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Kamala Harris staffers endure soul destroying criticism

Kamala Harris, Kamala, Harris, Joe Biden, Ashley Etienne, Democratic

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Kamala Harris staffers endure soul destroying criticism

“With Kamala [Kamala Harris] you have to put up with a constant amount of soul-destroying criticism”, this is exactly what a former staffer of the US vice president says.

According to the Washington Post, a Kamala Harris staff exodus reignites questions about her leadership style — and her future ambitions. It said: The rumors started circulating in July: Vice President Harris’s staff was wilting in a dysfunctional and frustrated office, burned out just a few months after her historic swearing-in and pondering exit strategies. A few days later, Harris hosted an all-staff party at her official residence, where most of her office bit into hamburgers and posted pictures of smiling, congenial co-workers on Twitter, pixelated counterpoints to the narrative of an office in shambles.

“Let me tell you about these burgers at the VP’s residence!!” chief Harris spokesperson Symone Sanders gushed in a tweet. “The food was good and the people were amazing.” Her official defense against reports of staff unrest was more searing. She called people who lobbed criticism behind nameless quotes “cowards” and stressed that working for a groundbreaking vice president was a difficult job, but not a dehumanizing one. “We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day,” she told one outlet. “What I hear is that people have hard jobs and I’m like ‘welcome to the club.’ ”

Five months later, Sanders is leaving the vice president’s office, the highest-profile member of an end-of-year exodus that includes communications chief Ashley Etienne and two other staffers who help shape the vice president’s public image. Sanders told The Washington Post her departure is not due to any unhappiness or dysfunction, but rather because she is ready for a break after three years of the relentless pressure that came with speaking for and advising Biden and Harris while navigating a global pandemic.

But the quartet of soon-to-be-empty desks reignited questions about why Harris churns through top-level Democratic staff, an issue that has colored her nearly 18 years in public service, including her historic but uneven first year as vice president. Now, those questions about her management extend to whether it will hamper her ability to seek and manage the presidency.

Critics scattered over two decades point to an inconsistent and at times degrading principal who burns through seasoned staff members who have succeeded in other demanding, high-profile positions. People used to putting aside missteps, sacrificing sleep and enduring the occasional tirade from an irate boss say doing so under Harris can be particularly difficult, as she has struggled to make progress on her vice-presidential portfolio or measure up to the potential that has many pegging her as the future of the Democratic Party.

“One of the things we’ve said in our little text groups among each other is what is the common denominator through all this and it’s her,” said Gil Duran, a former Democratic strategist and aide to Harris who quit after five months working for her in 2013. In a recent column, he said she’s repeating “the same old destructive patterns.”

“Who are the next talented people you’re going to bring in and burn through and then have (them) pretend they’re retiring for positive reasons,” he told The Post.

Former Democratic strategist Gil Duran in his article in the San Francisco Examiner wrote: When Kamala Harris made Joe Biden’s shortlist for vice president last year, Willie Brown offered a surprising take.

“If Joe Biden offers the vice presidential slot to Sen. Kamala Harris, my advice to her would be to politely decline,” the ex-mayor wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle.

If she did accept the job, he said, “the glory would be short-lived, and historically, the vice presidency has often ended up being a dead end.” He urged Harris to hold out for a position with “legitimate power,” like United States Attorney General. Of course, his counterintuitive suggestion was soon drowned out by fanfare for Biden’s historic choice of VP Harris.

At the time, Brown’s opinion seemed like contrarian clickbait. Yet recent press coverage indicates he made a fair point. Highly detailed media reports depict a VP dreadfully unhappy in the role. Her misery has company: One outlier poll showed her with a shockingly low approval rating of 28%. The number led some media outlets to call her the most unpopular vice president in modern history – even worse than Dick Cheney, who bottomed out at 30%.

Making matters worse: The only people suffering more than Harris are her staff members, some of whom have already quit their plum positions amid reports of a toxic office environment. Those who remain appear to be engaged in open warfare with their counterparts on President Biden’s staff. (As this column went to press, Harris appeared to be experiencing another staff exodus, with CNN, Politico and CBS News reporting the pending departures of her chief spokesperson and her director of press operations. Two weeks ago, Vanity Fair reported that Harris’ communications director was also leaving to pursue “other opportunities.”)

Such tales of chaos have a familiar ring to longtime Harris watchers in California. As a former Harris staffer who quit after five months in 2013, I’m not surprised. Still, it’s sad to see her repeat the same old destructive patterns under the harsh gaze of the Washington press corps…

Sinking couple in the White House

Approval ratings of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris already are under the water. They are sinking as Titanic with no minimal chance or recovering or getting salvaged.

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Contents published under this byline are those created by the news team of WeeklyBlitz

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