Kamala Harris's impossible vice presidency

Everyone expects Harris to run for president again one day, but her job requires her to avoid even the appearance of preparing for her political future. I spoke with two dozen White House aides, members of Congress, current and former members of Harris’s circle, and other friends and allies in recent weeks. They have mixed feelings about Harris’s vice presidency, but even those who want her to seize a more public profile acknowledge the difficult spot she’s in. She’s already made history, and might make more of it. She’s working with a man who, after his own time as vice president, is determined to be the boss—but might also become the first president in decades not to seek a second term. She feels the burden on her as the first woman and first person of color to be vice president, but she’s determined that her time in office will be about more than those facts. She asked not to be handed just one portfolio. But by aiming to be involved in everything, she’s having a hard time making her mark on anything—especially because she’s careful not to create the impression that Biden needs help being sensitive to issues of inclusion and equity...

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told me he was “dumbfounded” trying to come up with what Harris’s precise role or impact has been. Bob Casey, the Democratic senator from Pennsylvania who’s been close with Biden for years and is now a Harris fan too, fondly recalled how much he enjoyed being in the Senate until 5:34 a.m. to watch Harris cast the tiebreaking vote to move the COVID-relief bill forward. As for her specific influence, he added, “It’s probably the case that there are a number of things where her imprint or her presence on that team is the reason why there’s a particular emphasis. I can’t say that I can identify one.” Other members of Congress who have sat in Oval Office conversations with the president and vice president struggled to answer this question too. Biden, who has shown a new confidence since he returned to the White House, has been making clear that he’s the one running the meetings, and Harris has been diligently deferential.