Betcha Biden Won’t Pick Sista for VP

The Black community resurrected Biden’s bid for president. What will it get in return?

Former VP Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee for the U.S. president and has received important endorsements from mostly all the former Democratic candidates and kingmaker Barack Hussein Obama. He’s sending clear signals he probably won’t pick a black candidate as his running mate.

Former President Barack Obama and Former VP Joe Biden
Susan Walsh AP Photo

Some progressives took me to task for saying in an earlier column that Sen. Kamala Harris and former Ga House Minority leader Stacey Abrams were good choices to consider as a running mate. They claimed I was elevating race and gender over politics. But among the women whose names have been floated in addition to Abrams and Harris, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren, Catherine Marie Cortez Masto, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Sally Yates, among others, with the exception of Warren, Abrams’ and Harris’ politics are as progressive as anyone. 

“By committing to the Supreme Court seat and remaining silent on the ethnicity or race of his VP pick, Biden was placating African Americans”

In gauging Biden’s thinking, he let the cat out of the bag in South Carolina when he mistakenly said if elected he would appoint the first black woman to the U.S. Senate. He obviously meant U.S. Supreme Court. But having made that commitment, it is unfathomable to think he would feel obliged to make two historic high level appointments of black females. By committing to the Supreme Court seat and remaining silent on the ethnicity or race of his VP pick, Biden was placating African Americans, while at the same time leaving the door open to appoint a white woman.

Biden also has recent polling that suggests he would not be hurt by not appointing a woman of color for the number two slot. Only 22 percent overall and 43 percent of African Americans polled by the POLITICO/Morning Consult said it is important for Biden to select a person of color as his running mate. Forty eight percent of African Americans, nearly half, had no opinion or said it is unimportant if Biden selected a person of color. 

Sen. Kamala Harris

Harris still struggles to attract strong support among African American voters. Forty-nine percent of  black voters held more favorable views of Warren, than of Harris at 45 percent. And Abrams ended up somewhere in the middle of those polled with large numbers saying they never heard of her. 

A final reason Biden probably will not select a woman of color is the latest poll indicates that eight out of 10 voters prefer a vice presidential candidate with substantive executive and legislative experiences. This will provide him cover to select whomever he wants. Ironically, it was not that long ago when Obama tapped Biden for VP in 2008 and Biden had virtually no executive experience. Donald Trump had no legislative or government experience. And Obama had important community organizing experience and was the junior senator from Illinois, but no executive experience. There is no shortage of qualified women for vice president.

Former VP Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren

So where does this leave things? Biden’s safest pick based on these latest poll numbers would be Warren. African American voters like her more than any other female former presidential candidate, including Harris. Further, Warren would definitely balance the ticket as far as ideology goes, bringing in younger and, hopefully, Bernie Sanders supporters. 

“Biden must be concerned that his VP nominee does not suppress enthusiasm among Hispanic and black voters, particularly black women who are the core of the Democratic Party”

Above all to win the national election, Biden must be concerned that his VP nominee does not suppress enthusiasm among Hispanic and black voters, particularly black women who are the core of the Democratic Party. Ninety-six percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. If Biden selects a lukewarm Midwesterner like Klobuchar who appeals mostly to white moderate Democrats and potentially crossover Republicans, this could dampen enthusiasm come November.

Pundits closely following politics say that Biden, if elected, is likely to serve only one term, making his VP pick the likely candidate for president in 2024. This means Biden will probably spend his first few years getting the country back on track, undoing as much of Trump’s damage as possible, and unifying the Party behind the VP for the next president’s race. 

Here are additional nuggets for Biden to keep in mind: 

1. Maintain enthusiasm among African American voters. As much as they loathe Trump, sentiment is not strong enough to motivate a large black voter turnout without something or someone special to inspire them. 

2. Remember that Millennials and other young voters are fed-up with politics as usual which is why they gravitated toward Bernie and Elizabeth. They represent the Party’s future and their voices must be heard and concerns must be addressed. 

3. Hispanic voters are the fastest growing block of voters in America. The Biden campaign must speak clearly on immigration issues, commit to a clear path to citizenship, and recognized the great diversity within the Hispanic communities. 

4. Without diluting progressive objectives, Biden must expand the Democratic base by continuing to appeal to educated suburban white women, disaffected leftwingers, progressive union members, Millennials and GenXers, and democratic-leaning independents. 

Working with these groups and addressing the needs of his base, Biden must strengthen the quality of life for all workers, end income inequality, prioritize the environment, and rebuild a strong middle class. These are among tangible benefits the African American community deserves, but rarely receives, for its unwavering support of Democrats throughout the years. This time must be different.