Kamala Harris and a High-Risk, High-Reward Presidential Résumé

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your wrap-up of the week in nationwide politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

Is Kamala Harris drawing the shortest straws within the White House?

This week, President Biden introduced that Ms. Harris would lead the administration’s effort to guard voting rights, a job he instantly mentioned would “take a hell of a lot of work.”

And on Sunday, Ms. Harris leaves for her first journey overseas, visiting Mexico and Guatemala as a part of her mandate to handle the basis causes of migration from Central America which might be contributing to a surge of individuals making an attempt to cross the United States’ Southern border.

The central political query going through Ms. Harris has by no means been whether or not she is going to run for president once more. It’s when and how.

Yet for a history-making politician with large ambitions, Ms. Harris has adopted an early agenda that has left some Democrats fretting about the way forward for a politician who’s already positioned as a presidential-nominee-in-waiting.

Both immigration and voting rights are politically fraught issues with no straightforward options. Democrats’ expansive election laws has faltered within the Senate, with average celebration lawmakers like Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia expressing considerations in regards to the invoice.

And regardless of one of the best efforts of her staff, Ms. Harris has change into the administration’s face — typically fairly actually — for the inflow of migrants, together with tens of 1000’s of unaccompanied kids, on the Southern border.

Allies level out that Ms. Harris’s portfolio extends past these two high-profile points. She’s additionally answerable for increasing broadband web entry, combating vaccine hesitancy, advocating the infrastructure plan, serving to girls re-enter the work power, highlighting the Black maternal mortality price and aiding small companies, amongst different points.

The allies cite the challenges Mr. Biden took on throughout his first time period as vp — together with main the White House effort to attract down troops in Iraq and overseeing the implementation of the stimulus invoice — and argue that voters reward politicians for tackling laborious points, even when they continue to be unresolved.

And many argue that there aren’t any straightforward issues in a nation nonetheless grappling with a devastating pandemic, continued financial uncertainty and a divisive racial reckoning.

“These are long-term systemic issues,” mentioned Donna Brazile, a former Democratic Party chairwoman who speaks with Ms. Harris and her staff. “She’s defined by what I call real big problems, and problems that require a different kind of leadership to solve.”

Of course, “real big problems” additionally carry a far better threat of political missteps and coverage failures, notably for a politician who’s extra polarizing than the president she serves, polls present.

Even earlier than she grew to become the primary Black feminine vp, Ms. Harris emerged as an early goal of Republicans, who discovered it simpler to rile up their base with racist and sexist assaults in opposition to her than with condemnations of Mr. Biden. In the conservative media, she’s relentlessly outlined as an untrustworthy radical, with an unpronounceable title and an anti-American agenda.

The false caricature could also be having an influence on her picture: Tracking polls discover Ms. Harris’s approval ranking hovering a few proportion factors decrease than Mr. Biden’s, with extra voters expressing damaging views of her efficiency.

Aides to Ms. Harris have quietly positioned a few of the blame for the politically damaging state of affairs on Mr. Biden, who introduced her new diplomatic project by telling reporters earlier than a March assembly on immigration on the White House that the vp would “lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle, and the countries that can help, need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.”

Ms. Harris’s workers spent weeks explaining that her job was to not reform the nation’s immigration system however a narrowly centered overseas coverage mission. That distinction is troublesome to attract, given the interconnected nature of worldwide migration.

And it appears to have been misplaced on Republicans, who see the state of affairs on the border as certainly one of their most potent strains of assault in opposition to a comparatively widespread administration. They’ve spent weeks falsely calling her Mr. Biden’s “border czar,” releasing #BidenBorderCrisis movies and calling on the vp to go to the southern border, which she is going to fly over this weekend on her strategy to conferences in Central America.

But there are some indications that behind the scenes, Ms. Harris pushed for management roles on these charged coverage points.

After the election, some allies of Ms. Harris’s urged her to tackle immigration, in line with individuals who have spoken together with her staff, although the problem has lengthy been so intractable that the final president to go important laws addressing it was Ronald Reagan. And the vp personally requested Mr. Biden if she may spearhead the administration’s combat in opposition to Republicans’ new voting restrictions, as an extension of her previous work as a senator and the legal professional common of California on a downside she believes threatens the underpinnings of American democracy.

Yet within the Senate, Ms. Harris was not recognized for her shut relationships with moderates like Mr. Manchin. It’s unclear if she is going to be capable of dealer the sort of compromises inside her celebration that might be essential to go a voting rights invoice. And given the dearth of Republican help, little is prone to occur on the invoice except Democrats conform to abolish the filibuster, which a number of moderates oppose.

Beyond laws, her affect is restricted. In the states, Republicans have made the passing of legal guidelines that limit voting an early litmus take a look at for his or her celebration. While the Justice Department can convey litigation in opposition to voter-suppression measures, Ms. Harris can’t been seen as pressuring the company to take action. Filling judicial vacancies with pro-voting judges may assist cease a few of the state legal guidelines, however that’s a function that falls to Congress and Mr. Biden.

Still, there could also be political upside for Ms. Harris in taking over voting rights. Voting rights advocates have expressed frustration at what they see because the administration’s tepid method to countering voter suppression and the prospect that it may hamper Democrats’ means to win elections in 2022 and past.

Ms. Harris can journey the nation rallying her celebration’s base, notably voters of shade who’re the spine of Democratic politics. Allies say her function will prolong far past the legislative wrangling within the Senate to incorporate conferences with activists, state officers and companies — constructing relationships with the sorts of Democrats who can assist bolster a presidential bid.

“From her perspective, what I would say she’s thinking about is, ‘Look, if we don’t fix this, our democracy is gone,’” mentioned Leah Daughtry, a veteran of Democratic campaigns. “She will be using the power of the bully pulpit of the White House to get people engaged and involved.”

But some counsel that Ms. Harris’s portfolio could have extra to do with workplace politics than these of the presidential selection. While Mr. Biden feels snug with Ms. Harris, Democrats accustomed to the workings of the White House say, some on his staff stay skeptical of her loyalty after the divisive main race. Her agenda, they argue, could merely be the White House model of cleansing up after the workplace celebration: What higher strategy to show her constancy than by taking over a few of the most thankless duties?

“There’s always the long view when you are vice president and you think about the future,” Ms. Brazile mentioned. “But it’s too early. Joe Biden has said he’s running in 2024, and she is a real team player.”

Drop us a line!

We wish to hear from our readers. Have a query? We’ll attempt to reply it. Have a remark? We’re all ears. Email us at [email protected] or message me on Twitter at @llerer.

By the numbers: 29

… That’s the variety of days former President Donald J. Trump’s weblog existed earlier than being shuttered this week.

… Seriously

The marketing campaign swag that’s value a thousand phrases.

Thanks for studying. On Politics is your information to the political information cycle, delivering readability from the chaos.

On Politics can also be out there as a e-newsletter. Sign up right here to get it delivered to your inbox.

Is there something you assume we’re lacking? Anything you wish to see extra of? We’d love to listen to from you. Email us at [email protected]