Updated on August 19, 2020 at 11:18 p.m. ET
When Kamala Harris spoke at the Democratic National Convention tonight, she projected an image of absolute harmony with presidential nominee Joe Biden, the man who has lifted her to newfound fame and potential great power. Tomorrow night, Biden will glory in his history-making decision. The two candidates will bask in their mutual regard. But if they’re elected, policy differences and irritations are going to arise. Vice presidents are usually politicians who got pretty far on their own, and they’re human beings; to constantly subordinate oneself to one’s boss requires exceptional discipline and self-effacement, something at which politicians don’t excel.
Even Biden himself, whom Barack Obama selected under the misimpression that he was finished with running for president, stepped out of line, getting ahead of Obama in calling for legalizing gay marriage during an appearance on a Sunday television talk show. (The two men had been discussing the matter.) Obama was not amused, but their relationship survived about as intact as any such partnership has.
There’s circumstantial evidence that Biden had hesitations about picking Harris, mainly because of her obvious desire to be president. Some of his close advisers questioned how loyal she would be. After months of speculation about Biden’s choice, with time running out, his advisers suddenly tossed the name Karen Bass, a representative from California and the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, into the mix. Although Bass is popular with her colleagues, a reason she particularly appealed to Biden was that she had indicated she wasn’t interested in the presidency. But Bass had not been sufficiently vetted; reporters and rival candidates’ camps soon found political liabilities she wasn’t sufficiently prepared to explain. Her candidacy, such as it was, quickly collapsed.