by Barrington M. Salmon
WASHINGTON—With news that Joe Biden is days away from choosing a vice presidential candidate, talk has centered on whether he should pick a Black woman, why, what his campaign stands to gain and what each potential woman brings to the table.
Mr. Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, is considering former National Security Adviser Susan Rice; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chairwoman Rep. Karen Bass; and Florida Rep. Val Demings.
Mr. Biden has been under considerable pressure to pick a Black woman by rank-and-file and high-ranking Black women inside the party.
They argue that since Black women have shown themselves to be fiercely loyal to the party and have been instrumental in a number of elections before and since the ascension of Donald Trump, now it’s time for them to be rewarded.
Analysts, pundits and political observers have said often this election is the most consequential in a generation with an openly racist president who has fully embraced a White nationalist agenda.
Blacks have been under threat since 2016 from an administration that has concentrated on stripping away hard-earned gains and which has produced a raft of policies that are inimical to Black concerns and interests.
Add to that a global pandemic that has disproportionately affected Blacks, an economic meltdown and overall unemployment that stands at about 50 million people.
It is these and other reasons why some analysts warned caution about making the right choice for second place on the Democratic Party ticket.
“The right choice will be a lift to the ticket, complement the presidential candidate,” Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever told The Final Call. “The pick needs to be taken seriously. I would love to see a Black woman on the ticket. If he ends up with her, we have to hold both of them to the fire to fulfill our demands.”
“Look at Hilary Clinton, she went super safe. He (Tim Kaine) brought nothing to the ticket and had no constituency that he appealed to. Had she picked up someone more appealing, someone who brought more to the ticket, she might have won.”
Political analyst Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III embraces a different view.
“It’s not important at all to choose a woman. Joe Biden made a huge strategic and tactical mistake by saying he would choose a woman. He has seriously limited his options. By trying to force him to pick a Black woman, we’re playing identity politics versus electoral politics—focusing on a narrow issue-based agenda—gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation. This is not the time for the African American community to get locked into identity politics. That’s what took us down the Barack Obama road and we didn’t force him to do anything.”
Dr. Leon, an educator, author, lecturer and talk show host, said the smart strategy to pursue is asking what do you need to do to get elected, which means choosing someone to complement the candidate and bring in votes the candidate couldn’t bring him or herself.
“In this case, this focus (on a Black woman) is bringing something he already has,” Dr. Leon explained. “I think he needs to select a Latina. If he does that, he brings Arizona, locks down Florida and it puts Texas in play. That would force Republicans to spend more money than they need to. Beto O’Rourke didn’t win when he ran for the Senate, but he showed some real vulnerability in the GOP game in Texas. The real move is a Latino.”
“If Biden hadn’t locked himself into a female, his best bet was Julian Castro. When I look at the Black women whose names are being bandied about, one name I don’t see is Rep. Barbara Lee. She is the most progressive voice in the CBC. What these names show me is the status quo. (Sen. Kamala) Harris said in the first debate that she’s not for substantive change. She’s trying to redo her image as some progressive prosecutor. That will cause her some vulnerability.”
South Florida resident Noel Gray, Sr.—a retired mathematics teacher and a registered Democrat and a fierce critic of President Trump—agrees with Dr. Jones-DeWeever that Mr. Biden should choose a Black woman.
“How important is the number two person in Biden’s effort to win the White House? That’s a very good question,” said Mr. Gray. “Given his advanced age there is possibility he won’t make it through the first term in office. You’re going to need someone who’s been there, done that. Someone with leadership skills. Kamala Harris has the credentials but something is missing. Stacey Abrams needs some seasoning and with Val Demings, I don’t know too much about her.”
Mr. Gray said none of those on the short list are perfect.
“It’s very important who he chooses. She needs to have been in that position. Susan Rice is tough. I’ve seen her on Joy Reid and Rachel Maddow. She’s solid. That’s my pick … yeah man, I think she will excite voters. And she wouldn’t be rattled. When Trump said ‘the cupboard was bare,’ she rattled off facts. She has poker face and spits out facts. She’s steady and I like her confidence.”
