Thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris, the power of women will never be the same
OPINION: Vice President Kamala Harris shattered a 200-year-old glass ceiling in November 2020. As a Black woman, she brings both cultural and gender competency to the most powerful table in the country.
Two hundred and thirty-three years ago as the United States Constitution established the role of vice president, it also enshrined the rights of southern states to continue to enslave over half a million Black Americans; and granted latitude to local and state governments to deny free Black Americans the rights and protections of full citizenship.
Undoubtedly, the prospect of a woman vice president would have been unfathomable to a group that prohibited women from participating in the framing and ratification of the Constitution. Yet in 2021, we commemorate a new historic achievement this Women’s History Month: the first woman, Black person, and person of Asian descent as vice president.
In becoming the 49th vice president of the United States, former San Francisco District Attorney, California Attorney General and United States Senator Kamala Harris shattered a two-centuries-old glass ceiling.
The significance of having a woman, especially a Black woman, occupy the country’s second-highest office cannot be overstated. Harris’ win is both inspiring and transformational. As a Black woman, Kamala Harris brings both cultural and gender competency to the most powerful table in the country.
Issues like Black maternal and infant mortality — which have long been on the back burner — now find a champion in the White House. As Harris often states, she may be the first but will not be the last. The diversity of Harris’ staff, headed by Hartina Flournoy (the first-ever Black woman chief of staff to the vice president), makes it clear that Harris is continuing her tradition of creating a pipeline of women and Black leaders.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ success finally puts to bed the notion that women are unelectable political liabilities on a presidential ticket. Within 24 hours of Harris’ announcement as the Democratic vice presidential nominee, the Biden campaign received an astronomical $26 million fundraising boost. Together, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris won the 2020 election by a margin of 7 million votes ultimately receiving 81.2 million votes, the most in U.S. history.
There is no better proof that women can win, than winning.
While the position of vice president has existed since 1789, it was not until 1939 the Office of the Vice President was established. With only three duties enumerated in the Constitution, presiding over the Senate, the counting of Electoral College votes before Congress, and impeachment trials, each administration has carved out its own portfolio for the vice president.
In recent history, the vice president has taken on substantially more power and distinction. President Biden often characterizes himself as a transitional figure, so it’s no surprise that he has wholeheartedly embraced and elevated the role of Vice President Kamala Harris to stand beside him rather than to stand back.
Harris has been visible to a seemingly unprecedented extent, giving her own separate address the day she and Biden were declared president-elect and vice president-elect, and being prominent during each unveiling of the Cabinet.
With Vice President Harris, women have now moved from a position of influence at the highest levels, to a position of power. While several first ladies have been credited with wielding considerable influence in their husband’s administration, with the Harris vice presidency that power comes out of the shadows to be exerted in an official capacity.
Pledging that Harris will be the last person in the room with him, President Biden has demonstrated that she is a trusted and valued decision-making partner. Biden has credited Harris with being heavily involved in all of the Cabinet selections, which are notably full of historic firsts and a gold standard for diversity.
Harris’ policy prowess is evident in key administration priorities such as the response to COVID-19. As a U.S. senator, Kamala Harris championed the formation of the COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Disparities Task Force. While her legislative initiative stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, it has played a critical role in the Biden Harris administration.
The task force provides oversight and recommendations on tackling the public and economic disparities across the country. It especially focuses on the equitable distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines to communities hit hardest by the pandemic. Harris has personally pressed for more mobile vaccination sites to ensure that urban and rural communities ravaged by the pandemic are not left behind.
While Harris’ role as an expected frequent tiebreaker in the Senate has garnered much attention, her day-to-day work is concentrated in the executive branch. She is a member of the National Security Council, National Economic Council, and National Space Council as well as a recipient of the Presidential Daily Briefings.
Though Kamala Harris’ portfolio is not yet formally defined, her addressing the hardships of small business and the alarming decrease of women in the workplace spurred by the pandemic offers clues about her potential domestic focus. Reportedly, cybersecurity and global health will be Harris’ foreign policy focus.
Although just 6 of the 15 vice presidents who ascended to the presidency have done so through an election, Harris’ vice presidency makes the prospect of the country electing its first woman president more likely. Twelve vice presidents secured their party’s nomination, while 20 did not run for higher office.
The likelihood of Harris being the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s nomination after Biden’s presidency in part explains why several studies reflect that she is already one of the most targeted politicians online; particularly with sexist or racist attacks on social media. Reports have also shown that media coverage of Harris at times has included sexist or racist tropes.
In large part thanks to her historic victory, Vice President Harris will be one of the most-watched politicians in the world. Her successes will be heralded as further evidence of how women are just as, if not more than, capable of leading as men.
With more than three decades of distinguished public service at every level of government, Vice President Kamala Harris is indisputably equipped to blaze the trail.
Reecie Colbert, founder of BlackWomenViews Media, wanted a social media haven for the expressions of unapologetic & bold Blackness. BlackWomenViews is where we root for everybody Black & embrace our multi-facets. Where Black women aren’t measured by our hair, taste in music/TV or status. Here we are celebrated not tolerated.
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