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About two months ago, I wrote an article suggesting that President Biden should replace his vice president, Kamala Harris, with California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and then resign, to give Democrats a better chance at retaining the White House in 2024. Though of course it was not a game plan that Biden would ever entertain, my intent was to ignite a discussion on the viability of a ticket led by either Biden or Harris going forward. And it worked: The column elicited a wide array of positive and negative responses — the best of which came from pollster Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, who smacked it down by tweeting, “The competition is fierce but this is a top 5 worst political take of all time.”
While I appreciate Silver elevating me into a “top 5 of all-time list,” I didn’t think anyone would take the idea literally. And my point still stands: When it comes to picking a presidential ticket for 2024, many people believe — including some liberals — the Democratic Party could be in a world of hurt if it doesn’t look beyond the current occupants of the White House.
Some Democrats have told me they don’t think either Biden or Harris would give their party the best chance in the next election. More than that, several worry that Democrats will have a dilemma if they try to move away from Harris, since she is the first woman and first person of color to be elected vice president — a special place in American history. As one Democrat told me, “You have to be very careful moving against living American history.”
Indeed. In November 2020, I acknowledged Harris’ place in history, writing: “Come Inauguration Day, it won’t be about Joe Biden. It will be about an American first, American history being played out right before our very eyes. When Kamala Harris places her hand on the Bible to take the oath of office, she’ll become the first woman vice president of the United States. … While most Americans will take great pride in that achievement, I suspect that tens of millions of our fellow citizens will literally shed tears of joy. When they watch Harris recite the oath, they will see a part of themselves reflected in her glory. … The daughter of hard-working immigrants, she personifies the American Dream… .”
I’m still proud that Harris made American history. It was long overdue. And no one can take that away from her.
But now what? Aside from being a history-making figure, Harris is a government official who should be working on behalf of the American people. So, will the Democratic powerbrokers be able to — or, more importantly, be willing to — separate the “government official” from the “history-making figure” to judge Harris on her performance? A survey published in December found that only 43 percent of Americans approve of her job performance. Another survey, earlier last year, suggested that many Democrats never really accepted her in the position.
So, as we approach 2024, who might give the Democrats the best chance to retain the White House? I don’t have the answer to that at this point, but I know this: The 2020 election and the 2022 midterms showed that politics and policy live on the razor’s edge, and elections matter more than ever.
Rhetoric from Biden supporters aside, you might be hard-pressed to find Democrats who truly believe that Biden will actually seek reelection when he’s 83, or who want that to happen. You also might find more and more Democrats who don’t think Harris has the gravitas to occupy the Oval Office, though they might be reluctant to express that publicly.
Put aside history-making icons and political correctness. The Democratic Party is going to find that it needs someone else to nominate as presidential and vice-presidential candidates in less than two years. Some may disagree, but I predict that will prove to be a valid political take.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.
2024 presidential election
Joe Biden campaign