Can Kamala Harris Turn Things Around? A Skeptic and an Optimist Debate

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S1: He waves listeners a quick note before we get to today’s show. I know some of you might be looking for coverage of Wednesday’s Supreme Court arguments in the abortion case. Dobbs V. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This week’s episode of The Waves had already been taped before that happened, but you should check out Saturday’s Amicus podcast for an in-depth discussion of that case, and we’ll have lots more coverage of reproductive rights in the future. If there’s something you’re particularly interested in hearing about. Drop us a line at the Waves at Slate.com.

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S2: This is the waves. This is the waves. This is the way this is. The way this is the way. This is the waves. That’s it.

S3: Welcome to the Waves Slate’s podcast about gender, feminism and playing devil’s advocate in the Kamala Harris debate. Every episode, you get a new pair of feminists to talk about the thing we can’t get off our minds today. You’ve got me Noreen Malone, an editor at large for Slate and me.

S2: Alicia Montgomery, executive producer of Slate Podcast.

S3: I’m excited because this week we’re talking about Kamala Harris as vice presidency. So a USA Today Suffolk poll in early November showed that she had an approval rating of just 28 percent, which for a little context, is lower than even Dick Cheney’s at his lowest. Which is kind of crazy, right? She’s only a year into this. There’s been no Iraq war, and she’s lower than Dick Cheney. Harris hasn’t actually been in the spotlight very much as the other crazy part about this. What is that all about? Is Harris getting thrown under the bus by the Biden administration? Is it the media’s fault? Is it plain old racism and sexism? Is it her own fault? Does it have to do with the larger dynamics in the Democratic Party? A lot of questions, and we will dig in. Alicia I will admit that one reason I’m interested in this subject is I have always found Kamala Harris to be a lot more appealing than the average Democratic voter seems to. But I’m sort of exactly in her demographic, right? I’m a professional woman. I enjoy seeing ambition in other women. And also the other thing I like about her is that she sort of a little mean and aggressive and kind of a cool girl. And people don’t tend to like that in their politician. So I will admit that’s just a weird thing. So I’m in the minority and I want to figure out why.

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S2: Well, you know, Noreen, I feel like for a long time, and especially in this particular moment, there seems to be a lot of sort of willful ignorance about what we already know about the American political landscape and where she’s placed in it. This job, the vice presidency, is literally a job that almost no one wants. The way people get this job is they got beat out by the person who is hiring them. And now they’ve got to spend four to eight years with this kind of subtle soul mate relationship waiting for their turn at the top spot. And there’s this idea that the bromance between Joe Biden and Barack Obama is kind of what you’re aiming for in President Veep relationship, but it is always been more of a frenemy situation. You look at, you know, the last president who credible reports suggest was OK with Mike Pence getting killed in the capital because he wouldn’t do anything to intervene in the election. And so if you’re looking at that model or you’re looking at something sort of pre Obama, Biden, you look at Dick Cheney, who, you know, was sort of a political mastermind and kind of was running the country from his office while George W. Bush was out there being affable or, you know, you look back to sort of the the coldness that developed between Bill Clinton and Al Gore after Clinton squandered so much political capital by harassing a lot of women. It’s just like, this is not a dynamic that lends itself to the kind of buddy film that we all seem to be asking for here.

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S3: Right? And you can’t do a bromance with a man and a woman, right? Like it’s her, it’s her older male boss like you. Just that is actually who she is. Yeah, again was in competition with. It’s a weird relationship, right? The closest analog that I’m thinking about as you’re talking is George W. Bush and Condi Rice, who had a super close relationship. But also, people whispered about them and said it was weird and like, what was going on there, you know, so she is like in just in in the interpersonal way, like she she’s in a bit of a bind. Lots to talk about. Let’s start by diving in and what we actually think about how Vice President Harris has performed in office.

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S4: But first, some business.

S3: Thank you so much for listening. If you’re loving the waves and want to hear more, subscribe to our feed. New episodes come out every Thursday morning and while you’re there, check out our other episodes too. Like last week’s about what to do with all your holiday leftovers and why historically women have been in charge of dealing with the remains of a meal. Alicia, what is the Harris vice presidency actually been like? What has she done so far?

