ONEKamala Harris is the first female vice president and the first black woman to be nominated for the role. She made history with her trip to the White House.
Jill Biden, wife of President-elect Joe Biden, is expected to assume the title of First Lady. Spouses of previous Vice Presidents were given the informal designation of Second Lady.
But now, as a result of Harris’ successes, her husband Doug Emhoff will also break new ground – as the USA’s first second gentleman.
The 56-year-old entertainment lawyer and father of two from California is believed to be the first Jewish person to take on the role of “second spouse”.
On Biden’s first appearance with Harris as his colleague, the new president said, “Doug, you have to learn what it means to be a barrier-breaker yourself in the job you are about to take on.”
But already he seems to be indulging in the role.
“I’m not overly political,” he told Marie Claire in October. “I’m overly her husband.”
Kamala Harris and Douglas Emhoff at the National Democratic Congress in Wilmington, Delaware on August 19. Photo: Olivier Douliery / AFP / Getty Images
His biography on Twitter, posting a steady stream of pictures and videos from the campaign trail, reads: “Dad, @kamalaharri’s husband, lawyer, would-be golfer, advocate for justice and equality.”
But he’s not just an avid cheerleader. He has also proven to be an effective activist.
Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles mayor and national co-chair of Biden-Harris, recently told the Washington Post that Emhoff was their “secret weapon” on the campaign.
Barbara Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia Miller Center, said he was “a real hit” during both the primaries and the Biden campaign.
“A good sign that someone is a good activist is when he or she is sent out alone and doesn’t have to go with the spouse or family member. That was the Kennedy family’s secret. “
Emhoff, who lived in Brooklyn and New Jersey as a child before his family moved to Los Angeles as a teenager, said he was traveling the country during the primaries when Harris made her own offer for president, “really eyes me has opened “.
He would report on his travels with “Notes from the Field,” he told Chasten Buttigieg, whose husband Pete was also running for president, in a YouTube interview.
Although he fought with Harris during their Senate campaign, he said his first events for the presidential race were “a trial by fire”. He said he tried to speak “from the heart” about Harris, drawing on his experience as a lawyer in court.
Buttigieg, who works as a teacher, said he found Emhoff “disarming” when he first met him in June 2019 at a primary democratic debate where both were watching their spouses. Both “fish out of the water” in the political world became good friends.
He said Emhoff will be a “great second gentleman” because he is someone who is very eager to help and help and there really is no facade there, so that’s a good thing.
Harris and Emhoff at the San Francisco Pride Parade on June 30, 2019. Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
He added, “Doug does a very good job of making people smile, making people feel included, and talking about things in ways that other people can easily understand. It’s just very important, whatever he wants to do, that he hold on to it and continue to be the Doug other people have fallen in love with, someone they can see themselves in. “
Emhoff and Harris met on a blind date in 2013 after being founded by Harris’ friend Chrisette Hudlin. Emhoff said it was “love at first sight”. They got married the following year. Harris became the stepmother or “Momala” of his two children Cole (26) and Ella (21) from his first marriage to the film producer Kerstin Emhoff, with whom both are closely connected. “We joke sometimes that our modern family is almost a little too functional,” Harris wrote in Elle last year.
When they met, Harris was California’s attorney general, but Emhoff said he had no idea they were going to end up on the president’s campaign. When she launched her Senate campaign in 2015, he said he was beginning to feel like a “political spouse” and now, just five years later, he was preparing to take her to the fore in US politics.
It is a significant moment, said Kelly Dittmar, associate professor of political science at Rutgers University-Camden, for a presidency that is “shaped by gender and masculinity”.
Harris’ election as first female vice president calls these norms into question, she said. And Emhoff too. “To disrupt some of these gender expectations of presidential officials in exchanging the assumed dominant role for the male partner and the supportive role for the female partner.”
But any differences from a man in the role will come from public expectations rather than changes in the workplace itself, she said. She predicts that due to a potential conflict of interest, he is unlikely to continue his own career.
According to Perry, second women have traditionally worked on “soft power” issues such as healthcare, literacy, and nutrition.
According to reports, Emhoff wants to focus on questions of justice.
“We tend to put women who have been in these roles in these boxes, and we don’t let them go beyond a certain limit,” Perry said. “And it will be interesting to see how we treat Doug Emhoff. Will the difference in sex allow him to do more? “
He is likely to work with the new first lady Jill Biden, who held the position of second lady during the Obama-Biden administration and described the role as a “powerful platform”. The couple appear to have had a good relationship, and Emhoff said they have “connected” since the primaries when they talked backstage.
“She continued to teach and was a professor while serving as the second lady for eight years,” Perry said. “As non-traditional spouses, will you create a new paradigm for first lady and second gentleman?”