Consider where we are as a country at the moment.
South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement of Biden days before the primary was, without question, the turning point of the race, was asked about Biden choosing a black woman as his running mate on Wednesday morning in a conversation with The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart. “The only thing that’s a must in this process at this time is to win,” Clyburn said. “That’s to win. It will be a plus to have an African American woman. It will be a plus to have a Latino. It will be a plus to have a woman.”
True enough! But there’s a strong case to be made that the best chance of Biden winning the White House is by picking a black woman as his running mate.
For all of the focus on the industrial Midwest and white, non-college educated voters who went with Trump, had Clinton been able to drive black turnout to the level it was during Obama’s two victories, she almost certainly would have won.
Now, simply putting a person of color on the ticket doesn’t mean that you win the votes of black people or ensure they turn out in large numbers. But politics at the presidential level is often about symbolism. And who Biden picks as his vice president will be his best chance to reveal how he views his party, the country and the world — and what he prioritizes amongst the many, many issues facing the US at the moment.
Go back to Biden being picked by Obama in 2008. The concern among voters at the time was that a relatively inexperienced senator — Obama had been in the chamber for just two years when he started running for president — might have too large a learning curve as president. So Obama picked Biden, a man who had spent his entire adult life in politics and Washington, to send a symbolic message that there would be a steady hand at the wheel. George W. Bush made a similar nerve-calming pick with Dick Cheney in 2000. Trump chose Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his running mate as a nod to the party establishment — although, in retrospect, it’s clear that it was just a nod, not an actual attempt to incorporate establishment views and approaches into his presidency.
Biden, if you listened closely to his speech in Philadelphia on Tuesday, seemed to be hinting at the need for major action — and different choices — when it came to addressing the still-smoldering issue of race in the country. Here’s the key part of what he said (bolding is mine):
“It will take more than talk. We’ve had talk before. We’ve had protests before.”
“Let us vow to make this, at last, an era of action to reverse systemic racism with long overdue and concrete changes.
“That action will not be completed in the first 100 days of my Presidency — or even an entire term.
“It is the work of a generation.”
Picking a black woman who is a generation (or more) younger than Biden would send a heck of a signal about how committed he actually is to changing the racial dynamics in this country. (It would be the first time a black woman was a vice presidential nominee for either major party.)
And lucky for Biden, he has a number of African American women who would make excellent choices.
Biden has said he hopes to make a decision on his running mate by August 1. In truth, his decision may well have been made — or at least significantly narrowed — by the events of the past 10 days.