S2: I was reading a story in The Grio, which is a black online news site, and it was talking about how this narrative that Kamala Harris has been invisible is just a crock of hooey. She’s done sort of the appearances here, there and everywhere. She’s had more than 100 meetings with the president. She’s been on the hill, she’s been overseas, she’s been doing the job of a vice president, which frankly, you know, if your vice president is more famous than you 10 months into your administration, then there is a problem. Vice presidents don’t get famous or not supposed to get particularly famous unless there’s a crisis. But the one thing that I really want to focus on with her portfolio is the way that she’s been used, frankly, to sort of be the face of the border policy for the Biden administration. The border crisis, if that’s what you want to call it in immigration have been radioactive issues for years on both sides of the aisle. There’s a lot of really tricky politics around these. And Kamala Harris was one of many Democratic candidates who saw this as kind of a central moral question back in 2020. But the Biden administration is falling into sort of the same traps as so many white houses and not being able to sort of clearly articulate what they are for when it comes to immigration. And it’s fine to say I don’t want to be as cruel as the Trump administration during the campaign, but during your presidency, you have to actually be for something. And the Biden administration has sort of been very awkwardly holding the line on border security and has actually used Kamala Harris as the voice of a policy discouraging people from coming to the southern U.S. border to seek asylum. Here’s a clip of a speech that Kamala Harris gave during a trip to Guatemala back in June, talking about border security.

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S5: I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States. Mexico border do not come, do not come. The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border. They are legal methods by which migration can and should occur. But we, as one of our priorities, will discourage illegal migration.

S2: I don’t think it was an accident that she was put in that position by this White House because she’s blast protection. She’s a guarantee that a certain sector of the left won’t be able to criticize the policy as racist. But it’s almost like you put this prominent woman of color and prominent first generation American up there. And you can say that, OK, our border security policy. See, it’s not racist. See this black woman, this Asian American woman, this daughter of immigrants, is the person who’s who’s telling Central Americans not to come here. This administration is already deep in disappointing territory for a lot of those voters of color who make up the Democratic base and the fact that you make Kamala Harris the face of this policy, that’s not going to help.

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S3: Let me play devil’s advocate for a minute. OK, so so why is that her job? Well, because it is her job, right? Like, the job of the vice president is sort of, you eat this shit sandwich that they serve you right? And like having border security, be your job in twenty twenty one is definitely a shit sandwich, right? The way you were talking about it was sort of saying, we’re sort of taking agency away from Kamala Harris and all of us. And theoretically, she’s the captain here, right? So she should be the person figuring out how are we clearly going to communicate? I’m not saying that she was able to say whatever she wants, but if there is a muddled message, she’s got something to do with that.

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S2: There’s a balance of power in this relationship traditionally. Of course, the top guy is looking for a way to hog the credit and deflect the blame and make somebody else do the hard. Org. But it’s another matter entirely when you are sending the daughter of immigrants to tell immigrants not to show up.

S3: It’s sort of notable what she hasn’t been able to concentrate on, right? So she came in saying that voting rights was something that she wanted to talk about, and that just hasn’t been part of the conversation. The Biden administration has been concentrating on the infrastructure bill, and the judge has really become the face of that. Why do you think that she’s been unable to sort of get juice there?

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S2: She came into the Senate the same time that Donald Trump came into the White House. She’s not kind of a creature of the Senate. She’s not a creature of political Washington in the same way that, you know, previous vice presidents have been. She came into the Senate at a very contentious time between the parties, and she was running for the White House two years later. So it’s not like she’s going to be able to step into the Senate the way Joe Biden was for Obama and knock heads together and figure out who is saying no and who’s saying not yet. And so she has spoken out about voting rights. She has been present in a conversation about voting rights, but because it has not been, you know, topic number one in Washington politics, it hasn’t gotten the kind of coverage that the wheeling and dealing over build back better has gotten. And she’s not going to be able to sort of single handedly move this needle, especially if everybody in the in Congress knows that it’s not priority number one for the president she’s serving. And you know, there is also sort of an element here where where race and racism creeps in, which is that for a white politician and an old white guy like Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders, they’re going to get a lot of credit for being crusaders for voting rights. But for a black politician to be sort of the face of a voting rights campaign, especially a vice president, there’s going to be some level of people dismissing it as self-interest, as special interests. So she’s not going to get the same kind of points for being a crusader for for voting rights that her, you know, frankly, her boss or some of her rivals would get.

