Alexander Wolfe | Staff Columnist
I hope everyone enjoyed the nice weather on this week’s mental health day. As I sat, debating what to do with a free day, I couldn’t help but get distracted by the distinct lack of politics I was caring about. It’s been about a week since I glanced at Apple News, mistakenly or otherwise, and I caught up on some news. The one weird trend I noticed, which is probably worth accounting for in your media diet, is the weird amount of attention given to Vice President Kamala Harris.
Fox News, which is reportedly experiencing a ratings slump, is diverting a not insignificant amount of coverage toward the vice president. It seems the Biden Administration would prefer to place Harris in a more public-facing role, and Fox News has happily obliged, covering her diplomatic conversations and presence on the trail to support the recent COVID-19 relief package.
Yet the key criticism of Harris, at least from Republicans, was that she would be an insurmountable leftist force who would plunge the country into socialism while a frail President Biden did nothing.
Many experts expected Harris to play a large role in the Biden Administration, given Biden’s own documented content with his historically large portfolio beside President Obama, and her presentation as the progressive influence to Democratic voters. Fox News reported in February that Harris had taken multiple “solo calls” with key foreign leaders, notably President Macron and Prime Minister Trudeau.
Not to say that Harris’ positioning is unprecedented or even problematic — Biden himself managed several strategic relationships during the Obama administration, namely Israel. Her involvement with foreign policy has encouraged right-wing media’s portrayal of Harris as the Democratic Party’s preordained successor to Biden, but the truth behind her role as vice president is less clear.
Apart from casting three tie-breaking votes in the Senate and being extremely present for all of Biden’s front-facing events, Harris has been credited with little in the first two months of the Biden Administration.
Admittedly, this could change quickly throughout the next four years — Biden’s pacing in introducing policy initiatives seems as slow as it is deliberate — but Harris seems extremely limited by the necessity of her presence on Capitol Hill.
Aides to the vice president have reported her frustration with the logistical limitations of her crucial 51st vote. She’s broken more ties than any other vice president through two months, and has been on standby near the Hill a number of other times.
Until quite recently, the vice president has been the least relevant member of the presidential administration. A wonderful example of this is the lack of communication between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his third VP, Harry Truman.
When FDR died in office at the beginning of his fourth term, he left Truman entirely uninformed regarding the intimate details of the war effort, so much so that historians note Truman was unaware of the Manhattan Project — the development of the atomic bomb — until the week he became president.
Harris doesn’t seem to occupy that level of executive irrelevance, but if she’s limited to the role of a senator without speaking rights, she won’t be that groundbreaking VP Democratic revisionists are planning for her to be.
All things considered, this is a typical example of political spin: Democrats praising Harris for little, Republicans criticizing her for the same. In the shadow of the Trump administration, the media continues to apply the same political microscope to Biden’s decisions, but just like in the twilight of Trump, large indiscretions can wholly distort how we view politics.
How quickly we forget that two months ago, extremists staged an insurrection in the capitol, but the news cycle moves on to concerns over the power Harris wields as vice president, or at least another concern to draw in viewership.