Heard from Kamala Harris lately? Feel that you’re not getting your daily recommended allowance of word salad? Fret not, as Politico reports that Harris’ absence is not a figment of your imagination. The White House has a new media strategy for Harris that apparently involves sending her places where the media aren’t.
Politico sees this as a wise maneuver, allowing Harris to build credibility outside the media bubble:
A rural town of 30,000 along the Mississippi River is not your stereotypical stop for a national Democrat, let alone one serving as the second most powerful politician in the country. But Harris had, nevertheless, traveled there that day as part of an effort to talk about small businesses and community lending programs. …
The swing to Greenville is part of an under noticed strategy for the VP’s office, one in which she’s homed her focus on the ways in which administration policy is intersecting with overlooked communities. It’s brought her to other far-off, non-traditional locales, including a recent swing to Sunset, Louisiana, a rural town of fewer than 3,000 people, to tout the administration’s work expanding rural broadband. And it’s manifested itself in the ways in which she’s approached some of the White House’s big-ticket items.
Weeks after the bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed into law, Harris convened a briefing with administration officials to go over the part of the bill related to charging stations for electric vehicles — an interest that had animated her dating back to her time in California politics. As staff went from page to page of the briefing document, she peppered them with questions. How would 500,000 charging stations be built and distributed? Who would build them? What would it mean for overlooked communities?
“[She said] ‘Talk to me about a community that has been left behind, a rural community. Where are they going to go? How are they going to get put there?” Mitch Landrieu, senior adviser to the president, recounted to POLITICO. “Now talk to me about an urban neighborhood that has been left behind where people are renting.’”
A month later, she was in Brandywine, Maryland, a majority Black city — though not exactly a locality at the vanguard of electoral politics — talking about EV stations and announcing the administration’s plan to make sure its charging network made it to communities like theirs.
This could be on the level. If indeed this strategy aims at grounding White House policy on needs outside Democrats’ existing strongholds, it’s a smart choice. Both parties have fallen too deeply in love with base-turnout policies that distort their approach to policy, resulting in demagogic platforms and unrealistic promises. The parties remain stuck in echo chambers that convince them of The Emerging Progressive/Conservative/Populist Majority, and results in massive disillusion and failure. Joe Biden’s not the first president to fall victim to that delusion — he’s only the most recent and most spectacularly incompetent.
I wrote an entire book about the need for both parties to adopt strategies such as these, especially Republicans. Any sense that parties are using it to move their own centers back to the overall center would be good news.
However … color me skeptical about this, which looks very convenient indeed in dealing with such a clear liability like Kamala Harris. If the White House matched this up with moderation of their agenda, then it might look on the level. As it is, though, Biden’s still pushing his progressive spend-o-rama while calling it anything but Build Back Better, and he’s still hurling demagoguery on behalf of the hard-Left wing of his party rather than offering a “reset.” There’s no sense that Biden will let his party off the midterm hook by adopting a triangulation strategy, and every indication that Biden sees himself as successful already — and expects voters to eventually appreciate his hidden genius, or something.
As for relating to voters outside the bubble, that inverts the sales pitch for the Biden/Harris ticket. Politico may see lots of potential for Harris to bring back stories that will “influence” the White House on policy, but that’s what Scranton Joe was supposed to do on his own all along. And as risible as the Scranton Joe persona has been for most of the last 50 years that Biden’s been superglued to the Beltway, Biden by far is more relatable to the working class than is Kamala Harris.
This new strategy looks more like a great way to get Harris and her continuing staff meltdowns not just out of the way of the White House, but out of the way of the media, too. Her word-salad responses on camera are an ongoing reminder to everyone how Biden botched his first test of presidential leadership by picking Harris as his running mate. They’ve tried picking her spots with national-media appearances and giving her opportunities abroad in high-profile events, and Harris keeps fumbling every one of them. Sending her to places like Greenville, Mississippi is one sure way to keep her from places like Washington DC, New York, Warsaw, and anywhere national media might take an interest in her.
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