I am loving the idea of the first “second gentleman” of the United States. And I think Doug Emhoff is the perfect man to fill that role. Here’s why.
Emhoff, a 56-year-old Jewish lawyer, appears to be totally comfortable in his own skin. Unthreatened by Kamala Harris’s success, he supports her 100 percent. It’s the most refreshing attitude ever. It’s also refreshing that he is only two weeks older than she is—no 24-year difference here! (Emhoff also will be the first second spouse to have a surname differing from the Vice President.)
When Harris was running for president, Emhoff became good friends with the other spouses of fellow candidates, especially Pete Buttigieg’s spouse Chasten. He came off as a genuinely nice guy with a great sense of humor. When Harris gave up her race for president, Emhoff’s tweet, “I’ve got you. As always” went viral. He has been there for her in defeat and success.
When Harris was nominated for Vice President, Emhoff was thrilled. He campaigned sometimes with her, sometimes without her, and sometimes with Jill Biden. He seemed to enjoy all roles—extolling her virtues and explaining why she was the right woman for the job. His campaign stops included LGBT venues and Jewish venues, and his rising popularity earned him more than 600,000 Twitter followers.
Emhoff took a leave of absence from his job when Biden appointed Harris as his running mate and plans to resign formally from DLA Piper where he has worked since 2017 to take the second gentleman role full-time. Obviously, women have been quitting their jobs to follow their men for ages, so there is a certain irony in his doing so receiving such fanfare. Still he seems excited about the opportunity and jazzed about being able to make a difference.
One of Emhoff’s roles will be to convene lunches for the senators’ spouses. That should prove to be interesting material. I can’t help but recall the brouhaha regarding Hillary when she was asked about her high-powered career when Clinton was running in the Democratic primary. Hillary responded, “You know I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfill my profession which I entered before my husband was in public life.” The uproar was immediate. Her comments were considered derogatory towards stay-at-home moms and catapulted her into controversy.
Emhoff has announced that since he is a lawyer and familiar with the judicial system, he will make one of his major initiatives criminal justice reform, ensuring access to justice and legal representation for all.
Kamala is friends with Emhoff’s first wife, Kerstin Emhoff, a filmmaker and head of Prettybird, a production company which she co-founded. Harris also claims to have great relationships with Emhoff’s two children, Cole and Ella, named after jazz legends John Coltrane and Ella Fitzgerald. Such camaraderie needs to be commended in today’s world of vitriol-spreading banter among exes. Harris has described their modern family as “almost a little too functional.”
When asked by a nine-year- old boy in an online “Ask a Grown-up” session what he plans to do, Emhoff replied, “I’m going to support her because it’s really important for men and even young boys to support the strong and wonderful women in their lives, and I’m going to do that, and I hope you do that too.”
My case rests. Having an evolved non-threatened man as second gentleman is a gift indeed. Let’s hear it for the evolved male. God knows, the world needs more of them.
Maria Grant was Principal-in-Charge of the Federal Human Capital practice of Deloitte Consulting. Since her retirement, she has focused on writing, piano, travel, gardening, and nature.