Anyone seeking the highest position possible in politics or business will naturally be irritated if asked whether they will settle for number two. And Senator Kamala Harris was no different when, at the peak of the campaign trail last year, she was asked to comment on reports that she would be the ‘perfect’ running mate for former Vice President Joseph Biden. “If people want to speculate about running mates, I encourage that, because I think Joe Biden would be a great running mate. As Vice President, he’s proven that he knows how to do his job,” Harris shot back rather sarcastically making it known that she was not interested in anything other than what she is in the fray for — the top spot.
At the start of the Democrats’ campaigning, from a field of about 15 or even more there were six serious female contenders and five of them with a political background — four Senators (Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and Kirsten Gillibrand), one from the House of Representatives (Tulsi Gabbard) and Marianne Williamson who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives in 2014. But with about six months to go for the November 3 showdown, the question now is how the presumptive Democratic candidate, Biden, going to settle as his running mate; and by extension the question as to what is going to be the so-called Dream Ticket?
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Biden’s announcement last month that he will be looking for a woman as his running mate has naturally started the political guessing game even if everyone is aware of the fact that women have always been a part of the political process for the Presidency starting in 1872 with Victoria Claflin Woodhull seeking the post with the Equal Rights Party; and in the 20th century Margaret Chase Smith placed in nomination by the Republican Party in 1964 only to be withdrawn; and with Shirley Anita Chisholm, the first African American woman, seeking the nomination of the Democratic Party but not getting very far. As far as Vice Presidential candidates were concerned Democrats had Geraldine Ferraro teamed up with Walter Mondale in 1984 and Republican Senator John McCain opted for Sarah Pailin in 2008.
Both parties failed in their attempts. In the existing scheme of things in the Democratic Party, Biden can lean on three female Senators who have done extremely well but have also some constraints — Elizabeth Warren of Massachussetts; Kamala Harris of California; and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota. From outside of this list, Biden can also consider Gretchen Whitmer, currently Governor of Michigan; Val Demings, an African American Congresswoman from Florida and Stacey Abrams, an African American politician from Georgia.
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In the context of the present goings on in America and within what is taking place in the Democratic Party, many are making the point that Biden’s best option for the Dream Ticket is to have an African American woman, more or less in the same fashion Senator Barack Obama in 2008 chose a respected white male in Joseph Biden as his running mate.African Americans in general have been the backbone of the Democratic Party.
In fact, Biden was propelled to the top spot in South Carolina, thanks to African Americans who came out in strength and voted for him; and from then it was no looking back on Super Tuesday of March 3 or the subsequent Tuesdays. At the same time, prominent African American political leaders — like Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, who was instrumental in Biden getting to the top, have repeatedly said that Biden would be better off having an African American woman on the ticket. And one of the names that Clyburn himself has mentioned is that of Senator Harris. And much of the pressure on Biden to have an African American woman on the ticket stems from a perception in the community that they are leveraged for turnout but not prioritized.
In a critical Presidential poll the last thing the Democrats would want to do is to give the impression that they are taking the African American vote for granted.Staying on the same page of Biden opting for an African American woman as his running mate, political pundits have suggested the names of Val Demings, the Florida Congresswoman who played an impressive role as a House Impeachment Manager in the Trump Impeachment process; and Stacey Abrams, the fiery Georgia state house legislator who failed in a controversial Governor election.
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Both Florida and Georgia with 29 and 16 Electoral College votes respectively are critical of Biden. In the case of Abrams especially the point has been made that Biden would want a person to have a measure of experience in national/and or international relations; further being in her early to mid-forties, Abrams has a lot of time ahead of her.Senators Warren and Klobuchar along with Governor Whitmer, all three of them white, bring with them a rich political experience, good public relations standing but also a measure of constraints.
The ideology of Senator Warren is quite different from that of Biden and she was seen closely tied to Senator Sanders. Choosing Warren would be unpopular within the Democratic establishment as she could not even carry her own state of Massachusetts in the primaries and her perceived socialist rhetoric could be an easy target for the extreme right wing of the Grand Old Party.
Senator Klobuchar of Wisconsin dropped out on the eve of Super Tuesday of March 3 endorsed Biden and campaigned with him in Texas; but is not seen as a critical factor as Biden is seen to be strong in the Midwest especially in Michigan. The same would go for Governor Whitmer of Michigan who is currently very popular in her state on account of the measures taken to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Further, Whitmer has politely made it known that she is not interested in a Vice Presidential ticket.That brings one candidate who appears to have the strongest credentials to be Biden’s running mate and a person that many are rooting for, in the American political world and outside — Senator Kamala Harris, an African American with Asian (from Chennai, India) roots; at the right age of 55; from the state of California which has the largest number of Electoral College votes at 55; a former Attorney General of California and a junior Senator from a state that makes up for about 20 per cent of America’s Gross Domestic Product; a fiery debater who could floor any opponent; a person who asked tough and uncomfortable questions during the Trump Impeachment trial in the Senate bringing about objections from her Republican colleagues; and a Senator who made Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh squirm in his seat during confirmation hearings.
The former Vice President Joseph Biden has not said anything definitive of his running mate, except dropping only broad hints and in stressing that he is looking for someone who will be a partner in progress. On April 8, Biden, in a virtual town hall event, thanked Senator Harris for her support and said something quite significant: “I’m so lucky to have you be a part of this partnership going forward. Working together, we can make a great deal of progress… I’m coming for you, kid.”
The writer was a former senior journalist in Washington D.C. covering North America and the United Nations.
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