US Vice President Harris: Great expectations, bad headlines

Status: 01/20/2022 03:29 am

US Vice President Harris took office with great expectations. A year later, she is unpopular in surveys and usually only responds to criticism with a laugh. Has Harris failed yet?

By Florian Mayer, ARD Studio Washington

On January 20, 2021, half of US voters were in a celebratory mood: Four years of Trump are over. As US President, the Democrat follows Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s good buddy, and with him: Kamala Harris, the first woman with Indian-Jamaican roots to hold the office of US Vice President – which Biden cited as evidence of the change in the USA : “Don’t tell me things can’t change!” he said at her inauguration. A year later, the Vice President’s approval ratings are falling steadily. More than half of Americans are dissatisfied with Harris – despite their historic election.

Florian Mayer
ARD-Studio Washington

Or at least because of that, believes political scientist Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings think tank, former adviser to ex-Vice President Al Gore. “People thought that this would change something fundamentally, but that was an unrealistic expectation,” she says. Just because Harris’ inauguration was stylized in the media as a US historical highlight doesn’t mean that she is also making historical decisions.

The opposite is more the case: the office of Vice President is severely restricted. In effect, one is waiting to replace the incumbent president in an emergency and otherwise to get his policy and message out to the people. “A vice president who is too much in the spotlight is a problem for the president,” says Kamarck, who is a Harris supporter herself.

“Haven’t been to Europe yet”

Harris’ second big problem: her work assignments. Solve the US migration crisis and successfully push through electoral reform. Two issues on which the Democrats and Republicans have been at odds for years. When asked in June 2021 that she had not yet been to the southern US border, the Vice President laughed and said that she had not been to Europe either.

A treat for right-wing conservative media such as Fox News: “Since she was given the task of taking care of the problems at the border – nine months ago – Harris has done nothing to get the crisis under control.” , says presenter Sean Hannity.

However, what he leaves out is that Harris took care of it, was now at the border, visited South American countries, set up the Joint Task Force Alpha together with Guatemala, which is intended to curb human smuggling in cross-border cooperation – and in November the first successes were already evident recorded.

“Get out” from Washington more often

At the turn of the year, the next bad headlines: Seven high-ranking employees are said to have left Harris’ staff out of frustration. “According to reports, Harris often refuses to read briefings and is regularly unprepared for the everyday challenges of a vice president” – allegations that Trump’s court reporter Hannity was not the only one to spread on Fox News. Liberal and pro-democracy media also picked up reports from Harris’ ex-employees.

Harris responded to this with a laugh again on the news network PBS: She dodged and explained that it was important to get out of Washington as well.

So this is Harris’ own insight from her first year: go out of the political bubble in Washington more often and much more to the people who have an immediate impact on her and President Biden’s policies. Far from an easy task as the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread across the United States.

According to political scientist Elaine Kamarck, however, it should not be expected that Harris will gain more radiance and be in the limelight more often. Harris is number two in the White House and that’s not going to change.

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