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S3: OK, all right. I’m just going to play devil’s advocate this whole podcast. So you yourself just pointed out she doesn’t have a ton of Washington experience and something that I was thinking about listening to you talk is what is the job that she’s supposed to be doing here, right? Is it best positioning herself to pick up the torch and be the leader of the Democratic Party going forward? I think that’s part of the job that she’s supposed to be doing, and that seems to be the part of the job that people think she’s failing at. And the second part of the job is being the primary supporter of the president being an appendage of him to get his stuff done. To what degree is she succeeding at the first one and the second one there? A little bit related with each other. But they do seem to be two separate jobs that she’s being measured about, whether she’s able to do them well or not.

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S2: You know, I know that you’re playing devil’s advocate and it seems it’s very odd for me to be sort of the voice defending Kamala Harris because it’s not that I don’t like or appreciate Kamala Harris. It’s just like she was never kind of an exciting political voice to me. And this is one of the paradoxes for women is that everybody wants you to get up on the soapbox and be the brave person and and be the one calling for compassion and. And all of these values that are traditionally associated with women, you know, once you get the microphone. But then the same people who or the people standing next to the folks who wanted you to do that will say that you’re making yourself unserious, that you’re not tough enough, that you’re not going to be someone who a foreign leader or adversary is going to be able to take seriously. I mean, I feel like Kamala Harris is in roughly the same position as Hillary Clinton, where for a man in politics, being ambitious is taken for granted. Of course you’re ambitious. For a woman, it’s a slur. If her job was to absorb blows that would otherwise be coming for Joe Biden, then hey, she’s he’s doing fine right there because it’s very hard for Republicans. This was something that haunted them during the presidential campaign. You can’t label Joe Biden a socialist. He’s not scary. He’s not radical. He’s a slightly embarrassing uncle of that’s who he is. You know, he’s Mr. Compassion and he’s, you know, competent and. Variance. So all of the slurs that had worked when Barack Obama, frankly, another moderate. All those slurs that worked when Obama was at the top of the ticket didn’t work against Joe Biden. The only way that those slurs could be effective is if they were lobbed at Kamala Harris, who’s presumed to be a radical because she’s a woman, because she’s a woman of color and because she is a California Democrat. And that’s when Ms.

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S3: Yeah. When in fact, like her big rebellion in life seems to be becoming a relatively moderate progressive as opposed to her parents, who are actually like academic Marxists. But and she, of course, you pointed this out. She has this double bind of being woman, of being black, an Indian where all of her the sort of natural aspects of her personality that, again, I find sort of appealing the sort of she’s aggressive. She has a slightly like mean sense of humor. All of these things that I find appealing. Other people find intimidating and play into ugly stereotypes about women and specifically black women. There is a thing let Joe be Joe during the campaign and no one saying, Hey, let’s let Kamala be Kamala, which I actually think is a little bit of a mistake. She can be quite charming on the world stage. She did great in France. She’s she’s actually got a charming personality, but she’s in this place where, you know, whoever’s working on her speeches, whoever is consulting with her is sort of asking her to tamp back that part of her personality. And then the other thing that I see happening and this is not me playing devil’s advocate, although it’s going to sound that way, I actually really do believe this. So, you know, you brought up this is exactly what happened to Hillary Clinton, and it’s also a lot of what happened to Elizabeth Warren. And I think it’s awful the way women in politics are treated, I think. And I have spent years writing and thinking about it, and I’ve sort of come around to the side of OK, if we actually want Kamala Harris to be ambitious, the move is not to go in the press and have your surrogates say, you’re treating me just like Hillary, you’re treating me just like Elizabeth Warren. This is so sexist, sexist seconds. We can all say that among ourselves what she actually wants to do, the thing to be in charge. I think she can’t play that card. She surrounded herself with a lot of Hillary Clinton people. I think a lot of Democrats in particular have PTSD about Hillary people. And I just think that like, even if it’s not fair, what’s happening to her, no one sort of wants to listen to someone, say, Hey, it’s not fair what’s happening to me, and it’s tough to watch something incredibly unfair happen to you. But maybe what she needs to do is figure out, OK, how do I do this a little bit differently than Hillary did it? Or then Elizabeth Warren did it. Like, How can I reshape myself a little bit? So I’m even if like I, I see so clearly the way the Biden administration sidelining me, and I think it is something to do with my race and gender. How can I reset a little bit?

