Biden Has To Prove His Own Mettle in VP Pick

By Jamie Stiehm

August 12, 2020 5 min read

Reader's update: Joe Biden chose Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate. This is a popular pick at first, with a personal connection to his late son, Beau. But Harris may not wear well to deliver concrete results on the election map, inexperienced at campaigning on the national stage beyond blue California.

Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden promised his running mate will be a woman (she/her pronouns). He did not say whether it will be a Black or white woman, so let's look at a handful of women with all shades of skin.

First, it's not smart to take so long to decide as time goes by in a Delaware basement. Easygoing Biden raised concerns about his decision-making on deadline.

A crowd-pleasing pick in July would have lifted low party morale and spirits from the floor. Then, a chorus of urgency about our coronavirus crisis and economic emergency wouldn't have hurt.

Race matters, of course, but America elected a Black president to serve eight years. We've never had a woman president or vice president of any color. I know, right? It's kind of tragic.

That barrier should be broken on the 100th anniversary of women winning the vote in 1920. Given that Biden will be 78 when sworn in if he wins, it's absolutely critical to choose the best woman for the job, because she stands a strong chance of being president.

In my book, that's Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, hands down, with two runners-up: Rep. Val Demings of Florida and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan.

My choices are based on an old-fashioned formula: political experience, accomplishment and actually winning vital states on Election Day.

Call me on a rotary telephone, but Biden best be pragmatic weighing what his running mate brings to the table to beat a reckless president. Please, no vanity or personal picks just because he feels "comfortable" with someone.

California Sen. Kamala Harris and Susan Rice, a former national security adviser to President Barack Obama, bring zero new votes or states that Biden wouldn't win already. Either would be an unforced error.

This is especially true of the brusque Rice, who's never even faced voters before. Vice president is not a good place to start.

Why do I feel strongly that Warren would energize the electorate? Her progressive record is stellar. She fared better than any other female senator, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, in the primary. She exuded cheer on the campaign trail ("I've got a plan for that") and told her own Oklahoma girl story well. She holds a crowd and might make mincemeat out of Vice President Mike Pence.

Only Warren can say she got a consumer financial aid agency created in the wake of the Great Recession as a citizen, not a senator. She'd make up for Biden's deficits in explaining policy crisply. She'd bring the liberal wing to the polls — and people who met and heard her in small but strategic states like New Hampshire and Iowa. All those selfies at the fair were not for naught.

Like Biden, Warren is a seasoned senator, which counts on the job as vice president.

Demings, 63, a former police chief and a House impeachment manager, is a fresh face, yet known on the national stage because she performed impressively before the Senate.

Whitmer, also poised before cameras, built a solid reputation as a bright light, turning 49 this month. Both women could help deliver their crucial swing states to Biden. Donald Trump won Florida and Michigan in 2016.

California is pure ocean blue. And remember, Harris dropped out before the first state primary in the presidential race. She's a freshman senator still charting her way around the Capitol.

Unlike the affable Biden, the cool Californian has not made a lot of friends yet. For all his flaws, Biden likes to like people and reach past partisanship, though those days may be gone.

Here we are, months since March, when COVID-19 struck and Biden emerged as the nominee; these two are not unrelated. With the nation undone over the pandemic, the man matched against a mercurial Trump ideally projects a clear, calm sense of organization and direction.

Instead, factions formed around certain women and color lines, some giving Biden ultimatums during a summer of street strife over race. Capable as they are, Rice and Harris — both 55 — would not help win a single extra vote or state on the map. That's the way it is.

To inspire voter confidence, Biden needs to show us he can make a good call under pressure.

Jamie Stiehm can be reached at JamieStiehm.com. To read her weekly column and find out more about Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit creators.com.

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