is the first female vice president and the highest-ranking female official in U.S. history, as well as the first African American and first Asian American vice president.
Her achievement is notable, for sure, but why, then, does it feel as though Harris is invisible? She has received her share of flak, particularly in recent weeks as news of her sinking poll numbers became global headline fodder. A recent Reason.com article, entitled “Kamala Harris Was Unpopular Before She Became Vice President; Nothing Seems to Have Changed,” explored recent perceived missteps on the part of the VP. Linked within the article is a recent USA Today/Suffolk University poll, which found 28% of U.S. voters approved of Harris. Perhaps most alarming, the same poll found only 63% of Democrats and 57% of Biden voters presently support Harris.
She received swarms of negative press for not visiting the U.S.-Mexico border during what was widely considered an uncontainable influx of Central American immigrants. During a June, 2021 interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, the following exchange caused consternation among those who at one time supported her outlook:
“Why not visit the border?” asked Holt.
“Well,” answered Harris, “we are going to the border.”
Later on, during a repeat of the same question, Harris answered, “At some point, we’re going to the border. We’ve been to the border. So … this whole thing about the border, we’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border.”
“You haven’t been to the border,” Holt pressed.
Harris mentioned in response that she hadn’t been to Europe, which made little sense to either the host or those viewing the program. For me, the question was honest and the answer a head-scratcher. Such optics caused her poll numbers to quickly shift to the negative.
It was reported Harris was continually implored by Congress to visit both the border, and also immigration detention centers, to little effect.
Optics portray a VP who is largely behind-the-scenes and some misguidedly say even inactive, unlike those holding her office in the past including Dick Cheney, Mike Pence, and even Biden himself. Though Harris has been uncharacteristically visible in North Carolina, Ohio, and New Hampshire this past April, when promoting Biden’s infrastructure plan, she has yet to connect with the general public.
On the right, commentators have attacked Harris for issues as diverse as the style of her suits to the way she laughs. None of this matters, of course, save for those who would not support her under any circumstances.
Regardless of the importance of her station, Democratic voters have raised a valid fear: If Biden does not run in 2024, and if Trump does run, could Harris defeat him?
According to her most recent poll numbers, this will likely remain a troublesome question for Harris, and her party, until or unless the time comes.