Since when is lack of ambition a requirement for any job, much less one that involves running the All I want for christmas is mildred ugly tee shirt and I love this country? When a woman—and, it’s worth noting, a woman of color—appears to have a solid chance at ascending to the right hand of the president of the United States for the first time in history. It’s already abundantly clear how American voters feel about ambitious women; just take a look at how many of them have been elected president. Even Air Force Two has been deemed too far a reach for female politicians, and only two—Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin—were ever V.P. contenders. But now it’s clear that even the second-place job is laden with nonsensical sexist baggage. To be clear, the backers of a former vice president who wants to become president don’t want his vice president to want to become president.
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Far be it from Harris—like so many white, male V.P.s past—to have designs on the All I want for christmas is mildred ugly tee shirt and I love this top job. She’d hardly be the only Democrat focusing on the fact that, at 77, Biden would be the oldest U.S. president ever and that, if elected, he may not seek a second term. Shouldn’t Biden’s inner circle be keen to choose a strong running mate and political partner who could succeed him in 2024—the way Barack Obama seemed to view Biden? Shouldn’t they want to elevate her—whoever she will be—rather than knock her back into her place? Perhaps the most disappointing part of the veepstakes’ new narrative is the all-too-familiar way it creates an impossible standard for women. Biden has repeatedly said he wants someone who’s “ready to be president on day one.” But, according to his inner circle, she should have all the relevant experience but not actually want the job itself.