Morain: Kamala Harris will have ‘consequential’ role as Veep ‘She was never going to be a potted plant’


WATCH | Joe Livernois chats with author Dan Morain

By Joe Livernois

The author of a new biography of Kamala Harris said he expects the California native will have an outsized role in the Biden Administration after she is sworn in as the vice president of the United States on Wednesday.

“She was never going to be a potted plant,” said Dan Morain, a longtime California-centric journalist who wrote “Kamala’s Way: An American Life” (Simon & Schuster, $28), which was published Tuesday. “You don’t invite Kamala Harris to a ticket to be someone who is going to sit off in a corner.”

And with the fact that she will serve as the tie-breaking vote in a 50-50 Senate, “it stands to reason that she’s going to be an incredibly consequential vice president. The Biden Administration now has the ability to shape the 100-day agenda the way it (wouldn’t) have been had Democrats not won those two seats in Georgia.”

Morain, a former statehouse reporter for The Los Angeles Times and an editorial columnist for The Sacramento Bee, offered his thoughts on Harris during a livestream book event hosted by Voices of Monterey Bay on Thursday. The event was co-sponsored by Downtown Book &Sound in Salinas.


Screenshot from Thursday's live event featuring Joe Livernois and Dan Morain | Provided image

Morain said he believes Harris’s presence as Biden’s Number Two will be good for California. “It helps your state if you have a vice president” from the state. “She’ll be influential.”

Responding to a viewer question, Morain also said he believes Harris has the tools it takes to step into the presidency if something should happen to President Joe Biden during his four-year term.

“It’s a big big job. But she’s really smart, she listens to other people, she studies hard, she can work really hard. I really hope Biden lives well into his 80s. But, you know, we could do much worse.”

Morain said he was presented with his book deal, his first, in September, and spent two frantic months researching and writing it in time for a pre-inauguration release. While he knows Harris, a former California Attorney General and the U.S. Senator from California, she did not participate in the preparation of the biography despite his invitation, likely because she was hard on the campaign trail.

He said Harris’s success could have only happened in California. She is a Black woman, the daughter of immigrants who was raised by a single mother.

“The subtitle is ‘An American Life,’ but really it’s a California life,” he said. And he said he credit’s Harris’s mother for her strength, her drive and her resilience.

“Her mother Shamala Gopalan Harris was 19 years old, a kid in India, graduated early from college there and there was no real path for her to become a scientist, but that was her passion.  She came halfway around the world in 1959 and she came to the University of California at Berkeley. And her father, from Jamaica, went to Berkeley and both of them were really accomplished. Donald Harris became an economics professor at Stanford and her mother wrote in excess of 100 articles in scholarly journals about cancer.”

Harris is often affiliated with Willie Brown, the powerful firebrand politician from San Francisco who promoted her political career while dating her. “There was a relationship, a very public relationship,” Morain said. “It played out in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle and Herb Caen’s column … He was very public about who he was seeing. There was no secret about it. Of course he helped her along the way. But every politician gets help in his or her career. Willie Brown would not have been elected without the help of Phil Burton.”

Burton is the late U.S. Congressman and political kingmaker from San Francisco.

Harris did say during an interview with the San Francisco Weekly in 2003 that she considered her connection to Brown as an “albatross.” There were so many other people who helped her along the way too, Morain said.

Morain is already getting positive reviews for “Kamala’s Way,” with Kirkus Reviews calling it “a brisk, well-informed narrative of political ascendancy,” and it’s already the No. 1 best-seller on Amazon in the category of Asian politics.

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Joe Livernois

About Joe Livernois

Joe Livernois has been a reporter, editor and columnist in Monterey County for 35 years.

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