Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has a big decision to make: He needs to pick his vice-presidential running mate. He will want someone who can competently do the job of president if some tragedy were to occur and also someone who can help him win the election.
Biden has announced the he is picking a woman, which narrows the potential list of possibilities. I argue that not only will Biden’s running mate be woman, but she will be a black woman. With the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 and the sea changes in thinking that have occurred across the country and the world as a result, Biden’s choice of vice president must meet the moment.
With that in mind, here are four names Biden should consider, in order of the strength they would bring to the ticket:
4. Stacey Abrams. The former Georgia House minority leader came close to pulling off an upset victory in the 2018 Georgia governor’s race and in the process captured the hearts and imagination of many Democrats across the country. Young (age 46) and effective as a speaker, Abrams has emphasized voting rights and protections since her 2018 loss and she could definitely help boost minority and youth turnout.
3. Keisha Lance Bottoms. The 50-year old mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, has skyrocketed to prominence in the days following Floyd’s death. She had a tough response to rioters — “You are disgracing this city. You are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country. We are better than this. We are better than this is a city and we are better than this as a country” — and a human response to tragedy: “Above everything else, I am a mother. I am a mother to four black children in America, one of whom is 18 years old. And when I saw the murder of George Floyd, I hurt like a mother would hurt.”
2. Val Demings. Currently a congresswoman from Florida, Demings served as the Orlando, Florida, chief of police from 2007 to 2011. After graduating with a degree in criminology, she began her career in law enforcement in 1983 with the Orlando police department as a cop on the beat and worked her way up the ladder. Political analyst Chris Cillizza said this: “Consider what Demings would do to the ticket: A black former police chief of a major southern city who knows issues within the law enforcement community vis a vis policy brutality intimately.” Unlike Abrams and Bottoms, Demings could also help Biden compete in the electorally important swing state of Florida.
1. Kamala Harris. The current U.S. senator from California is also a former prosecutor (district attorney for San Francisco, 2004-2011) and California attorney general (2011-2017). Just as importantly, Harris is battle-tested, having run for the Democratic nomination for president for 11 months before dropping out in December 2019. Not only did Harris participate in five primary debates before millions of viewers, but she answered questions about every national issue imaginable at hundreds of town halls, forums, barbecues and meet-and-greets across Iowa and New Hampshire.
It is impossible to overstress how important it is that Harris has already been through the frenzy of a presidential campaign. The problem for two of the most negatively reviewed VP picks in the modern era — Dan Quayle in 1988 and Sarah Palin in 2008 — was that they weren’t ready for the unrelenting glare and scrutiny of the national spotlight.
And, who understands best the importance of being battle tested? Joe Biden, himself a failed presidential candidate in 1988 and 2008 before being tapped by Barack Obama to be on the ticket.
At age 55, Harris is a generation younger than Biden but also has the wealth of experience that the other VP possibilities lack but we know that Biden values. And, she can speak from experience, and from the heart, about growing up black in America.
Bob Beatty is a political scientist in Topeka. He can be reached at email@example.com.