Mr. Gray said he likes Sen. Harris as well. So does Dr. Jones-DeWeever.
“People, including Black people are complaining about her because she is the strongest. They have a problem with her,” said Dr. Jones-DeWeever, an award-winning author, international speaker, political commentator, and Race & Gender empowerment expert. “A lot of these latest news reports about the largely White power structure trying to mobilize shows me she is frontrunner. It’s politics. What I think is really going on is they don’t want a Black woman to be president. They’re sabotaging the best choice. They like Karen Bass because she said if she’s picked, she wouldn’t run for president. They want Black women to be the help but not vice president.”
Dr. Jones-DeWeever asked if people were “looking at the pieces of legislation she’s (Sen. Harris) been dropping.”
“They attack a wide range of issues. Looked at her record, look at the bills she’s produced. The continuum of her voting record is far to the left of Elizabeth Warren,” she said. “It’s interesting to me that her record is ignored and lies are raised against her. People see her talent and see she has real chance of being chosen. It’s not just White folks, but Black folks who don’t want a Black woman president. She gets the heat because she’s damn good. When was the last time you heard about Kirsten Gillibrand?”
“Val Demings. I really like her a lot. She’s whip smart and could help with Florida. Susan Rice, I like her but she has never run in any election before. She is an unknown quality. I think she should be someone who’s run before so we can see how she responds to adversity. I like her attitude. At a minimum I would like her to be secretary of state.”
According to a recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll, a majority of Democrats believe former Vice President Biden should choose a Black woman for the ticket in November. Sixty percent of Democrats think it’s important for him to select a Black woman, though only 25 percent believe it’s “very important” that he do so.
Thirty-three percent of Democrats want Mr. Biden to pick Sen. Harris but a number of publications report that some Biden backers are said to be distrustful of Sen. Harris because of no-holds-barred salvos against Mr. Biden in the first Democratic primary debate. Other Biden supporters believe that Sen. Harris is too ambitious to be satisfied with “the often conciliatory role of VP.”
Twenty percent of Democrats, support Sen. Warren to be Mr. Biden’s running mate. She is said to have been a key policy adviser to Biden in the waning months of the campaign but is considered a dark horse candidate given her age and outspoken progressive beliefs.
Twelve percent of Democrats say they support Ms. Rice, and nine percent say they favor former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
First term U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a military veteran who lost both legs and use of an arm in combat in Iraq and a former member of the House is also said to be under consideration by Mr. Biden. Sen. Duckworth was born in Thailand. Her father is American and her mother is Thai. She is one of three Asian women to serve in the Senate.
An overwhelming majority of Democratic respondents—90 percent—think it’s the “right decision” for Mr. Biden to pick a woman as the running mate regardless of her race. If the Democrats win in November, the woman Mr. Biden chooses will be in play if she seeks to secure the presidency in either 2024 or 2028.
South Florida businessman Steven Warner said several times while talking to a Final Call reporter that it’s absolutely critical to pick a viable vice presidential candidate.
“We have to remember that up to the point of the Clyburn factor, Biden wasn’t the overwhelming favorite to begin with,” said Mr. Warner, a DJ and founder and host of “The Wake Up and Live” Show, the most widely syndication Caribbean show on the Internet. “Given where we are socially and the Black Lives Matter climate it’s important that he picks someone, not one who is a figure head or as an appeasing move.”
Mr. Warner said Mr. Biden is a man with issues.
“He says things that concerns me,” he said. “He’s a one-term candidate and he wants to pick someone in the event of him not making it. That’s not assuring to me.”
In his mind, Mr. Warner said, there are only two people seriously in the running: Kamala Harris and Susan Rice.
“And my pick is Rice because if you take out the fact that Harris has run before, it is an even race,” he explained. “The race for president didn’t put her (Harris) high on the Black list.