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S2: Democrats, if you talk about a curse of Democratic politics, especially at the presidential level, is this whole idea that taking this I’m not going to dignify that attack with a response stance is a working one. I mean, ask President John Kerry, ask President Michael Dukakis how well that works out. It just doesn’t. And so it’s like she either defends herself against these kinds of attacks and gets labeled strident and whiny, or she lets them stand and those people who are slamming her and slandering her and a lot of cases get to establish the narrative. It’s it’s a no win situation for her.

S3: Yeah, I just think Kamala Harris has a lot more swagger than either John Kerry or Michael Dukakis. You know, I actually think a better analogy would be the way Barack Obama handled some of that stuff. He didn’t let it slide when, you know, for instance, Donald Trump was claiming that Obama had been born elsewhere, right? I mean, he was a moderate and he sort of played that up and he was willing to appeal to non-college educated white voters. He was willing to to sort of play that game in a way that Kamala Harris thus far hasn’t necessarily. And I actually don’t think our politics are all that more progressive than Obama’s. Her politics are a little hard to pin down, actually, and she has has shown herself to be sort of a creature of which way the winds are blowing. And I’m someone who sort of convinced by the like David Shore theory of politics. It’s happening in the Democratic Party right now, and I hear it. I know I came in. I came in, you know, I’ve been away from the waves from a little while. It came back quoting David Shore. But but I actually do think that there’s a real opportunity for her to sort of look and take stock. If you look at who Kamala Harris appealed to you in the twenty twenty primary versus who Joe Biden appeal to, it’s really striking. Because like older, non-college educated black voters were more partisans of Joe Biden than they were of Kamala Harris, who would have been the first black woman nominee. Right. Which is so striking like she has always sort of appealed to an elite. She certainly appeals to black and Indian voters on identity grounds and also certain policy grounds. But she does just resonate more with elite voters of all races, which I think is something that she could expand on, right? There’s a real opportunity for her to change herself a little bit. And politically, what do you think of that Alicia?

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S2: Well, I mean, I’ve got a lot to say about this, but this is a good time for us to take a break so I can collect my thoughts about Kamala appeal and what her best move is going forward.

S3: All right. So we’re going to take a little break here before I get to hear Leach’s answer on all of that. If you want to hear more from Alicia in yet another topic, check out our Waves Plus segment. Is this feminist where today we are debating whether the new post-COVID move toward more casual office? Where is feminist or not? If you’re not a slate plus member, no problem. Learn more at Slate.com. Slash the waves plus

S2: also, the Waves has a very exciting reunion coming up. Do you have questions for the original host of the waves? Email us at The Waves at Slate.com.

S3: All right. Alicia, tell me all the ways that I’m wrong. Tell me if Kamala Harris need to rebrand or not.

S2: OK. There is this question around Kamala Harris and whether she appeals to working class black voters and whether she needs a rebrand. Why did Joe Biden beat her with black working class voters in South Carolina and why do elites feel like, you know, why does that seem to be her base? And the answer is kind of it’s not edifying. It’s it’s kind of unpleasant, which is that elites feel like they have the opportunity to vote for somebody who’s going to lose. Make a statement with your vote. You know, those folks would or felt like they could choose someone like Kamala Harris for black voters, especially when you’re talking about the generation of black voters who came up during the civil rights movement. And frankly, you know, as a Gen-Xer, me too. These are existential questions. I can’t afford to spend my vote on somebody who can’t win in the general. When the person who the Democrat is running against is someone who frankly turns a blind eye when a cop would shoot my kid dead in the street. For a lot of black voters, this idea that they’re going into the polls and thinking that they have this wide range of choices. It’s like you have a choice between the Democrat who can win the White House and someone who thinks that a big tent includes white supremacists and people who see you as some kind of second class citizen.

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S3: But you don’t think there’s any way for Kamala to make herself into the person who those voters get to feel like. All right. That’s a good horse to bet on right there. That’s a good ticket to know. Like, no, you don’t know anyway.

