By Victor Shi
When people think about the White House, the immediate image that comes to mind is not the vice president. Historically, the vice president has acted more as a support system to the president than a leadership role in the spotlight. They work mostly behind the scenes and avoid making big headlines that might detract from the vision and priorities of the president. They might occasionally cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate, but they have largely acted as a governing partner behind the curtains.
Vice President Kamala Harris has taken on a different, more public role. Setting aside being the first Black, Asian American woman to hold the office, VP Harris’s rapid response to major events, and commitment to showing up in various public spaces and engaging in roundtables are shaping her vice presidency into a historic one - especially for young people.
As both a woman and a person of color, VP Harris already breaks the mold of previous vice presidents — all of whom have been white men. Simply by being the first woman and person of color to hold the office, VP Harris carries a powerful symbolic resonance, particularly for me and my Gen Z peers — the vast majority of us want to see more representation in government.
That is no coincidence. The youngest generation of voters is more diverse, both racially and socioeconomically, than any other age cohort. As a result, what we see in VP Harris is everything we want to see in a leader: someone who is not only diverse, but is actively paving the path for young people. Quite literally, every time Kamala Harris is on TV or in a public setting, young Black girls in America think, I can do that someday, too. That matters.
And while that’s important, VP Harris also has done more work around key issues than any of her predecessors in modern history — which has translated into record-high approval from young people.
Take, for instance, three events over the past year: the fall of abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade; the suspension of the two youngest Black Tennessee state legislators, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, for defending gun reform activists; and, most recently, the attempt by Florida Republicans and Ron DeSantis to say enslaved people benefited personally from slavery. Grotesque as each incident was, it is noteworthy that the first person in the Biden Administration to respond both in public and engage in discussions with people on the ground was VP Harris.
The weekend after the Tennessee state legislators were expelled, VP Harris traveled to Tennessee She arrived in Jacksonville, Florida the day after Ron DeSantis justified slavery for enslaved people. Just last week, the Vice President traveled to Iowa to speak against Governor Kim Reynolds’ signing of a restrictive abortion law, adding to the list of states the Vice President has visited to defend reproductive healthcare.
Through every public showing, through every meeting with those who are directly impacted by Republicans’ far-right, extreme policies, VP Harris has shown and continues to show young people, whose rights are being rolled back at breakneck speed, that she is a fighter. She is demonstrating to me and my peers that she will protect our rights. This Vice President is showing young people that she will not sit back and watch Republicans attack our lives.
Her strategy is proving popular. Although polls do not capture everything about voters, they do provide a general understanding of what voters are feeling. According to a recent Economics and YouGov poll, the overwhelming majority of young people say they support her. What’s more: the age demographic that approves of VP Harris’s job so far more than any other age demographic is young people — those ages 18-34.
Make no mistake: that isn't by chance. That is because Kamala Harris not only embodies the representation young people desperately want to see, but puts in the work. She listens. She engages with marginalized and often overlooked communities. And she delivers on issues that affect our lives and futures.
As 2024 rolls around, there’s going to be a lot of discussion around President Biden’s running mate. Being a young person, an Asian American, and someone who is heavily involved with youth organizing, I will be the first to say there is no one better for mobilizing young people than Kamala Harris.
With less than 16 months until Election Day in 2024, the White House and campaign should get VP Harris out in front of young people. Get her in spaces where vice presidents do not traditionally appear. Have her engage with as many voters — including and especially young people — as possible. If that happens, she may be on track to being not only one of the most successful vice presidents in history, but also the most popular and transformational.