Vice President Kamala Harris said anti-democratic forces that have emerged in the mainstream of American politics have made the nation weaker at home and undermined our legitimacy overseas, joining President Joe Biden in describing it as a major threat.
Asked in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press" whether the threats from within the U.S. pose a risk equal to or greater than what the nation faced 21 years ago on 9/11, Harris drew upon the oaths of office she had taken as a prosecutor, California's attorney general, a senator and vice president to uphold the Constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic — and we don’t compare the two.”
“It is very dangerous and, I think, very harmful. And it makes us weaker,” Harris said.
She singled out elected leaders — including those running now to oversee elections in some states — who continue to question the integrity of voting, and others who have refused to condemn the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“I think what it sends is a signal that causes people to question, ‘Hey, is America still valuing what they talk about?’” she said. “I think that through the process of what we’ve been through, we’re starting to allow people to call into question our commitment to those principles. And that’s a shame.”
Now less than 60 days before the midterm elections, both Biden and Harris are touting the administration’s suddenly bolstered record of accomplishment and underscoring what they see as threats to freedoms such as the right to vote and abortion rights, with Harris in the interview blasting what she called an “activist” Supreme Court that overturned Roe v. Wade.
Speaking at a judicial conference Friday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts responded to those who have questioned the court's legitimacy, according to the Colorado Springs' Gazette newspaper. “The court has always decided controversial cases and decisions have always been subject to intense criticism, and that is entirely appropriate,” Roberts said, according to the report. "But I don’t understand the connection between the opinions people disagree with and the legitimacy of the Supreme Court.”
But both Biden and Harris have also worked to paint a stark contrast with what they have described as fringe but maintain there are powerful forces within the GOP that threaten the nation’s very character.
Harris defended Biden’s stark language about what he has called extremist “MAGA” Republicans, including describing them as “semi-fascist.”
“Joe Biden has spent his entire career ... working across the aisle, his whole career. Sometimes he’s been criticized for believing in bipartisanship, for believing in compromise, for believing in working across the aisle, finding common ground,” she said.
“But there are moments in time when we have to also agree, all good people who care about our country, that there are those who right now are vividly not defending our democracy," Harris added. "And I think we want that our commander in chief, that the president of the United States, will speak up and raise the alarm about what this means to our strength and our future, much less our integrity.”
Even with those warnings, some Democratic candidates and campaign committees have worked tactically to boost election deniers and more right-wing candidates in key races with hopes of enhancing the chances of Democratic candidates. Harris sidestepped questions about whether it was a tactic at odds with their own rhetoric about what’s at stake this November.
“I’m not going to tell people how to run their campaigns,” Harris said. “I know that it is best to let a candidate, along with their advisers, let them make the decision based on what they believe is in the best interest of their state. I’m not going to tell people what to do that way.”
In remarks to the Democratic National Committee on Saturday, Harris again talked about how much more Democrats could accomplish in the years ahead with just two more votes in the Senate. “I cannot wait to cast the deciding vote to break the filibuster on voting rights and reproductive rights,” she said.
But when asked in the interview if Democrats would go further and abolish the filibuster altogether, she said it was “very likely” to be held in place for other issues, and said she was not comfortable with the idea that a filibuster carve-out on those specific issues would be extended to all legislation.
Harris’ appearance on “Meet The Press” was her most extensive national interview in months, and comes as she and top advisers in her office and the West Wing have worked to shore up her role in the administration.
Biden’s decision early in the administration to task Harris with addressing the causes of migration from Central and South America that led to a surge at the U.S.-Mexico border seemed to underscore the challenges of her office.
During the interview, conducted as Harris visited Houston to visit the Johnson Space Center, the vice president said that the border is secure but acknowledged “there are still a lot of problems that we are trying to fix given the deterioration that happened over the last four years.”
“We also have to put into place a law and a plan for a pathway for citizenship for the millions of people who are here and are prepared to do what is legally required to gain citizenship. We don’t have that in place because people are playing politics in a state like this and in Congress,” she said.
Harris said she has spoken with most of her predecessors, including Mike Pence and Al Gore, about the inherent challenges of the office.
“I think that there is no question that the role and the responsibility of vice president is a very important one. And Joe Biden knows that more than anybody,” she said. “It is the job of working with the president, doing what I can to be a great partner, to take on and help take on some of the biggest issues that impact our country, both domestically and in terms of foreign policy. And so that’s the work that I do.”
Just this week, as Biden hosted the unveiling of his official portrait, he highlighted the relationship he and Barack Obama had developed over their eight years of working together.
Harris said she and Biden have forged a close partnership as well.
“We talk about family a lot. We talk about our hopes, we talk about our dreams, we talk about the things that concern us, that worry us, the things that, that keep us excited about everything we are doing. It’s a real friendship. We have a real friendship, and I cherish that,” she said.
Harris said that she would “proudly” be running with Biden again if he runs for a second term, reiterating that Biden himself “has been very clear that he intends to run again.”