Harris’s Mission: Advocating for Freedom and Addressing Humanitarian Crises


Hosting rapper Fat Joe at the White House to discuss marijuana law reform. Attending an abortion clinic. Calling for a cease-fire in Gaza from the historic Selma Bridge in Alabama.

Walking through the bloodstained crime scene from the Parkland, Florida, school massacre. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris has emerged from President Joe Biden’s shadow in recent weeks as part of a high-profile attempt to persuade the fractured coalition of voters who put them in the White House to give them another term.

Harris’ shifting role comes as progressive Democrats challenge Biden for his pro-Israel attitude and polls show him in a close fight with Republican competitor Donald Trump.

As left-leaning voters doubt Biden’s age and leadership, a dilemma Trump does not have among his core supporters, the 59-year-old Harris is addressing more contentious issues, more frequently and forcefully than Biden.

Biden has defended abortion rights while emphasizing the lives of women in peril, describing it as a “deeply private and painful” affair.

Harris has gone even further: on a visit to Planned Parenthood in Minneapolis, which is thought to be the first time a sitting vice president has visited an abortion facility, the former senator defined abortion as a core aspect of women’s healthcare.

“Everyone get ready for the language: uterus,” she went on to say. “Issues like fibroids — we can handle this — breast cancer screenings, contraceptive care — that is the kind of work that happens here, in addition, of course, to abortion care.”

In Selma, she made the toughest statements on Israel’s offensive on Hamas at the time, saying, “Given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire.”

Some praised her use of the term “ceasefire,” which left-leaning Democrats had grown to expect and had become a rallying cry, while others asked that it be accompanied with substantive improvements as well. Harris also urged Israel to do more to alleviate what she described as a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza.

“There is no doubt the vice-president has tried to move the conversation about Gaza to a more empathetic place, but introducing new language falls flat when there is no evidence she’s pushing for a more meaningful policy shift,” said Abbas Alawieh, a top official for a campaign urging voters to vote “uncommitted” in the Democratic primaries to protest Biden.

“She needs to push Biden harder to change U.S. policy,” the vice president stated.

Current and former Harris staffers rejected the notion that Biden and Harris had different policies, describing their efforts as a difference in tone and focus. They said Harris’ projects reflect areas of interest that, in some cases, go back to her tenure as a prosecutor.

“She’s been on the cutting edge of some of the most important issues facing the country, and certainly those that will determine the election,” said Dave Cavell, a former Harris speechwriter.

Biden cannot focus on difficult cultural issues without alienating the conservative voters he needs to win, according to current and former aides. As the Democrats’ “coalition leader,” he must focus on the basic economic problems that will influence centrists, they argue.

To that purpose, he has used 11 of his 16 trips to competitive election states this year, including Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, to advocate “kitchen table” economic policies like as returning manufacturing jobs that have been moved overseas and supporting unions.

Harris, the first Black, Asian, and female vice president, is instead taking on a pugilistic role, with a “Fight for Reproductive Freedoms” tour and a “Fight for Our Freedoms” college tour, in addition to discussing the economics.


During her vice presidency, Biden has given Harris a variety of seemingly intractable challenges, ranging from the decades-old problem of migration to the United States’ southern border to challenging a generations-old habit of limiting voting rights for left-leaning Americans.

Another significant obstacle is reuniting segments of the Democratic coalition that have splintered over Israel policy, immigration, and economic issues.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, Biden and Trump are tied nationally, and the majority of women, those under 40, and Latinos disapprove of Biden’s performance as president. Each group supported Biden in 2020, helping him defeat Trump. Only 56% of Black people approved of Biden’s job performance, which is low for a population that usually votes 9-to-1 for Democrats in presidential elections.

Harris, who has approval ratings of less than 40% in recent public opinion polls, is also the most popular Democratic politician in the United States after Biden. Some White House aides have privately questioned her efficacy as an administration spokesperson, as well as her capacity to win if she were at the top of the ticket.

If Trump wins the largest racial group in the United States for the third time in a row, Biden will need to perform well in a variety of groups that traditionally support Democrats.

There are several indications that Harris is in for a tough fight.

During a trip to San Juan last week intended to attract the 5.9 million Puerto Rican Latinos who live in the mainland United States, Harris’ arrival at a community center to celebrate the Caribbean island’s culture was met with protests.

Some screamed “Yankee, go home” and waved posters labeling Harris a “war criminal” for the Biden administration’s backing for Israel in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 offensive, despite a growing Gaza death toll. Such protests have occurred at several Harris gatherings.

Biden, on the other hand, is becoming a more prominent supporter of Hillary, having previously debated whether she should be his running mate in 2020. Harris has worked hard to avoid appearing out of sync with her boss, describing Biden and herself on March 4 as “aligned and consistent from the very beginning” on Gaza.

“I love her,” Biden declared, unprompted, about Harris on February 6. She’s “doing an incredible job,” he said on March 18.

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