S2: Frankly, I mean, the political landscape has changed in some very dramatic ways in the last several years. So never say never. But you know, those black voters in South Carolina and other early primary states across the country took the lesson from Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016. This was a woman who was far more qualified than the man on the other side of the aisle. She had unimpeachable credentials to to get that job. And white voters said no. And so why would that same electorate that turned down Hillary Clinton, who on top of all of her qualifications and her political pedigree and her name and her fundraising ability and her international reputation? Why would any black voter think that the same people who wouldn’t elect Hillary would elect Kamala Harris? It’s just there’s not room for that kind of naivety for black voters.

S3: I take your broader point about black voters not feeling like they can throw away their vote, and that’s super smart. But just this fatalism that just because Hillary couldn’t do it means no one can do it. I mean, Hillary Clinton was a deeply flawed candidate and a bunch of ways that had to do with her own identity. As someone who came up, as you know, the wife of Bill Clinton and also had to do with the way that her campaign sort of looked to activists rather than thinking about swing voters and used all kinds of complicated language, whether or not Kamala Harris is the person who breaks the cycle or not, whatever woman gets elected president has to sort of figure out a way to move beyond the way that Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren were trying to do it right, like Kamala Harris has her own drawbacks, but she has charms that Hillary Clinton didn’t have. Her identity actually is a is an arrow in her quiver. In some ways that you know that Hillary Clinton didn’t have, right? If she can figure out a way to get black voters to really be on her side in a way that they weren’t in the 2020 primary, that’s like a huge part of the Democratic base, a hugely important part of the Democratic base, right? These voters are smart. They know who is going to be able to get swing voters. They didn’t see it in Kamala first time. So what can she do even if it’s unappealing to someone like you or me? What can she do to, like, make herself more broadly appealing to those people who might not be white supremacist, but might be like a little racist, but also willing to vote for a black man or woman, right? How can she sort of appeal to this? These swing voters, these more moderate voters in the Democratic Party who, you know, we can scream about it all we want. But like the way the electoral map is and is going to continue to be to win the presidency, you have to get to those people. And I actually I have a few things that I think she could do. Yeah.

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S2: I think what this list is.

S3: So one thing I think she can steal from Joe Biden. And she’s actually not inclined toward jargon. But you know, I think the way Hillary Clinton use jargon was kind of a problem in her campaign. And Kamala Harris could sort of steal from the Joe Biden book and to say, we’re not doing that, we’re going to sort of talk in plain. Ways, the American people, I think she could do that. She has a huge advantage over people to judge or other people. It’s her race to lose basically, right, so she’s got this big job. How can she best use the tools of the vice presidency and not end up like being like, you know, Selina Meyer, which is sort of sometimes when you read about the way Kamala Harris is vice presidency is going, you can’t help but think of Veep so she could hitch her wagon to some kind of issue that’s really bugging all of the American people. So one thing I came up with was try to be the face of fixing the supply chain, right? Like, maybe she can’t do it, but she can like walk around where a bunch of hard hats at the ports and like, try to be the Santa Claus getting everyone their Christmas gifts right? Because actually, I feel like, you know, American capitalism is behind fixing the supply chain issues enough that eventually it will resolve itself, and she could be the person who gets congratulated for it. She could also sort of take a page. This is the one I think you’re going to hate. But she could take a page from the Eric Adams playbook, right? Eric Adams, by the way, Doris Kamala Harris and she could be the person, the black person talking about how the rise in crime is not great and how it’s bad for cities. And like Eric Adams, she has the ability to do that and talk about it without it being a racist dog whistle, right? That she can sort of have a frank conversation and say, No, I’m not saying that cities are horrible places. I’m just saying, like the people in cities want them to be nicer, right? She could sort of do that, and it might in a way, build on her background as a prosecutor better than what she’s doing right now, which is sort of hiding it right. Like all of this work that she did in her career, she sort of hasn’t been able to use because being a prosecutor is out of fashion in many corners of the Democratic Party right now. And then I think the last thing that she can do is she can take advantage of the opportunities she has to be on the world stage more right? She was great in France. I thought. I mean, they were like, weird. There were weird right wing sort of like attacks on her, like pretending she’d fake the French accent, you know, saying she shouldn’t have bought, you know, fancy cookware like, took all the crazy stuff, but like, she’s really charming and she could sort of put herself forward. I think there are all these things in the job that she’s been given that she’s either not wanting to do or she’s not being given the opportunity to do by the Biden White House or the vice president’s office is enough of the mess that they just haven’t been able to effectively do it. But like, I think there are ways for her to tack a little bit to the center without doing anything that will make her feel too bad about herself. What do you think?

