by N. Peter Kramer
After 65 days in office, US President Joe Biden held his first press conference in the White House. It is remarkable that he expects to run for re-election in 2024, at the age of 82. This announcement and, finally, the press conference, came after increasingly loud rumours that President Biden was visibly deteriorating. His appearances were limited to pre-written announcements and carefully orchestrated conversations with political allies. Since taking office, he has not given a single press conference, a record. And last week Biden stumbled three times in a row walking up the airstair of Air Force One. ‘Is the US Presidency one political job too much for 78-year-old Joe Biden?’, was the big question.
But, on Thursday March 25 good old Joe was there! Alive and kicking, especially the Republicans of course. Although Biden told reporters that Vice-President Kamala Harris will be his running mate again in 2024, his announcement must have been a disappointment for her. The expectation was that Kamala Harris would compete for the Presidential nomination in 2024, because almost everyone assumed that President Biden would not run for re-election in three years.
Didn’t she give up her prestigious Senate seat, a lifetime appointment to a Democrat in California, to have the big chance? In 2020 during the Democratic primaries Kamala Harris accused Joe Biden of having been in cahoots with advocates of racial segregation during his career in the Senate and also not being able to take part in the election because of (alleged) sexually transgressive behaviour. But, a few months later, she accepted Biden’s invitation to be his running mate, with a big smile.
Practice has shown that Democrats (and Republicans!) rarely deny a Vice-President the party’s Presidential nomination. Last in line was Joe Biden, who was Barack Obama’s right-hand from 2009 to 2017. With his victory over incumbent President Donald Trump, he became the 15th Vice President to serve in the Oval Office. The last one before him was George H.W. Bush in 1988, after being Ronald Reagan’s VP 2 terms. Will Kamala Harris be nr 16?
As sitting Vice President, potential opponents in the Democratic party will see her as difficult to beat. In addition, many white and/or male Democratic heavyweights will turn down the idea that they would try to ‘steal’ the party nomination from the first female and black Vice President. In a political party that is increasingly dominated by identity politics and intersectionality, that would be swearing in church.
Kamala Harris (1964) is a radical left-wing politician. In 2018, according to non-partisan GovTrack, she was the fourth most progressive Senator (out of 100), to the left of Elisabeth Warren for example, who is usually labelled the female Bernie Sanders. However in 2019, she even threw the latter in the dust when GovTrack named her the most progressive member of the US Senate.
Compared to the volatile Donald Trump on his right and firebrand Bernie Sanders on his left, Joe Biden seemed like a return to the political centre. But with Harris as the standard bearer, that facade would disappear. The question is whether the American people are ready for it. In 2028? In 2024? Or before, if anything were unfortunately to happen to Biden?