Vice President Kamala Harris has never been a particularly popular politician; she dropped out of the Democratic presidential primary in 2019, with The Guardian noting that even polls in her home state of California looked bleak at the time.
Now, things have apparently gotten so bad that top Democrat operatives hosted what Axios described as a “crisis dinner” last month in an effort to improve Harris’ standing in the press.
Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported that the event was hosted in Washington by former Clinton adviser and Democratic public affairs expert Kiki McLean.
A future in “crisis”
Swan added that although no one from Harris’ office was present, the attendees comprised a number of influential women within the Democratic Party.
Among them were former Obama White House communications director Jennifer Palmieri, former Hillary Clinton spokeswomen Adrienne Elrod and Karen Finney, Biden administration adviser Stephanie Cutter, as well as former Democratic National Committee heads Donna Brazile and Leah Daughtry.
Swan quoted an unnamed source said to be “familiar with the dinner” as saying: “The point of it was how can this group be supportive from the outside.” The source added: “It was less about how do you sort out the infrastructure [of Harris’ operation], and it was more how can this group contribute to make sure that not only is her team making the most of this moment — as the first woman of color in the White House — but how can we help from the outside?”
Another unnamed figure told Swan, “Many of us lived through the Clinton campaign, and want to help curb some of the gendered dynamics in press coverage that impacted HRC [Hillary Rodham Clinton].”
They added: “It was like: ‘We’ve seen this before.’ It’s subtle. But when things aren’t going well for a male politician, we ask very different questions, and they’re not held to account the way a woman leader is.”
Reputation on the rocks
However, Harris’ detractors contend that her difficulties have less to do with the fact that she is a woman and more to do with her apparent incompetence.
In November of 2019, Fox News reported that a senior figure with Harris’ then-presidential campaign submitted a resignation letter that stated, “This is my third presidential campaign and I have never seen an organization treat its staff so poorly.”
Allegations of poor management followed Harris into the Biden administration, with a June report from Politico detailing a series of resignations from the vice president’s office. Sources complained of a chaotic management style when speaking with the outlet.
What’s more, Harris received widespread criticism for her lengthy delay in visiting America’s southern border after President Biden appointed her to oversee the crisis there. It remains to be seen whether Harris — and her approval ratings — can come back from all this.