Kamala Harris and VOUGE: Vice President, Kamala Harris on the Road Ahead

Kamala Harris on VOGUE. Look how great the 56 years old Vice President Kamala Harris still looks.

Kamala Harris and VOUGE: Vice President, Kamala Harris on the Road Ahead
Kamala Harris on VOGUE. Look how great the 56 years old Vice President Kamala Harris still looks.
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Kamala Harris on VOGUE. Look how great the 56 years old Vice President Kamala Harris still looks.

This is the second time Harris, 56, has been through a dragged-out contest; when she ran for attorney general of California in 2010, the race was so close that ballot counting went on for more than three weeks. (On election night that year, her opponent had declared victory, too.) On the chilly, sunny morning of November 7, Harris started the day by power walking with her husband, entertainment lawyer Douglas Emhoff. She then headed back to the inn where they were staying, near Biden’s campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, to take a shower and prepare for meetings; Emhoff decided to continue on by himself. Harris ran the shower to get it hot. “Then I looked at my phone, and the texts came that they had called the race, and I ran downstairs to find Doug—never turned off the water,” Harris says to me with a laugh. “Luckily enough there were people in the house. ‘Somebody go turn off the water!’ ” We all saw a clip of what came next: Harris standing on a grassy lawn, still in workout wear, on the phone with President-elect Joe Biden. “We did it. We did it, Joe,” she tells him, and laughs with a tired happiness. What they had done was remarkable—ousting a bigoted and cruel president from office—but, given the wreckage left behind, it was only the beginning.

That night, in a suit so white it glowed, she and Biden gave their victory speeches in front of a drive-up rally and millions of people watching from home. “It was very important for me to speak to the moment, and the moment includes understanding that there is a great responsibility that comes with being a first,” Harris says of that evening. We are talking over Zoom, and she’s dressed in a deep brown blazer and black pearls, sitting in front of not one but two American flags, on a week in which she and Biden have begun naming their Cabinet. She wanted to say something that night that young Americans would remember. “I always say this: I may be the first to do many things—make sure I’m not the last,” she tells me. “I was thinking of my baby nieces, who will only know one world where a woman is vice president of the United States, a woman of color, a Black woman, a woman with parents who were born outside of the United States.” Harris was also emotional that night, thinking of her mother, an Indian immigrant and breast cancer researcher named Shyamala Gopalan who passed away 12 years ago. “I thought about what her life meant” and how it had gotten Harris to that victory. And she was thinking about the weight on her and Biden “to unify our country and to heal.”

A FEW WEEKS before our interview, on November 2, I followed Harris around the state of Pennsylvania. In the city of Bethlehem, sunken into the green-lit farmland of the Lehigh Valley, Harris was holding a drive-up rally to ignite a furiously long day of campaigning. Pennsylvania was a key swing state that had gone Trump’s way in 2016. It’s also a place where people care deeply about the land, about who has long lived on the land, and who is moving in, and about how to protect the values they believe the land represents: family, honorable work, a sense of home. The press pool and I watched her take the stage in front of young families; white men, including a group of metal­worker-union members in neon-yellow sweatshirts; and middle-aged Black girlfriends in bright jackets.

“I was feeling that there’s not much more we can do,” Harris recalls of that day in Pennsylvania. “But because I had been going to states like Florida and North Carolina during early voting, I was feeling a sense of joy in seeing how many people were voting.” The hours-long voting lines around the country, to her, showed what she had always felt about American democracy: that it was only as strong as the people willing to fight for it. To others the lines were troubling, demonstrating state attempts at voter suppression, but to Harris, they also suggested love for our country, despite the coronavirus pandemic and the worst economic conditions Americans had experienced in generations.