Two Indian American women likely to occupy centrestage in 2024 US presidential campaign

It would have been compelling to see two presidential aspirants in Haley and Harris duke it out during debates. However, those encounters may have to wait for the foreseeable future.

Mayank Chhaya May 01, 2023
Kamala Harris and Nikki Haley (Photo: Wikipedia)

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley’s prediction that US President Joe Biden would not make it until 86 in a second term is weirdly specific.

In so much as any person on the planet is likely to die at any time, it is not inconceivable that that could happen to Biden as well. He has no particular immunity against sudden death. However, for Haley who is 51, to say it so explicitly is strange simply because she makes it sound as if uncertainty about life is unique and specific to Biden.

In an interview with Fox News Haley said, “He announced that he’s running again in 2024, and I think that we can all be very clear and say with a matter of fact that if you vote for Joe Biden you really are counting on a President (Kamala) Harris, because the idea that he would make it until 86 years old is not something that I think is likely,” Haley, 51, said in an interview on Fox News.

It is her reference to “a President Harris” that exposes the real rub for her. Biden’s mortality in this case is merely a subterfuge to express some subconscious angst about Harris, who has already gone down in history as the first woman as well as half Indian American and half Jamaican American. That distinction is engraved permanently for Harris, something Haley may nurse some deep-seated antipathy towards.

Haley's foreboding, Harris' opportunity

Age is a problem for Haley as in old age in politicians. In launching her campaign Haley had called for a competency test for politicians over 75, a comment that chucked one stone at two old birds, Biden and former President Donald Trump who is 76.

Haley’s comment was noted by White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates who told NBC News, “As you know, we don’t directly respond to campaigns from here. But honestly, I forgot she was running.” As shades from the Biden White House go this was as sharp as it was ever likely to be.

In speculating about Biden’s mortality Haley is displaying not just bad form but perhaps bad political judgement. It almost sounded as if she has some divine intimation about the president’s lifespan in which case she should say so.

Beyond Haley’s comments, it is true that now that Harris is expected to be Biden’s running mate again, the possibility of her having to step in as president in the event of him not being able to fulfill his duties for any reason, including a debilitating ailment or, obviously, death is distinct. At 80, Biden has all the frailties and fragilities of age but by and large he still seems reasonably sharp and agile to do the high-pressure job.

There is nothing wrong in raising questions about the vagaries of age eating into the vitalities of the White House job. What is inelegant is to say specifically that Biden would not last the entirety of his second term should he be re-elected as Haley has so bluntly put it.

Harris' low approval ratings

It is clear that in Biden’s re-election bid Harris is expected to play a visible and important role, particularly on the powerful issue of abortion rights which are under a diversity of political and legal assaults across America. While Biden can continue to make a forceful case in favor of abortion rights and women’s health, it acquires a very different and more effective position coming from a woman vice president. At 58, she can still speak in an idiom that reaches to girls and women in their late teens, 20s and beyond, unlike Biden who might come across as antiquated in his phraseology.

Harris, of course, faces not just the challenge of a low approval rating of 40 percent, which is even lower than Biden’s 42 percent, but that notwithstanding she remains an assertive presence on issue such as abortion rights, voting rights and climate change. She also faces the more consequential challenge of not being particularly admired even within the Democratic Party.

From an Indian American standpoint, it is extraordinary in and of itself that two women with such strong Indian roots are going to be at the center of the 2024 presidential season.

It would have been compelling to see two presidential aspirants in Haley and Harris duke it out during debates. However, those encounters may have to wait for the foreseeable future.

(The author is a Chicago-based commentator, author and filmmaker. Views are personal. By special arrangement Indica)

Post a Comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.