From the minute President Biden selected her as his running mate in 2020, Kamala Harris has been the subject of intense gossip. Indeed, there has been no dearth of commentary about Harris and her role as vice president. She has been the subject of rabid and intense gossip. Whether it be from the political left, right, or center, the current vice president is often the subject of fierce discussion.

In fact, one would be hard pressed to think of a vice president in recent memory who has been placed under such a political microscope. Indeed, it seems that she can hardly sneeze without someone, somewhere either analyzing or dissecting her every move.

The truth is that from a historical perspective, the role of the vice president is one that has often been marked with a degree of paradox and a level of ambiguity. You are one heartbeat away from the presidency, yet you are often relegated to mostly obscure duties. Frequently, presidents and vice presidents have been odd pairings often brought together in an effort to unify diverse fragments within the party. John Kennedy selected Lyndon Johnson with the aim of assuaging the fears of southern Democrats who were wary of his Roman Catholicism and “possible allegiance” to the Vatican. Ronald Reagan chose former head of CIA, George H.W. Bush, as vice president in an attempt to win over more centrist Republicans leery of the far-right values of Reagan voters. And the thrice married, twice impeached, convicted felon and adulterer Donald Trump recruited Mike Pence for the purpose of addressing the apprehensions of devout White evangelicals over his (Trump’s) moral failings and deficiencies.

Over the past three years, the common questions asked in regard to Vice President Kamala Harris have been: “Where is the vice president?”, “What is she doing in her role?”, “How come she is not more visible?”, and so on. For many news pundits and political observers, the vice president has been VP non grata, seemingly habitually absent from taking on any official political duties. The fact is that for the first few years of her tenure as vice president, Harris was a low-key operator, promoting the Biden agenda to HBCUs, pushing women’s issues, and attempting to appeal to young voters. In fact, in this regard, she was no different from most recent vice presidents, save for Dick Cheney. Yet, unlike her predecessors, she was routinely chastised for her lack of visibility.

Until recently, rightly or wrongly, the perception of Harris has been that of a person ill-suited for the role of the vice president, let alone president of the United States. Her political triumphs were not appropriately announced by the Biden administration. And admittedly,  some awkward moments in interviews and the ongoing media coverage depicting the vice president as an individual who struggles to form coherent sentences have certainly not done her any favors. Even at the present moment, there are some who feel that Harris lacks the necessary political ingredients to be successful. Such negative perceptions are a potential political roadblock she must avoid.

The reality is that no honest person can dismiss the fact that being a woman of color has been a political handicap for her. As a woman of color and a biracial one at that, Harris has to deal with the twin evils of “Jim Crow and Jane Crow.” The term was espoused by pioneering legal scholar Pauli Murray in 1970. The intersection of race and gender has undoubtedly contributed to much of the derision from certain segments.

Republican Party operatives are already crafting the narrative to their base of supporters that given Biden’s age, it is very likely he will have to step down and hand over power to his Black female vice president. This is an image that upsets the stomachs and emotions of a large number of conservative Republicans, and if we are being honest, a segment of neoliberal and faux Democrats as well. A Black woman being elected president before a White woman would likely be a tough pill for many and seemingly almost impossible for many Whites to comprehend, let alone swallow.

Whether her political flaws are imagined or real, Kamala Harris is a formidably intelligent, sophisticated, attractive, accomplished person. She remains immensely popular among Black women, the Democratic Party’s most dedicated voting bloc. Her talks at HBCUs, visits to Planned Parenthood clinics, and passionate speeches on reproductive rights have garnered her admiration among a growing number of people, as well as earning her solid marks from pundits and other political observers.

Both Biden and Harris must make a persuasive argument to fellow Democrats and swing voters on why she remains the best choice to succeed him. It is something that both of them must do unequivocally and unambiguously. Otherwise, her opponents will not hesitate to move in for the political kill.

BlackCommentator.com Guest

Commentator, Dr. Elwood Watson,

Historian, public speaker, and cultural

critic is a professor at East Tennessee

State University and author of the recent

book, Keepin' It Real: Essays on Race in

Contemporary America (University of

Chicago Press), which is available in

paperback and on Kindle via Amazon and

other major book retailers. Cotnact

Dr.Watson and BC.

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