From well before Joe Biden declared his candidacy for president, it seems like people have been screaming from the top of their political lungs that the presumptive Democratic nominee needs a Black woman to be his vice-presidential running mate. After all, Black women have been responsible for some of the most significant electoral successes, both in recent years as well as throughout history since they were finally granted the right to cast ballots.
And, up until now, all of the rumors surrounding his potential pick have all centered on Black women.
But that narrative took a sharp turn Sunday night after Biden pledged to “pick a woman to be vice president.” That promise came on the debate stage against Bernie Sanders, who wasn’t quite as vehement as Biden with his vision of a running mate: “in all likelihood, I will,” the Vermont senator said.
However, if Biden does become the Democratic nominee and taps Amy Klobuchar instead of the prominent Black women there have been calls for him to consider first — Stacey Abrams, Val Demings, Kamala Harris, for starters — then there is no telling how Black women voters — the backbone of the Democratic Party — will react. In fact, that may be true for Black voters as a whole, who could take the selection of Klobuchar (or any non-Black person) as a slap in the face since Black folks have been largely credited with propelling Biden’s candidacy after Sanders jumped out to an early lead following the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire primary in two very white states.
Biden has even gone so far as to boast on the debate stage, at rallies and, really, anywhere else, that he has the undying support of Black voters.
No, this isn’t a quid pro quo with Black voters expecting a Black woman running mate to be blindly selected in exchange for their support. On the contrary, the calls for a Black woman vice-presidential candidate are consistent with those from well before there were any 2020 Democratic candidates when the narrative was that the Party’s presidential ticket should include some semblance of diversity. While Klobuchar being a woman would technically fulfill that demand, the unspoken expectation has been that if the nominee was not a Black person, then the running mate should be.
That’s precisely why the names of Abrams and Harris began to bubble up late Sunday night after the debate. But then Klobuchar’s name was credibly added to the rumor mill on Monday.
The logic behind choosing a Black woman/person as a running mate stems from the 2016 election when Hillary Clinton failed to turn out Black voters. In particular, 4.4 million voters decided against voting at all, including one-third of them who were Black, according to the Washington Post. If the Democratic nominee chooses a Black running mate, that should in theory spur more of those voters who sat out the last election to participate this time around with most of them, in all likelihood, casting ballots against Trump.
Of course, that’s the end game for Democrats — to vote out Trump — so it’s doubtful that Black voters would rather see the incumbent win instead of electing a new president and his running mate, regardless of who those people are. But in 2020, with the stakes so high and the world witnessing a president who has no idea how to stop the coronavirus, would Biden really take that chance? Only time will tell.