Biden’s selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate had a desire to break conventional norms written all over it. She is the first female, African-American, and Asian-American vice president in U.S. history; a Harris presidency would see her become the first in two of those demographics.
The President isn’t getting any younger. When he assumed the presidency on January 20, 2021, Biden was 78 years and 61 days old; an age which only 14 previous presidents ever made it to after their terms in office.
I previously believed that President Biden would have surrendered the presidency to his subordinate by this point, allowing her to prove herself to potential voters and wade off a resurgent Republican party. However, Donald Trump is leading the charge despite never-ending legal dramas, and Harris is tanking in the polls. Putting Harris in now would be a political disaster for the Democrats – they may as well mail Trump the spare keys for the White House in such a move.
Both Republicans and Democrats repeat warnings over the threat to democracy. A majority of the former support a man who believes the last presidential election was rigged, while the latter repeatedly criticize the same man for his efforts to overturn it.
Ultimately, Joe Biden went through the same process as many of the 45 people elected president before him – eight were sworn in mid-cycle due to a president’s early death, and not all won (or even ran in) the subsequent election. If Biden wins in 2024, and then later hands his role to Kamala Harris, she will become the 47th President of the United States and the ninth to take over mid-presidency.
Such a move is entirely possible, and one which would be grossly undemocratic. Theoretically, Biden could hand over the presidency to Harris on January 20, 2025, effectively providing her with her own term. The American people would have a president who they did not elect in what would only be a clear subversion of the very democratic principles upon which the United States was founded.
You could argue that if Harris was overwhelmingly popular, would the people really care? A fair question, but one which is never likely to become reality. Harris is approved by around 40% of Americans, and a subversion of democracy to secure four years of her presidency would be met with uproar, at the very least, from the other 60%.
I dread to think what could happen in such a scenario, but for a nation that is at its closest to civil war since the 19th century, it’s unlikely to be a quiet transition of power.