Skip to main content

Comment

Two weeks after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. WadeFlorida’s Fentrice Driskell joined other state lawmakers at the White House to discuss abortion access threats with Vice President Harris.

The vice president, Driskell said, stayed 10 minutes past the scheduled end of the meeting, showed familiarity with the dynamics of Republican-controlled state homes, and had her team follow up within the week to solicit more support. ideas.

“She’s run for president before, so I’m sure she’s thinking about her future,” Driskell, the new Florida House Minority Leader, said of Harris. “Strategically, this is a moment for VP Harris because it gives her a platform and certainly provides her with the opportunity to connect her brand with leadership on this topic.”

In the month since the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion, Harris has sought to position herself as her party’s leading advocate on the issue. She sat down for TV interviews and met with lawmakers, legal experts, religious leaders and medical professionals, while urging Democrats to take their anger to the polls.

The political challenge for Harris, however, is that she’s not the only ambitious Democrat to take on the abortion issue. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, for example, has garnered the attention and loyalty of activists for a pitched battle with her state’s GOP-led legislature over abortion access.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a former and possibly future presidential candidate, continues to trumpet a proposal to locate abortion clinics on federal lands, despite misgivings from administration officials. And former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in an interview with CBS, said she planned to stay “active and outspoken” on reproductive rights, while brushing off questions about another potential presidential run.

As vice president, Harris obviously struggled to find an issue that would qualify her as a forceful leader. From immigration to voting rights, it struggled to break through, and critics said it may come across as overly scripted.

Harris supporters say her passion for reproductive freedom is organic. She is the first female vice president, and her black and Asian identity may be particularly resonant given that abortion restrictions disproportionately affect minority women.

While any vice president must be careful not to upstage their boss, Harris may have more freedom when it comes to abortion, given Biden’s discomfort with an issue where his party’s politics don’t always mesh. comfortably with his lifelong Catholic faith.

All of this, Harris advisers hope, gives her a way to connect with an energetic constituency that she lacked in her unsuccessful bid for president in 2020. She faces considerable pressure to show that her political skills have improved since then. that effort, which collapsed before a single primary vote was cast.

representing James E. Clyburn (DS.C.), the third House Democrat whose endorsement revived Biden’s 2020 candidacy, said Harris deserved a chance to grow in his role.

“Everyone should have time to develop,” Clyburn said. “Joe Biden hasn’t always had the experience that he and I have. At one point in his life, he was a Kamala Harris… You don’t become vice president at noon and then at one o’clock become the expert.

Donna Brazile, who was Vice President Al Gore’s campaign manager when he ran for president, said Harris’ accelerated timeline speaks to his competing obligations — to the party, the Biden administration and whoever. is the future it hopes to build – and it is essential that its role as leader of the future is not lost.

“She has to be the leader” and now “and I think she understands that, and that’s how the administration should understand her role,” Brazile said. “Time is running out and she will never rest. It’s work, work, work. There’s always something to do. And it’s always someone firing, saying she needs to do more, not less.

Harris’ recent flurry of abortion rights activity has taken on added urgency as some Democrats question whether the longest-serving president in history should run again – and who should be the Democratic flag bearer. if he withdraws.

Biden has said he will seek re-election in 2024 and Harris has said she will be his running mate. But some Democrats noted that if he wins another election, Biden would be sworn in at 82, and they have spoken privately about the need to look to a new generation of leaders.

Amplifying those worries, Biden tested positive for coronavirus on July 21 and spent five days socially distancing taking Paxlovid antiviral pills, in part because his advanced age puts him in a vulnerable group. Biden worked while isolated in the White House residence and announced his recovery on Wednesday, saying, “My symptoms were mild, my recovery was quick and I feel fine.”

While Biden has been in self-isolation for nearly a week, Harris has had one of the most active periods of his vice presidency. In meetings in Washington and across the country, as well as in a series of television interviews, she told Democrats that the best way to ensure access to abortion is to win majorities in Congress in elections in midterms of this year, where the party faces strong headwinds.

“The court acted now Congress must act,” Harris told CNN days after the Supreme Court released its decision in the Dobbs Case. Citing the Senate races in Georgia, North Carolina and Colorado, she added, “We need to shift the balance and have pro-choice lawmakers who have the power to decide whether this constitutional right will be enshrined in law.

For advisers and others close to Harris, his increased time in television studios and his hot-air ballooning schedule are a welcome sign after a freshman they say spent too much time in Washington during the coronavirus pandemic. and not enough time in the public eye.

Last December, a group of black women held a private meeting with Harris to urge her to become more vocal and visible.

“Going out on the streets is a real thing for her she really wants it,” said Shavon Arline-Bradley, president of the nonprofit group D4Women in Action, who attended the meeting. “It’s a mid-term year and we’re in the thick of it.”

She added: “People need to see his leadership. … I think she’s concerned with her defining who she is and defining what that legacy is for her.

Gretchen Whitmer’s abortion fight – from the porch with her daughters

Harris’ first year was historic but uneven, marked by staff departures and mixed results on the issues Biden asked him to lead. At the same time, she was tied to an administration that struggled to deliver on some of its biggest campaign promises and endured the usual dependency role that comes with running for vice president.

She visited Central America as part of her mission to tackle the root causes of migration, but her visit was characterized by an awkward exchange with NBC’s Lester Holt in which she pledged to make it to the US southern border, but only after he pressed it.

Within a year of taking office, Harris experienced a series of staff departures, including the loss of its chief spokeswoman and director of communications, responsible for helping shape its public image. His chief of staff, Tina Flournoy, left a few months later. A few weeks ago, Rohini Kosoglu, one of Harris’s closest and longest-serving aides, also left.

Some of the departures have raised questions about Harris’ management style, concerns that have dogged her through her two decades in public service.

By contrast, Harris supporters have been heartened by his performance on a series of overseas trips – to the Munich Security Conference before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and to Poland and Romania to strengthen NATO allies. She also added experienced Democratic strategists to her team, including new chief of staff Lorraine Voles, who was Gore’s communications director and an adviser to Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2008.

A spokeswoman for Harris declined to comment on the record for this article, pointing to her statement that she intended to be Biden’s running mate in 2024. Over the past year, her supporters have told several times that she was working to advance the goals of the Biden administration, and that criticism of her is outsized and often steeped in sexism and racism.

“I think it’s all down to the administration’s goals, and I think that’s how they see it,” said Cedric L. Richmond, a former senior Biden adviser who resigned in April to become a government strategist. Democratic National Committee. “It’s not about his brand image, his political ambition, anything like that, in his decision-making process.”

The coming months will determine the landscape of 2024. They will reveal whether Biden announces his re-election campaign, as he has suggested, and whether other prominent Democrats — from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to California Governor Gavin Newsom — get into the race. On the Republican side, the potential candidacy of former President Donald Trump remains a primary question mark.

Clyburn said last month he would support Harris in 2024 if Biden does not run, regardless of the decisions of other Democrats seeking the presidency.

“Right now I’m for Biden, and second I’m for Harris,” he said. “So I don’t care who goes to New Hampshire or Iowa, I’m for Biden and then I’m for Harris — either together or in that order.”