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S2: No, I think

S3: that that’s a hard no, that’s a hard no,

S2: it’s a hard no, because it’s like, you know, I feel that that line from Game of Thrones, Oh, you sweet summer child, is that Democrats are always in this conversation about what to do for swing voters, how to get these folks into the Democratic Party. The last Democrat to win the white vote for the White House was Lyndon Johnson.

S3: Yeah, but they don’t. They don’t need to win the white vote. They just need to win swing voters.

S2: Yeah. You know, here’s the thing is that Barack Obama was a man, and so sure, who’s sexist out there might not have sort of the same problems with him and Barack Obama. And this isn’t talked about a lot because there’s not a really clean, comfy way to discuss it. Barack Obama is half white. He was raised by white people. He has a lot of experience being the only black guy in the room and putting people at ease. That was something that he was raised doing. He did it with his grandparents. It was, you know, threaded in his entire experience. And so this idea that, you know, a different black politician can just take a page from Barack Obama’s playbook and walk in or forge this kind of magical moment that he had to get into the White House. It’s just like, you know, you’re Cheyna to catch lightning in a bottle, you’re trying to take the the sword from the stone again. There’s not a formula to get there. And for Kamala Harris, it’s like, again, you know, I’m going to show my age here, but I remember Dukakis riding around in that the combat helmet in the tank. I’m going to put on a work shirt and be the man of the people. It’s like if you think about what Barack Obama had in common with the Democrats who won is he came across as authentic. He didn’t come across as something other than a really affable, fun, nerdy professor, politician, guy. He wasn’t out chopping wood or hunting or whatever. He came across as himself. Trump came across as himself. Bill Clinton came across as himself. George W. Bush came across as himself. If. Kamala Harris puts on a hard hat, she’s not going to convince people that she’s somehow transformed into, you know, working class Kamala, she’s just going to turn off the people who like who she is right now.

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S3: I’m not advocating for her to turn herself into working class Kamala. What I think what I’m actually trying to advocate for is for her to figure out what is actually appealing about her. So fixing the supply chain like she’s someone who likes to be in charge, so be in charge of something like just own something, do it. It doesn’t have to be supply change, doesn’t have to wear the hard hats, but like just take on an issue that that is going to, like, make people happier in their everyday lives, right? Just in a very political way. Like, what is the thing that is going to make voters a little happy with you? And then talking about crime while she was a prosecutor and she was very good at it. And so, you know, figuring out a way to like, not hide that part of her resume. Like, I just I think that all of these are things that aren’t actually making her working class Kamala but are just actually leaning into her own authentic self. I feel like she’s actually been tamped down a little. But of course, all of this is filtered through the way the media has covered her, which we have to talk about before we run out of time. I will be naive one more time and give you one more way that she could borrow, you know, something from the men, which is that I think Kamala could be could cultivate her relationship with the press better. She is again an enormously charming person, and she is someone who the people who make up the media and who cover politics in Washington like me might find her more appealing than sort of a voter in, like rural Ohio or whatever necessarily would. But she’s just been sort of unwilling to play that game, and the result has been some pretty bad media coverage like Alicia. We both read this CNN article that came out at the beginning of the month, about a week after those horrible poll numbers came out. Can you just quickly talk about that CNN article and what it revealed about her relationship with the press and the Biden White House and what is happening with the way the the media covers Kamala Harris?

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S2: Well, this was one of those like faux think pieces. It’s like, Oh, it’s Kamala Harris in trouble. Is she failing? Is she never going to succeed? Brought to you by the same people who told you that Barack Obama would never win the White House, that he was in trouble in 2012, that Trump would never win? Think you know, a Republican primary, much less the White House and who frankly pronounced Joe Biden politically dead after Kamala Harris got that jab in Adam and one of the early presidential debates? I mean, you and I are reading the bajillion word article in CNN and finding all of those unnamed sources and kind of the spirit of Gossip Girl, where it all feels like some kind of dispute that’s happening in high school over who was supposed to go first and who was supposed to sit at the cool kids table. These things move the meter because we report on them as if there was a fact in their where sort of, you know, parsing out Kamala Harris is in trouble with the media because frankly, after four years of having this firehose of news and crisis and gaffes and threats, Joe Biden is fulfilling the part of his mandate to bore people to death. I mean, there was a time in American political life where we didn’t know what the vice president was doing every day, where we didn’t know what the president was doing every day because they were doing their jobs and not trying to create a show for us. So the reaction of the political media to take this space where we’re being deprived of material and elevate the storyline put out by God, knows whom with God knows what kind of agenda that Kamala Harris is some kind of huge liability. It’s not one of the things that makes me proud as a journalist. And frankly, it’s part of why you know, few people trust us to tell them what’s important, because none of the stuff in that article is important.

