Kamala Harris will take the vice presidency of the United States on Wednesday, making history as the first woman and first person of color to assume the role of second in command.
After being sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, Harris will also enter the next stage of his political journey as vice president to President-elect Joe Biden – and one of the first contenders. to be the next American president.
“Harris is a bright and dynamic woman and a political leader, who has shown that she can win the trust of a large part of the Democratic Party,” Derrick Plumber, a Democratic strategist, told Al Jazeera. “It solidifies her in herself, not only as vice president, but also for the future.”
But, he added, his fate will now be tied to the success of the Biden administration: “Just like the president, so does the vice president.”
Biden, who at 78 will be the oldest person in history to assume the U.S. presidency, has avoided questioning whether he will run for a second term in 2024.
The next four or eight years as vice president will be a testing ground for Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants who sought to divide the difference between the party’s centrist and progressive flank during her main candidacy.
After proving she was a dedicated MP during the campaign, from day one Harris could experience a different climate than former vice presidents, said Joel Goldstein, emeritus professor of law at Saint Louis University and author of several books on the vice-presidency.
“She has symbolic importance, and I think there are going to be demands on her, and maybe there will be opportunities for her, which will be different from her predecessors,” he told Al Jazeera.
‘Last person in the room’
One big advantage Harris, who will be part of an administration that will include his other main challenger Pete Buttigieg as transportation secretary, will have over the next four years is a boss who has had her job.
During eight years as Vice President, Biden and President Barack Obama cultivated a close relationship that saw Biden deeply engaged in relations with the White House.
“When I agreed to serve as President Obama’s vice president, he asked me a number of the most important questions… he asked me what I wanted most,” Biden said during the selection. Harris in August. “I told him I wanted to be the last person in the room before making any big decisions.
“That’s what I asked Kamala. I asked Kamala to be the last voice in the room.
Meanwhile, Harris, when asked in an ABC News interview how she defines success as a vice president, responded, “Joe Biden’s success.”
The designation of Harris as the “last person in the room” will give him extra cachet not only in Washington, DC, but on the international stage, which could prove useful in his future ambitions, Goldstein said.
“It not only gives the Vice President the opportunity to speak, but it makes the Vice President much more important to a lot of other people,” he said.
“Other members of the administration will want the vice-president to be on their side in the debates … Foreign leaders will want to develop relations with the vice-president,” he said.
“It’s a huge source of energy.”
‘Very effective communicator’
Harris, who under the U.S. Constitution will chair the Senate, will also have a leading role as the deciding vote in the chamber which is currently split 50 to 50 between Democrats and Republicans.
As vice president, Biden has been tasked with “a lot of legislative closure,” often drawing on his decades of Senate experience and his deep connections across the aisle, Goldstein said.
Harris, during his four years in the House, had a much more combative relationship with Republicans. Instead, Biden is more likely to call on Harris for her skills as a “very effective communicator,” he said.
Meanwhile, Biden’s transition team has yet to announce a portfolio for Harris, but transition officials have said she will have a strong voice to shape the administration.
There had been early speculation that the former prosecutor was spearheading criminal justice reform after a year of unrest surrounding the murders of black people by police in the United States.
As a district attorney for San Francisco, and later attorney general of California, Harris had called herself a progressive advocate for fairer justice for minority communities. However, she was criticized by the left for some of her policies during her tenure.
In the Senate, Harris played a central role in crafting a bill to address the lethal use of force by police following the police murder of George Floyd in Minnesota in May. His cross-examination style has also made him stand out during hearings in the House.
But as the Biden administration takes control amid a national health and economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Harris will most likely be consumed by the “many, many different fires that need to be put out very quickly.” said Kyle Kopko, adjunct professor of political science at Elizabethtown College.
“This is, hopefully, a unique type of quagmire. If they can get us out. It will not only be good policy, but a great political victory, ”said Kopko, author of Do Running Mates Matter? The influence of the vice-presidential candidate in the presidential elections.
Harris’s role in helping to attract black voters during the election, especially in Georgia, which toppled Democrat for the first time since 1992 and where double wins in the Democratic Senate gave the party control of the Senate, also bodes well. for his future ambitions, Plummer said.
Yet following a Democratic primary that saw one of the largest and most diverse candidate fields in U.S. history, the party’s future remains uncertain.
“The range of the Democratic Party is so large, and the next two years will ultimately determine where a potential candidate to replace Biden comes from – whether it’s four or eight years from now,” Plummer said.
“Having said that, history has shown that usually after a successful presidency the vice president will run,” he said. “So Harris could be in a very good position.