Reassessing The Vice Presidency: The Kamala Harris Factor

Recent concerns about President Joe Biden’s health have thrust Vice President Kamala Harris into the spotlight, highlighting the often-underestimated importance of the vice presidency. Former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley’s — who needs to not be VP — August 2023 warning about Harris potentially becoming president has resonated with many, underscoring the need to reconsider how vice presidential candidates are selected.

The role of the vice president has not seen someone ascend to the presidency in 60 years, which may have led to a sense of complacency about its significance. However, with Biden’s age and cognitive health under scrutiny, the prospect of Harris stepping into the presidential role has become a pressing issue.

When Biden chose Harris as his running mate in 2020, the decision was influenced by a combination of factors: the COVID-19 pandemic, racial justice movements, and the #MeToo movement. Harris’s diverse background and progressive viewpoints were seen as aligning with the Democratic Party’s goals at the time. As NPR noted, Harris’s selection mirrored Biden’s own vice-presidential candidacy in 2008, combining an experienced white politician with a younger, minority running mate.

However, Harris’s limited leadership and policy experience compared to former Vice President Mike Pence became apparent during their debate, raising questions about her readiness to assume the presidency. This has sparked a broader discussion about whether vice presidential candidates are chosen for their ability to govern or merely for their electoral appeal.

Historically, vice presidential picks have been strategic. George W. Bush selected Dick Cheney for his foreign policy experience, while Barack Obama chose Biden for his political experience and appeal to key voter demographics. In contrast, Harris’s selection was seen as a move to appeal to a wide array of social and political concerns prevalent in 2020.

The potential of Harris ascending to the presidency due to Biden’s health brings to light the critical importance of the vice presidential role. With Biden being the oldest president in U.S. history, the likelihood of Harris needing to step in is higher than usual. This reality underscores the need for vice presidential candidates to be thoroughly vetted and ready to lead the nation if necessary.

As the upcoming election approaches, it is essential for both parties to consider the significance of the vice presidential role seriously. The Trump campaign is likely to focus on Biden’s health and Harris’s readiness, making the selection of a capable vice presidential candidate more crucial than ever.

The current political climate demands that vice presidential candidates are chosen not just for their electoral benefits but for their preparedness to lead the country. Kamala Harris’s position as vice president serves as a stark reminder of the importance of this role, especially when the president’s health is a concern. The nation must ensure that vice presidential candidates are as capable and prepared as those they might succeed, recognizing the vice presidency’s true significance.