The State Of California: Biden Faces Pressure To Nominate Woman Of Color For VP

Doug Sovern
June 22, 2020 - 5:25 pm

    The George Floyd killing and subsequent protests around the nation have renewed focus on racism, police reform and other issues that are critical to Americans of color. And there’s mounting pressure on former Vice President Joe Biden to choose a woman of color as his running mate. 

    When Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar took herself out of the running for the job last week, she urged Biden publicly to not just nominate a woman, as he has pledged to do, but a woman of color. How critical is that for the nation as symbolic move, but also for Biden, to help solidify minority voters behind the Democrats and beat President Trump in November?

    Aimee Allison is the founder and president of She The People, the national progressive organization based here in the Bay Area that seeks to elevate women of color in politics. She joined KCBS Radio’s “The State Of California.”

    My sources tell me there are eight or nine women left on Joe Biden’s list, and almost all of them are women of color, the exceptions being Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, who is the first openly LGBT senator. How critical is it to you, that Biden pick a woman of color?

    Well it's a remarkable development, historically. Women of color are the most - as a voting bloc and as part of the essential core of the multiracial coalition the Democrats need to win - women of color the highest turnout, fastest growing, most loyal Democrats. And yet they haven't received the attention both as a constituency and as a power bloc, let alone be included in the idea of governance until this moment. So it's quite the moment, it's a very important moment and it's not only symbolic. 

    It is a reflection that women of color, particularly Black women, are meeting this moment, they're highly qualified, principled voices leading with a lot of political courage and willing to question some of the old practices and assumptions of a Democratic party candidate and the campaigns in the party are going to be the way that the top of the ticket activates the very critical core of women of color in the swing states. Places that Trump won last time around, like Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Michigan that women of color have the numbers that could change that, turn those states blue. Those states then becoming a win column in the electoral college vote.

    Do you see a potential backlash, with expectations so high right now that the former Vice President would select a woman of color, that if he doesn't that that could hurt him politically at this point?

    Well you mentioned the George Floyd-inspired protests and the broad and very swift change across races in terms of racism and really demanding racial justice. It would be an odd choice for the Biden camp not to pick a woman of color at this point, especially because of the leadership that women of color are showing in the country. She The People's been working with and listening to women of color in battleground states over the last few weeks; what we're hearing is that women of color are ready to govern, ready to lead. 

    Some people are even saying, "hey you know what? We risk not inspiring a high turnout." I don't think it's of any question that women of color will vote percentage-wise for Biden, just as they did with Clinton and all the Democrats who have run for President going back 50 years since we've had access to the ballot box. But I think what's at question is, are we going to be able to have the high turnout numbers that will close the gap? Women of color, when we turnout 3-5% higher than other voters, Democrats tend to win. That was the case in 2008 and 2012 with Barack Obama's election. 2016, it was on par with average voter turnout and the Democrats lost. I think that's what's at issue.

    History tells us that running mates don’t really matter very much when it comes to winning or losing elections, and that sometimes they can even hurt more than they help. How big of an impact do you think it would be on African American voters if Biden’s running mate is Black, or on Latino voters if she’s a Latina?

    Well I think the calculus that VP's don't matter is old thinking. I think Hillary Clinton's decision to tap Senator Tim Kaine was a miscalculation. In terms of the base that's half people of color, 25% Black, I think VP really matters. In fact, this morning I was on a news show with Symone Sanders who's a senior advisor with Joe Biden, and she even admitted how important the VP role is. She said, "look, Joe Biden knows more than anybody what the VP role is, and he's looking for a partner in co-governance." And for me that's a different way of talking about the VP. We need to break the old mold of thinking about VP as just a complement and really think of it as someone who's going to expand the base and help the President to govern more effectively.

    We’ve seen polling that shows it is white voters, not Black ones, who think more and more that Biden should choose a woman of color. How important is it that that pressure is coming from a broader section of the electorate and not just from people of color?

    I think it's very important. I mean we've seen in certain candidates for office, like Stacey Abrams who ran for Governor in 2018, the ability for Black women to inspire and build a multiracial coalition. That's the reality in California where there's majority people of color, it's a reality in swing states that I was mentioning like Texas, Florida and Arizona. This country is moving into a place where there's no majority and there's no minority. What we've really seen is that having people across the racial spectrum in this moment recognize that Black women who are underrepresented in elected office and are most likely to be primaried in their own races up and down the ballot. We've got a deep bench, we've got a lot of expertise and we're ready to lead. And I think having that recognition across races is very important in this moment. And look, we saw that reflected out in the streets over the last couple of weeks with the protests. We're a multiracial society and people of all races are really clamoring to have women of color, Black women be fairly represented. And I think this is the opportunity of this moment.