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S3: What I thought was interesting about that article, I agree with you that there were very few facts. But the fact of it existing was interesting to me because it clearly much of it came. Many of the sort of gossipy bits came from the Biden White House and from staffers there, which means that the relationship is on some level broken that they think that Kamala is not running her shop correctly. The fact that the gossip exists is interesting. And I think. But like you’re saying, right, how many people are reading the CNN article, more people are watching the Fox News coverage or even just looking at, you know, the photos that photo editors choose of her, which are often unflattering or show her looking crazy. You know, so I think that there are all kinds of ways that the media coverage affects what people think of Kamala Harris. Before we head out, we want to give some recommendations, Alicia, what are you loving right now?

S2: Well, I am loving each bios signature series. I am glued to my screen on Sunday night watching the Roy family mess up their lives and try to ruin their their empire by, by backstabbing each other on succession and then watching the hilarious and painful and emotional last season of Insecure. It’s interesting that we’re having this conversation about Kamala Harris, who kind of sit somewhere between these two worlds of having to make her way in, you know, an arena where she doesn’t know who her enemies are and she can’t trust her friends, which is not unlike the world that the women in succession have to navigate and just kind of frank and funny and heartbreaking world of a professional black woman, sometimes in her own community and her own family and her own relationships, and trying to manage that and build something that looks like a successful life and feels like a successful, happy life on on Insecure. It’s must see TV for me.

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S3: I am a season behind an Insecure, but I actually watch it almost is like candy. Like it’s fun. It’s like great clothes. Everyone’s falling in and out of love. Like in addition to all the things you were saying. It’s just fun to watch in the same way that succession is fun to watch. Well, I am going to recommend Happy Hour by Marlowe Granados. It was published by a small press in New York, so it didn’t initially, I think, get a lot of attention. And then it has been like everywhere, a little bit. It is the story. It’s the first novel by just an insanely charming writer, Marlowe Granados. She tells the story of basically a party girl in New York City, and I think the years 2013 and this girl comes to New York with no money. She’s very beautiful. She and her friend sort of go around the city eating ramen for breakfast and then having people take them out to the most expensive dinners in Manhattan. And they never pay for anything at night. And then during the day, they have no money. The narrator of it is very smart, and she sort of having a grand adventure. It’s very modern, but it’s also sort of old fashioned. The sex is alluded to but never described and only barely alluded to, even though sex is sort of at the center of why she’s appealing to a lot of people. The writer has talked about how she grew up loving screwball movies and sort of the movies of the 1930s, and there’s a little bit of that kind of sense of humor in it, along with just sort of the great clothes that you see on screen and in those screwball comedies of the 30s. So I just I had the best time reading it, and I have not done much going out in New York City over the past couple of years. And so it was fun to sort of think about New York when I was like a little more alive for more people to do. That’s our show this week. The Waves is produced by Shane Abol

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S2: Susan Matthews is our editorial director with June Thomas providing oversight and moral support.

S3: And if you like the show, be sure to subscribe, rate and review wherever you get your podcasts. And please consider supporting the show by joining Slate Plus, members get benefits like Zero Ads and any Slate podcast and bonus content shows like this one. Learn more at Slate.com. Slash the Waves Plus

S2: We’d also love to hear from you. Email us at The Waves at Slate.com.

S3: The waves will be back next week. Different hosts. Different topics at the same time and place. Thank you so much for being Slate Plus member, and since you’re a member, you get this weekly segment, is this feminist? Every week we debate whether something is feminist, and this week we’re talking about the rise of super casual wear in the office post-pandemic or mid-pandemic. But post fashion changing during during the pandemic is that feminist Alicia? The reason we are talking about this is there was an article in the Atlantic saying that congressional staffers have sort of relaxed their traditionally strict dress codes after lockdown. More people are coming to the office in flats rather than heels. People are wearing leggings on days when they don’t have important meetings to go to. My first reaction to this is all right. That seems good. The less time you’re spending sort of curling your hair and thinking about whether your feet are going to fall off in the high heels you’re wearing, the more time you can concentrate on work. But maybe I’m missing something. What do you think?

