Former Senator Kamala Harris arrived at her new position as the nation’s vice president with high hopes. Serving under the oldest president ever elected, Harris is the first female vice president of Asian and black descent in U.S. history. By being VP, Harris is clearly positioning herself as the natural heir to Biden’s mantle as leader of the Democratic Party, after all, Biden himself as Obama’s VP before becoming President. The reality has been very different, however, with her polls tanking and Biden tasking her with politically toxic tasks like the Border crisis or voting legislation.
The media also jumped on the opportunity of presenting VP Harris as that new face of the Democratic Party: Time Magazine listed her and Mr. Biden as the person of the year (while they only listed Trump and not Mike Pence in 2016) and Vogue magazine dedicated a full front cover page to Harris.
The plan really seemed bulletproof: be the media-friendly and history-making companion to Biden’s old-school political image, gain points from the successes of the Biden White House, and then use the name recognition to cruise towards a 2024 or 2028 Democratic nomination for President. There was one problem with this strategy, however: Vice President Kamala Harris is not that popular.
The American people are frosty on VP Kamala Harris
According to a recent Economist/YouGov poll, 47% of Americans disapprove to some degree over Vice President Kamala Harris’ job performance, while only 40% of them approve of her. Her numbers on YouGov’s approval aggregator are not stellar either, with 49.1% of those surveyed having a negative view of her and only 43.9% having a positive opinion towards the VP.
In comparison, President Biden (who is also suffering a significant dent in his popularity with the American people) has a 50.6% approval based on the data collected by YouGov, with 46% of surveyed having a negative opinion on the President.
Harris also does not stand precisely well when compared with her direct predecessor, former Vice President Mike Pence. According to the data collected by YouGov, Pence had a 45% disapproval and 43% approval in September 2017, with a net disapproval rating of about 2 points, while Kamala’s net disapproval is a little over 5 points.
Most worrisome for the future hopes of VP Harris are her numbers with key Democratic constituencies. According to the YouGov poll, Harris is perceived favorably by 59% of black Americans, she is perceived favorably by only 39% of Hispanics, she is underwater with Women (44% perceive her unfavorably) and 57% of Independents also perceived her unfavorably.
To put these numbers into perspective, President Biden’s favorability ratings with black Americans are 8 points higher, 56% of Hispanics view him favorably, as 49% of women and 39% of Independents. Although Biden’s record is less positive when respondents are asked about his job performance and not if they personally like him or not, the data reflects something quite clear, VP Harris is viewed unfavorably not only by the American public in general but also by key voter blocs that the Democrats rely upon.
Harris woes during her fist year as VP
Besides the growing data showing that Harris is not particularly well-liked by the American people, the vice president has had to deal with two challenges: Biden and her own staff. The President has handed Harris a list of issues where she is to be the visible head of the administration, the only problem is that they are arguably two of the most toxic and difficult issues America currently faces, border security and voting legislation.
Biden assigned Harris as the head of a “task force” to address the growing crisis on the southwestern border, an issue where she was more likely to garner the anger of both conservative and liberal activists than their praise, and putting some direct political responsibility on her shoulders if the border situation worsened.
During her tenure, Harris’ refusal to visit the border for many months gave conservatives free ammunition against her job performance as the administration’s border czar. While her visit to Central America, where she urged Guatemalan migrants to “not come” to the United States would probably be used against her by more progressive rivals in a hypothetical 2024 race.
Biden also gave her the job of spearheading the administration’s effort against voting legislation introduced by the Republican Party nationwide. This issue, which is becoming one of the most rancorous fronts in America’s partisan war, would also put the VP into a complicated position, as potential rivals could blame her if Republican legislatures across the country successfully continue to pass new voting legislation.
To add fuel to the fire, Politico reported a story describing Harris’ office as “not a healthy environment” with many staff members accusing the Vice president of refusing “to take responsibility for delicate issues” and that her staff often feel “mistreated”, with many of those quoted by the article saying that the fault lies not only other chief of staff but that “it all starts at the top”.
With an American public that has increasingly disliked Harris’ image, an almost impossible policy portfolio handed by President Biden, and a reportedly dysfunctional office it appears that Kamala’s dream of becoming VP has slowly but surely turned into a political nightmare.