“Right now we have some international fences to mend and Susan Rice is well suited to do that. I believe Rice will excite voters enough. I think Black people are more familiar with Harris because of her campaign. And I think we need to be appeased. Harris is more suited for attorney general. She’s very familiar with the issues and she won’t have to be brought up to speed. She will step in with more ease.”
Mr. Warner said the next question the feds have to figure out is to extradite the former president who he is convinced will flee the country for Russia when he loses the election.
Kerra Bolton, a writer and filmmaker, said she believes Mr. Biden picking a Black woman would be a token gesture.
“Given where we are in U.S. with the racial unrest and police brutality, we need real substantive policies,” she said. “Does the vice president actually influence policy? I would rather see her in the Cabinet, really affecting people’s lives. Certainly, whoever he chooses, it’s going to be historic. It’s not a bad position to be in but it doesn’t affect daily lives.”
The primary goal of Democrats is to mobilize, organize and turn out Blacks and others in effort to defeat the dangerous and cornered president Donald Trump, critics said. So strong is the urge to run him out of office, Blacks will do whatever it takes, said Ms. Bolton, who worked for the North Carolina Democratic Party from 2007-2011.
“I think most of us will vote for ( Mr. Biden) no matter what. He knows how to read the room, knows Black women can come out and turn the room,” she said. “We will vote, mobilize, bring our aunties, mobilize. They know they can depend on us. I’ve been in room. They’re looking at the numbers. They also know that with a Black VP, they will lose in Rust State, for example, so it’s more of a gamble.
“It would be safer for him to pick a White person but that would piss us off. They are trying to get us out to vote and for many voters symbols matter. If he said he changed his mind, we’d be pissed. It would be further evidence that Democrats take us for granted. It would leave a bad taste in our mouth.”
Ms. Bolton said, “I’m going to vote for (Mr. Biden) any way so I haven’t paid that close attention. He is not Trump. I think White people, especially White women will still vote for Trump. He (Biden) has been walking the line carefully with divest, defund. If he comes out in support of those who are marching because of police issues, they will vote their Whiteness. The polls lie, Whites lie. One of the great ironies of the modern electoral system is that it is predicated on Whiteness, especially in suburbia and they expect us to rubber-stamp it.”
She criticized members of both political parties who “haven’t given us people to vote for.”
“We have to keep choosing people who are electable. We have to be practical, stay dealing with survival. In 2008 and 2012, we were inspired to vote. This time I don’t know.”
Blacks are between 13-15 percent of entire population, so it makes more sense for Black people to leverage that 15 percent for universal health care, an end to mass incarceration, and housing as a universal right, contends Dr. Shantella Sherman, a political analyst.
“He cannot choose someone who is an immigrant because White people will just burn the country down,” she said. “As long we have been in this country, we don’t understand the actual politics of it. The people sitting on the Left and the Right are all cousins. They all know each other, fuss, fight, put their fingers in eat each others’ eyes, have sex, eat with each other. Too often, we don’t understand how they play the game.”
“We’ve been here long enough to be strategic. The political process is figuring out who’s on your team. And when he gets in, he can assign Black and Spanish people to be in the cockpit over here, be the mechanic over there.”
Dr. Sherman said given the racial and social problems, the public health disaster in the form of coronavirus and an economic meltdown, she really doesn’t want any Black or Latino person to be exposed to the possible repercussions.
“If the 15 percent is taken care of, who does Biden need to pick to pull in business people, folks without health care, White people who are marginalized, like those in West Virginia, the Midwest, those about to lose their homes, those who originally voted for Trump,” she said. “ I don’t want them to get upset about choosing a Black person.”
“We have old White men with old White men problems. We’re having a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment. The world is falling apart. I don’t want to put anyone in harm’s way,” she added.
“Is America ready for a Black female VP? There are some who don’t see that happening but it might bolster the Black vote and encourage people to show up and show out,” commented Steven Warner, the South Florida radio host. “But if the person he chooses decides to run as president, they may not win. The scab has been torn off the wound. Four years is not enough time to quell racists.”