As Vice President Kamala Harris jets again this week from talks on immigration coverage in Mexico and Guatemala, she would possibly wish to assessment a memo Vice President Walter Mondale sent his boss, Jimmy Carter, in 1976. “Defining an appropriate and meaningful role for the Vice President has been a problem throughout the history of this country,” Mondale wrote. “While custom and statute have changed the office gradually over 200 years, generally speaking, the Vice President has performed a role characterized by ambiguity, disappointment, and even antagonism.”
What is Harris’ function? After a quiet begin, President Joe Biden has put her in cost of two of essentially the most radioactive points going through the nation: immigration and voting rights. It prompted headlines like these: “Biden handed Harris a political grenade” and “Kamala Harris Can’t Win.”
With a portfolio that undoubtedly has Republicans already designing assault adverts in the occasion Harris is the Democrats’ presidential nominee in 2024, an inexpensive query turns into: Is Biden setting up Harris to fail?
A harder job than any earlier than her
Mondale, who died in April at 93, is usually cited as a transformative vp, having established a job as adviser to President Carter, making him a real second in command. The seven vice presidents who followed Mondale every assumed expanded roles in shaping and executing coverage.
Al Gore and Dick Cheney, in specific, had been highly effective forces in the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. And as second in command to Barack Obama, Biden compiled a packed portfolio – offering speaking factors for his personal presidential marketing campaign in 2020.
But Harris may need a harder job than any trendy vp earlier than her. She works for a 78-year-old president who, I imagine, won’t search a second time period. Harris is already the front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 2024, making the whole lot she does – and each project she is given – fodder for political assaults. And the job is not precisely a glide path. In 1988, George H.W. Bush was the first vice president in more than 150 years to be elected to succeed the boss.
Harris needs to be questioning why she will be able to’t have a no-lose job like, say, coping with outer house. President John Kennedy named his vp, Lyndon Johnson, to chair the National Aeronautics and Space Council. Bush later named Vice President Dan Quayle chairman of its successor, the National Space Council. Biden wasn’t accountable for house, however Obama put him in cost of the most cancers “moonshot” initiative – about as noncontroversial a job any vp has ever had, besides maybe when Johnson named Hubert Humphrey head of the President’s Council on Recreation and Natural Beauty.
Biden wasn’t accountable for house, however Obama put him in cost of the cancer “moonshot” initiative – about as noncontroversial a job any vp has ever had, besides maybe when Johnson named Hubert Humphrey head of the President’s Council on Recreation and Natural Beauty.
As Harris conducts conferences with leaders in Guatemala and Mexico, the White House is stressing that her mission is to not repair immigration on the U.S. border however slightly to handle root causes prompting 1000’s of migrants to flee north from Central America and Mexico. When Biden was vp in 2015, Obama gave him responsibility for a similar program that supplied $1 billion to Central America. His efforts had been largely wasted, as immigration continues to be an virtually inconceivable problem for each Democratic and Republican administrations.
Voting rights might be thankless job
Just earlier than her journey, Biden gave Harris responsibility for voting rights – from waves of state payments and legal guidelines that prohibit voting to the House-passed For the People Act, the Democrats’ high-priority election reform invoice that faces an uphill battle at finest in the Senate.
To her credit score, Harris requested the assignment, in response to The New York Times. But at a time when many Trump voters proceed to imagine that Democrats stole the final election and Democrats can’t corral their own senators to help the voting rights invoice they view as essential, Harris can hardly depend on working in 2024 as the one who protected the vote.
Biden has modeled a lot of his presidency on the Obama administration. Obama gave his vp meaty assignments however didn’t precisely work to pave a path to the presidency for Biden. In truth, Obama did extra to easy the way in which for his secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Transformational leaders: Kamala Harris and Lloyd Austin portraits will spur change in the military and America
In his 1976 memo, Vice President Mondale cited an commentary by the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr.: “History has shown the American Vice Presidency to be a job of spectacular and, I believe, incurable frustration.”
As if fixing immigration and voting rights aren’t sufficient, Kamala Harris, it appears, should additionally change historical past.
Peter Funt, a author and host of “Candid Camera,” is engaged on a e book referred to as “Playing Potus,” about TV portrayals of sitting presidents. His memoir, “Self Amused,” will probably be revealed in July.
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This article initially appeared on USA TODAY: Kamala Harris, immigration and voting rights: Is failure inevitable?