Stacy Abrams, a former member of Georgia’s House of Representatives, might be asked to join Joe Biden’s presidential campaign. AP
By Joey Garrison USA TODAY
May 20. 2020
WASHINGTON – In 2008, Barack Obama chose Joe Biden as his running mate in part because Biden brought experience in Congress and on foreign policy that the junior senator from Illinois lacked.
Now Biden is on his own quest to find a running mate with strengths he lacks while facing pressure to make history.
The presumptive Democratic nominee vowed in March to pick a woman as his vice-presidential running mate. Leaders within crucial factions of the Democratic base – black and Latino voters – say that’s not enough for the standard-bearer of a party that touts its diversity and relies on the steadfast support of voters of color to win.
They urge him to choose not just any woman but the first woman of color as a running mate on a major party’s ticket.
Not only is it long past time to reward the party’s most reliable voting bloc, black leaders say, a woman of color makes the most sense strategically to defeat President Donald Trump.
Biden, 77 and white, needs to balance the ticket with racial diversity and youth, advocates said, to energize the party’s base, or he risks repeating the mistakes of Hillary Clinton, who failed to match Obama’s support in cities with large African American populations in her 2016 election loss to Trump.
“If he wants us to not just vote but bring our family and communities along in record numbers, he’s got to put a woman of color on the ticket,” said Aimee Allison, founder and president of She the People, a left-leaning group working to engage more than 1 million women of color in swing states this fall. “It’s got to be part of the successful strategy in bringing the Democratic coalition together – firing us up, motivating us even in the middle of a pandemic – to get out the vote.”
Biden seeks ‘strengths that I don’t have’
A running mate hasn’t swung the outcome of a presidential election in a clear way since 1960, historians agree, when Lyndon B. Johnson helped John F. Kennedy win Texas en route to winning the White House.
But more could be riding on Biden’s vice-presidential pick than usual, because of his age – he would be 78 on Inauguration Day in 2021 – and the future of the party. Even if Biden loses, the running mate will almost certainly emerge as a contender to seek the party’s nomination for president in 2024.
Biden appeared last week with one of the women of color most speculated about as a potential running mate: Stacey Abrams. A segment on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell offered an audition, of sorts, for Abrams, the former Georgia House minority leader, and one-time gubernatorial candidate. Biden invited Abrams onto the program.
“Stacey knows what she’s doing, and she’s an incredibly capable person,” Biden said, touting Abrams’ work on voting rights for the organization she leads, Fair Fight
More than 500 black women leaders – including pastors, doctors, lawyers and celebrities such as singer/actress Vanessa Williams – signed a letter sent to Biden last month calling for him to “recognize and seize this moment” by picking a black woman as his running mate.
Democracy in Color and 12 like-minded groups penned a separate letter urging Biden to choose a woman of color, calling the decision “a first indication of how you will govern.” In addition to a woman running mate, Biden pledged to nominate the nation’s first African American woman to the Supreme Court.
“I’m looking for someone who has strengths that I don’t have as much,” Biden said last week during an interview on Snapchat. “I’m not afraid to go out and find someone who knows more than I know about a subject.”
Members of Congress, a governor and at least one member of the Obama administration are among the women of color Biden could be considering.
In addition to Abrams, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; former U.S. national security adviser Susan Rice; and Reps. Val Demings, D-Fla., and Barbara Lee, D-Calif., are among the black women rumored to be on Biden’s list of possible running mates.