Kamala Harris holds one of the most powerless posts in the federal government. With its official duties being relegated to: presiding the formal procedures of the senate, breaking any tie, and managing to keep their heart beating just in case something terrible happens to the chief executive. Disdain for the office is as old as the nation itself, with John Adams (the first one to hold the office) famously calling it “the most insignificant office that ever the imagination of man contrived”.
The vice-presidency, on the other hand, is a perfect launching pad for the biggest prize in the American Political Arena: The Presidency. Adams eventually learned this, as he succeeded George Washington and became America’s second president. I am sure Kamala has observed the example of Adams, and other VPs who became presidents on their own right, for some inspiration.
There’s still a lot of time for the 2024 presidential election and most people are not paying attention to the presidential race. However, politicians (and those like me who cover them) usually ignore that advice and keep looking for the prospects of the next election so, here we are, talking about elections, again.
Kamala has the blessing (or arguably) of becoming Vicepresident in really unusual circumstances: A 50-50 senate that gives her the opportunity to flex her only constitutional power, the historic nature of her election, and (most importantly) the old age of her running mate. In the likely event that Biden decides not to run for reelection in 2024, Kamala would be viewed as the natural successor for Joe. Kamala knows this and has been working hard on establishing her presidential image in public opinion.
2024 campaign begins
In her first month of the tenure of Kamala as VP has been very different from the traditional low-key role of the office. Usually, Vicepresidents have two tasks: be an effective surrogate for the president and their administration (Pence and Biden were great at this) or attending dull public ceremonies that are not important enough for the president. As you might assume, the media is not that interested in covering the comings and goings of the second-in-command, unless you are Dick Cheney and you shoot another senator in the face in a “hunting accident” .
Kamala Harris has not adhered to that standard. She has already cast her tiebreaker vote to settle important legislation questions, has held high level phone calls with foreign dignitaries, and has even received some significant media attention -like the viral Vogue cover or the Times person of the year cover- or even the official logo of the Biden inauguration, which was labelled as the “Biden-Harris” inauguration. This is unusual, to say the least, Biden did not meet with the president of France in his first month on office nor Pence appeared in the Vogue cover (thank God)
This is not a coincidence. Everybody knows that Biden will have a very difficult task to run for a second term (he will be 82 years old), which is why the running mate decision on 2020 was seen as crucial choice on the future of the Democratic Party, selecting Kamala Harris would put her in the track of an expeditious nomination in 2024. Is also one of the reasons why Biden was soon to tell to the American people that he wanted Kamala to be the “last person in the room “ when making important decisions.
It is too early to tell, but right now it seems the strategy could work, Kamala’s position gives her ample name recognition while it also provides a safe position where to cover from any extremely controversial policy decisions or opinions. A Morning Consult/Politico poll shows that the Vicepresident has a 52% approval rating, higher than any Republican leader, and only slightly lower than Biden’s numbers.
As Harris is in an ideal position to remain relevant in the national conversation as an integral part of the Biden administration. Unlike former rivals like Pete Buttigieg, who is currently serving as Secretary of Transportation, she will not be constrained by focusing either too much in one issue or being bugged down in a position that does not garners enough media attention.
Politico recently reported that the president has started to give a “crash course” in diplomacy to the VP by not only giving her the opportunity to talk to foreign leaders in a way that other Vicepresidents have not. with the objective of “developing her own foreign policy credentials” in preparation for a possible run in 2024.
All these moves have the objective of presenting Kamala Harris as prepared to take the office of the presidency in 2024. However, this does not mean that Harris is destined to be the Democratic nominee in 2024. After all, she suspended her 2020 campaign before getting even a single vote and the Trump and Sanders phenomenons have shown us that an outsider might pose a significant electoral challenge to any establishment figure.
Harris is doing her best to reap all the political benefits that her position as VP allows, with the hopes of following the ancient tradition started by America’s first Vicepresident, John Adams: becoming the president by her own right.