Symone Sanders, the chief spokesperson for Kamala Harris and a fiercely loyal member of President Joe Biden’s team, will be resigning from her position at the end of the year as the vice president faces a growing number of questions about her future.
There is no evidence Sanders is stepping down because of the reported uncertainty of what comes next for Harris, But her departure almost certainly means the end to the vice president’s historic all-female and unapologetically Black senior communications team, including two of the most visible Black women who worked on the 2020 presidential campaign.
Sanders, Harris’ press secretary, did not immediately issue a public statement. But Politico reportedly saw the note she sent to her staff on Wednesday night that confirmed the pending resignation.
“I’m so grateful to the VP for her vote of confidence from the very beginning and the opportunity to see what can be unburdened by what has been. I’m grateful for [Harris chief of staff] Tina [Flournoy] and her leadership and her confidence as well,” the note reportedly said. “Every day, I arrived to the White House complex knowing our work made a tangible difference for Americans. I am immensely grateful and will miss working for her and with all of you.”
Flournoy, who, along with Ashley Etienne, comprised Harris’ senior, all-Black communications team, reportedly told Sanders’ team on Wednesday that “Symone told the VP a couple months ago that she’d be leaving us at the end of the year.”
There was neither evidence of a rift between Sanders and Harris nor any direct reason provided for Sanders leaving her position. However, reports about alleged uncertainty ahead of the 2024 presidential election may have contributed to the upcoming departure.
Sanders’ plans to leave mirrored those of Etienne, Harris’ communications director, who announced last month her own intentions to leave the vice president’s office. At the time, CNN reported, “Many in the vice president’s circle fume that she’s not being adequately prepared or positioned, and instead is being sidelined.”
That is an apparent allusion to the 2024 election, when it’s unclear whether Biden — who will be nearly 82 years old by then — will seek re-election. Biden has said he would, suggesting that Harris would be his running mate once again.
If Biden does not run for re-election, conventional wisdom and political tradition would suggest that Harris, who is a literal heartbeat away from the presidency, would lead the 2024 Democratic ticket. After all, that is the presumed expectation for every vice president based on historical precedence.
But myriad news reports have suggested that Harris could be leap-frogged by current Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
“While Buttigieg has become a visible advocate for the administration’s top legislative achievement, Harris often has been associated with its biggest trouble areas, including immigration and voting rights,” the Washington Post noted last month, underscoring the reports of building resentment among the vice president’s staff.
That means that Buttigieg could either replace Harris on the 2024 ticket as a vice-presidential candidate — positioning himself to run for president in 2028 should Biden win re-election — or he could lead the 2024 ticket as a presidential candidate in two years in a scenario that would not include Harris, quashing thoughts of the U.S. electing its first Black woman president anytime soon.
There have also been unconfirmed reports that Biden may be considering nominating Harris to be on the U.S. Supreme Court should a vacancy arise before his first term ends. There is speculation about Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, who is 82 years old, eyeing retirement, but nothing has been confirmed, suggesting that a tentative plan to nominate Harris may be hasty — especially if there is no other contingency plan for her.
Nominating a sitting vice president to the U.S. Supreme Court is unprecedented but not an impossibility.
Only time will tell how things play out, but the loss of high-profile Black women is not a good look for Biden’s administration, which owes its entire existence to Black women voters and political organizers who have been widely credited with securing key Democratic victories in the 2020 election, including the president’s.