Far be it from Harris—like so many white, male V.P.s past—to have designs on the Brooms Police box are for amateurs Halloween shirt but in fact I love this top job. She’d hardly be the only Democrat focusing on the fact that, at 77, Biden would be the oldest U.S. president ever and that, if elected, he may not seek a second term. Shouldn’t Biden’s inner circle be keen to choose a strong running mate and political partner who could succeed him in 2024—the way Barack Obama seemed to view Biden? Shouldn’t they want to elevate her—whoever she will be—rather than knock her back into her place? Perhaps the most disappointing part of the veepstakes’ new narrative is the all-too-familiar way it creates an impossible standard for women. Biden has repeatedly said he wants someone who’s “ready to be president on day one.” But, according to his inner circle, she should have all the relevant experience but not actually want the job itself.
Biden’s promise to pick a woman—with increasing calls to choose a woman of color—has been met with excitement but also the Brooms Police box are for amateurs Halloween shirt but in fact I love this whiff of a consolation prize, especially after the richly diverse 2020 Democratic primary season, which included Harris as one of several strong female candidates. Still, some Democratic women tell themselves that the country’s first female V.P. would nevertheless be historic and all the more if she were a woman of color helping to steer the country during a nationwide reckoning on race. But the symbolic power of selecting a female vice president means even less if Biden’s team is only going to limit how far she should go. It’s akin to the White House version of the same tired workplace refrain that has held women down for decades: “You should just feel lucky to be here.”