S2: You know, Capitol Hill is like a bastion of everything that was wrong with the culture 10, 15 years ago at all times. And I think that while this is a really helpful thing for congressional staffers who are traditionally overworked, underpaid and treated frankly like garbage by a lot of the so-called ladies and gentlemen who’s who? Whom they serve. I don’t know that it’s really feminist until the consequences of slacking off on your appearance in the office or not wearing your high heeled shoes or whatever until there are the same consequences for those choices for men and for women. And you know, whatever wave of feminists you are, you know that there is a lag time between the rules being changed on the books and the way those sorts of ideas are played out in the real lives and careers of women. And I just. Can hear an employer saying, well, Susie’s great, but she doesn’t have a lot of attention to detail. If if Susie goes from, you know, wearing her heels to wearing sneakers or ballerina flat? Well, you know, Jane Doe is terrific, but I don’t know if she’s a leader. If this person starts wearing comfy pants and leggings to the office on on non meeting days. It’s so hard to be taken seriously as a woman in a place where the traditional leadership is very male and I don’t think it’s going to be sort of the sharpest or the most ambitious women who are going to take the lead in this new business casual, not if they know what’s good for their careers. So I guess that’s another. This is not feminist. Not yet.

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S3: Yeah. I mean, the thing that I’m now thinking about is Nancy Pelosi, right? Who is the most powerful woman in Congress? And oh my God, her feet have to hurt. I don’t know what she’s injected into them, but she’s been wearing high heels for so many decades. And honestly, it gives her power right because she’s she’s about 80, and she still is seen as sort of beautiful and pulled together like Donald Trump clearly was sort of willing to negotiate with her because he was sort of you could see he found her pretty. Or at least he found her like, you know, like, pulled together and glamorous in a way that he admired. And then you could see that actually working on him, it was one of the craziest things. And so it did give her an advantage in that environment, which I guess is to the point that you’re making, is that, you know, until we sort of restore everything to factory settings, it’s not going to work. But I guess what? What about outside of the very particular environment of Capitol Hill, which I think point out is like 15 years behind, you know, just like an accounting firm in whatever place in America, do you think that, you know, people wearing joggers to work now after having spent two years being allowed to do that at home if they wear them into the office? Do you think that is a victory for women?

S2: No, we’re so far from. I mean, if you look at representation of of women in leadership of organizations and corporations, we’re still so far from anything that looks like parity. And you can’t go wrong by assuming that regardless of what a man has to say about how he’s evaluating a woman. Her appearance is going to play some role in it. And so, yeah, if a bunch of guys show up at the office in sweatpants and hoodies, they’re busy geniuses. And if a woman does it, then she’s sloppy and not ready for prime time. So yeah, I wish that it were a feminist. But no. No dice. No sale.

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S3: Yeah. And I don’t think it’s only men who judge women. I think women are often the hardest, harshest critics about the way other women dress for the office. I mean, the other thing I was, I say, I think it’s a I don’t know. I don’t know where I come down on this because I think it is a little feminist not to just be able to get up and, you know, get out of bed and think about other stuff or do other stuff before work instead of spending an hour blow drying your hair or whatever. I think that actually can give you an edge, depending on the work environment. But I also do think there’s like there’s a thing where it’s fun to to sort of put yourself in armor for work. You know, I recently came back from maternity leave and I came into the Slade offices and there were like three people here. But I had like, put on an outfit and put on lipstick, and I was like, All right, I am putting my head back in the game and there is a little something to be said for that. You know, putting on your war paint, putting on your

S2: on your armor, putting on your dress? Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

S3: All right. So I guess we come down to casual wear in offices is not feminist. Not I think that’s not quite. Maybe, maybe a 100 years it can be when we’re all wearing. I don’t know what we’ll be wearing a hundred years, probably probably 90 jeans will be back again. But but maybe not. All right. Well, listeners, if there’s something you’re dying to know, whether it’s feminist or not, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at The Waves at Slate.com.