DETROIT — After a devastating start to the Democratic primary, Joe Biden’s campaign was revived when black voters in South Carolina and throughout the South overwhelmingly sided with him. Now that he’s the presumptive Democratic nominee, black voters and leaders are pressing for him to pick a black woman as his running mate.
He already has committed to picking a woman. But black voters and leaders say he needs to go further and pick a black woman. They argue that Biden’s success — and that of the Democratic Party as a whole — depends on black people turning out to vote in November. They want a tangible return for their loyalty, not just a thank-you for showing up on Election Day.
“Black people want an acknowledgment of the many years of support they have given the Democratic Party,” said Niambi Carter, a Howard University political science professor.
Biden has been unusually vocal about the people he would consider as running mates. He’s referenced two black women, Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, and Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic nominee for governor in Georgia. Other black women, including Rep. Val Demings, of Florida, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, have also been mentioned.
But Biden is also thought to be considering several white women, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Zerlina Maxwell, a political analyst and former director of progressive media for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, said this is an opportunity for Biden to recognize the political force of black women.
“The Democratic nominee needs to make it completely clear that they understand the moment and that they understand that black women are the foundation of a successful Democratic Party at every level,” Maxwell said.
Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of Black PAC, said black voters are looking for “authenticity.”
“When folks have talked to us about what they want in a candidate, it is someone who can relate to them,” Shropshire said. “Having a black running mate checks that box for a lot of people, but I would also say in the same way that black voters weren’t simply during the primary contest saying, ‘Who’s the black candidate?’ I don’t think black voters are doing that for the vice presidential choice either. Ultimately, people want to win.”
Taylor Harrell, the political director for Mothering Justice, a nonprofit that advocates for mothers, said Biden’s choice shouldn’t be all that complicated: Choose a black woman.
“It’s become a cute catchphrase to say ‘trust black women’ or that black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party, so if we’re truly the backbone, being the backbone should essentially mean being the vice president,” Harrell, a Detroit resident, said. “White people have had a voice for so long and having a black woman will allow us to feel like our voices are going to continue to be heard after they’ve been put on pause for these past four years.”