Come Home, Kamala

The Vice Presidency, Under Biden, Is a Lose-Lose Proposition. And the California Governorship Is About to Be Open

Columnist Joe Mathews urges Vice President Kamala Harris (above) to step down as Joe Biden’s 2024 running mate—and instead, take the reins in California. Courtesy of AP Newsroom.

Come back, Kamala. Come back.

Back to California, where you might have a future.

Away from Washington, D.C., where they will never give you a fair shake.

You’re politically trapped. You’re the unpopular vice president of an unpopular president. As a team, the two of you are headed to a catastrophic election defeat, even though your likely opponent is an insurrectionist ex-president held legally liable for rape and facing multiple criminal indictments.

Two-thirds of Democrats, and anyone who can read swing state polls, want your boss, Joe Biden, not to run for re-election, and instead open the door for a campaign that could produce a more electable nominee. But everyone knows Biden, 81, will run anyway.

What’s more appalling is that you are getting much of the blame for much of this. Biden’s many allies in politics and media suggest he can’t drop out because the nomination would go to you.

They note that you do worse in presidential polls than him. But they leave unmentioned the truth that you’re unpopular because your job as vice president is to represent him, and he’s given you peanuts to work with. He and his administration have never articulated a clear vision or direction for the country, or a second term. Biden’s team has bungled crises, like the Afghanistan withdrawal, and broken promises to reverse toxic Trump policies like rights-violating immigration restrictions and inflation-inducing trade protections.

You’ve loyally represented Biden on those issues, and gotten nothing but criticism for it. Your critics claim that you’ve failed to articulate convincing defenses for Biden’s misbegotten policies, especially on immigration. The real problem is that his policies—which include mass deportation and denial of asylum requests—are indefensible.

It’s time for you to face reality: If you remain on the ticket as Biden’s vice president, there’s no way out. If Biden loses, you’ll take the blame.

If Biden somehow wins, you won’t get a lick of credit: The credit will all go to Trump’s awfulness. You’d still be confined to a second term of representing an elderly, visionless president, leaving you too weak to make a plausible presidential bid yourself in 2028.

Sometimes the best way forward is to step back. You should announce, as soon as possible, that you will not be the Democratic nominee for vice president next year.

You do this by being blunt. Try this: “This country will sustain irreparable damage if Donald Trump becomes president again. And I don’t want to do anything that will help him. While I’ve done a much better job as vice president than what the media say, the polls show I’m unpopular with the public, and the president already has an uphill fight to win re-election. So, I have informed him I will not run for vice president. Now, he can pick a new running mate and reset this campaign.”

Sometimes the best way forward is to step back. You should announce, as soon as possible, that you will not be the Democratic nominee for vice president next year.

This will make you look selfless—you’re giving up a high office because you want to protect the country. You’ll win extensive praise, especially from Democrats desperate for a stronger ticket. Who knows? You might create pressure on Biden to reconsider his own decision to run.

And while you’d be closing a door in D.C., you’d be opening a bigger one here in California.

That’s because you’d be returning to a state that will soon need a new governor. Gavin Newsom is termed out in 2026, so his seat will be open.

If you ran for the job, you’d be the overwhelming favorite.

Some people will suggest it’s too early to think about the 2026 governor’s race. But the campaign is already well underway. Three state elected officials have already declared their candidacies. None of them should worry you. Two, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Controller Betty Yee, have little name recognition. The third, State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, seems to be running to demonstrate his complete lack of self-awareness. He is known mostly for administrative incompetence and pandemic-era failures in education.

Two other politicians—Attorney General Rob Bonta and State Senate leader Toni Atkins—may jump in, but they can’t match you in star power or fundraising. Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass could be a formidable governor, but she seems unlikely to run.

I suspect Californians would welcome you as governor—you’re more decisive and focused than Newsom. As governor, you’d set the agenda and decide the budget. With a legislature dominated by your fellow Democrats, you could get far more done than you’d ever manage as president in a polarized Washington.

And the job is much bigger and better than your current one. California governors enjoy great executive authority, so much so that their office has effectively become a second American presidency. You’d still be an international figure, but without having to abide an octogenarian president.

And, you could build a record that would make you a far stronger candidate for president later on, if that’s something you wish for your future.

Plus, you’d enjoy California weather.

Doesn’t that all sound much better than another thankless vice-presidential campaign, and perhaps another four years in the rain and misery of Washington?

Come back, Kamala. Before Christmas if you can.


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