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Here’s Why Kamala Harris Should Ditch VP Job and Run for Governor

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Columnist Joe Mathews opines that Kamala Harris's future is in California as governor and she should ditch her VP job. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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Come back, Kamala.

Back to California, where you have a future.

Photo of Joe Mathews

Joe Mathews

Opinion

Away from Washington D.C., where they’ll 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 facing multiple criminal indictments.

Two-thirds of Democrats want your boss, Joe Biden, not to run for re-election. 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 has never articulated a clear vision 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.

Don’t Run for Vice President Again

You’ve loyally represented Biden on those issues, but your critics claim that you’ve failed to articulate convincing defenses for Biden’s misbegotten policies. The real problem is that his policies—including mass deportation and denial of asylum requests — are indefensible.

It’s time 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. And you’d be condemned to a second term of representing a visionless president, leaving you too weak to win the presidency yourself in 2028.

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

You should be blunt. Try this: “This country will sustain irreparable damage if Donald Trump becomes president again. And I don’t want to do anything that might help him. The polls show I’m unpopular with the public, and the president already has an uphill fight. So, I have informed him I will not run for vice president. Now, he can pick a new running mate and reset this campaign.”

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 from Democrats desperate for a stronger ticket. Who knows? You might pressure Biden to reconsider his own decision to run.

A Bigger Opportunity Awaits in California

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 need a new governor in 2026, when Gavin Newsom is termed out.

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

You might think it’s too early to ponder the 2026 governor’s race. But the campaign is already underway. Three state elected officials have already declared their candidacies. None of them should worry you. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Controller Betty Yee have little name recognition. The third, State Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurmond, is known for administrative incompetence and pandemic-era failures in education. Attorney General Rob Bonta and State Senate leader Toni Atkins may jump in, but can’t match you in star power or fundraising.

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.

California Governorship Is a Better Job Than VP

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

About the Author

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.

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