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Kamala Harris could be Biden's secret 2024 weapon

It may turn out that no one is better suited to mobilize young voters.

In recent weeks there have been heightened calls by many pundits and the media for President Joe Biden to leave Vice President Kamala Harris off the ticket in 2024. As one notable headline from Politico proclaimed: “Columnists call for Biden to drop Harris, pick new running mate.” Another in New York magazine read, “The Case for Biden to Drop Kamala Harris.”

But Biden and his aides would be right to ignore the punditry. Aside from her popularity among nonwhite voters and women, Harris brings an overlooked and underappreciated strength to the ticket: the support of Generation Z. And as recent elections have proved, my generation is a must-win demographic for Biden and the Democrats in 2024.

Gen Z is more diverse, both racially and socioeconomically, than any other age cohort and we express a desire to see diversity reflected around us. As the first woman and person of color to hold such an office, Harris carries a powerful symbolic resonance for young people that previous (white, male) vice presidents didn’t. Harris epitomizes everything this generation wants to see in a leader: someone who reflects the country’s diversity and actively paves a path for young people. That representation matters.

Harris carries with her a powerful symbolic resonance for young people that previous (white, male) vice presidents didn’t.

The vice president’s record also speaks volumes. During her term in office, Harris has worked to address issues that are important to young voters. Take, for example, three pivotal 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 their defense of gun control activists; and, most recently, the attempt by Florida Republicans and Gov. Ron DeSantis to argue that enslaved people benefited personally from slavery.

It is noteworthy that the first person from the Biden administration to respond in public and in private discussions with communities was not the President Biden, but Vice President Harris.

The weekend after the Tennessee state legislators were expelled, Harris traveled to meet with state Reps. Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson about the need for changes in gun laws. Later this summer, Harris arrived in  Jacksonville, Florida, on the day after DeSantis justified slavery as “personally benefit[ing]” enslaved people, when she pushed back against the state’s attacks on educational freedoms. Recently, the vice president traveled to Iowa to respond to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ signing a restrictive abortion law, adding to the long list of states Harris has visited in defense of reproductive health care.

And now Harris has officially embarked on a nationwide college tour titled “The Fight for Our Freedoms.” Harris has listened carefully to students engaged with them and answered their concerns in a way most elected officials have not. At her public events, Harris has shown — and continues to show — how she is fighting for young people, whose rights are slipping away at breakneck speed. She is demonstrating to me and my peers that she is working to protect our rights and our lives as they come under siege by extremist Republicans.

This has led to an incredible enthusiasm for an elected official that is rare among younger voters, based on a feeling still rarer in politics: that of being seen, heard and valued. After all, as one Hampton University student said, the vice president’s college tour “really goes to show how important we are and how she sees or views us in this conversation.” She’s not alone, either. Jones, the 28-year-old Tennessee state lawmaker, told me that Harris’ showing up in Tennessee was an “important signal [to young people] from the White House.”

The vice president’s strategy of centering and engaging with young people is proving popular in other ways. Consider a recent CBS poll that found 62% of those between 18 and 29 years old say they're either “enthusiastic or satisfied” with Harris, which is nearly 30 points higher than among those over the age of 65. In that same poll, 55% of young people viewed Harris’ work in the administration as a “good thing,” more than 20 points higher than those over the age of 65. Polling from earlier this year reveals a similar pattern of young people supporting Harris at considerably higher rates than those in older age groups.

This is no coincidence. Harris has put in the work to show up for young people like no vice president has before. She listens to us. She sees us. And on every issue young people care about — whether it's gun violence or reproductive rights or climate change — she has shown that she will defend them as much as she can. For a generation all too often overlooked by our political system, having a leader like Kamala Harris fighting for us is more meaningful than many might believe.

Having a leader like Kamala Harris fighting for us is more meaningful than many might believe.

Harris’ popularity among young people also comes at a time when many of them have expressed worries about Biden’s age. One recent New York Times poll found that nearly half of young people are “concerned about President Biden’s age.” This only underscores the value of having Harris on the ticket: Harris can assuage these voters worried about Biden's age in ways that Biden can’t alone. Given the sizable impact young people will have in the 2024 election, Harris is crucial for turning out me and my peers.

With less than 14 months before Election Day 2024, the calls to drop Harris from the ticket may get stronger. The White House and Biden’s campaign should not only ignore them but actively promote Harris at every turn possible. Let her be for Biden what Biden was for Barack Obama — an essential partner in governance and a close friend. Get her in front of as many young people as possible to fire up this critical voting bloc for the Democrats.

It may not seem so now, but it may turn out that no one is better suited to mobilize young voters and help Biden win in 2024 than Kamala Harris.