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Georgia on Our Minds: Why Stacey Abrams Is Biden’s Best VP Choice

This week, democracy-ish hosts Danielle Moodie and Touré are joined by political scientist Christina Greer, who wrote this week in the Daily Beast that Stacey Abrams is the only viable running mate for Joe Biden. She’s here to discuss why –– and a whole lot more.

  • Georgia opens tattoo parlors, Trump suspends immigration and MAGA-hatted folks continue to throw anti-quarantine tantrums.

  • “To Kaine” is a verb. Christina explains it all.

  • Does the VP pick even matter? (Spoiler alert: two out of three pundits on this episode think so.)

“Ladies: quick question before we dive into the issues of the day,” says Touré. “Let's say your state reopens. You can go to your colorist. You can go to a bar. You do whatever you want. Where are you going?

“Home,” says Christina. “Hard pass. I'm not going anywhere.”

Danielle feels the same way.

“I'm gonna stay inside until my lord and savior Governor Cuomo decides it's safe for me to go back to my hairstylist.”

Pull up a chair (at home, of course!) and get comfortable. It’s going to be a while.

Episode Highlights –– Who Should Biden Pick? Who Will Be Biden’s VP?

‘Whiteness at its worst’

This week, Georgia will reopen hair salons, barbershops, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors. The mayor of Las Vegas wants to welcome tourists back to the Strip, and protesters across the country rally bearing signs with slogans like ‘give me liberty or give me COVID.’ Meanwhile, Trump suspended all immigration to the U.S.

And yet, “In order for the United States to reopen successfully, we need to be doing 20 million tests a day,” Danielle says. “We’ve done 4 million in about a month. What I want to do is close down the borders around sanity.”

Touré thinks the anti-lockdown protests “are kind of like an adult temper tantrum. Like, this country told me I could do whatever I want to do. And I want to do it now.”

Christina points out that if the protesters “actually believed in science, they’d realize that these deaths are real. It's not a mainstream media hoax.”

But because the virus is disproportionately affecting people of color, it’s not hitting home with the MAGA crowd.

Danielle is disgusted. “This is whiteness at its worst. That's all I'm gonna say. They don't care that it's Black and Latinx people dying. That's why they want to reopen everything.”

Kaine-ing: The political equivalent of being a wallflower

Christina’s Daily Beast op-ed is built on the fact that Black voters have been crucial to every Democratic presidential victory. She sees Stacey Abrams as “the only candidate who could help with the crucial two-stage process of victory: campaigning and governance.”

Joe Biden is 77 years old, and will be 78 if he's sworn in this coming January.

“So we need someone who voters feel is competent and smart,” Christina says, “who can step in if, God forbid, anything happens to Biden.”

In the meantime, she adds, “we need to make sure we don't ‘Tim Kaine’ ourselves.”

By that, she means choosing someone who would be a smart, savvy VP, but who wouldn’t dazzle on the campaign trail –– “especially since we'll have to campaign in such a unique fashion,” Christina says.

“We need someone who connects with voters, who can tell stories, who can make voters interested and thoughtful ... We can't have someone who's kind of awkward … and can’t get people motivated.”

Without a strong VP, the right wing might convince people to stay home. And left-leaning voters aren’t excited, says Christina, “Republicans win.”

Is Stacey Abrams the hope and change we need?

The threat to Black voters is real, says Christina.

“Voter disenfranchisement is already gearing up. We were talking about defunding the U.S. Postal Service the second we started talking about possibly voting by mail. We're going to need people to understand the gravity of the situation. Because clearly they don't,” she says.

“We're still convincing them that this President's one of the most incompetent doofuses to ever grace the planet, let alone electoral office.”

The specific challenge we face, Christina adds, is to “convince modern Democrats, independents and weak-leaning Republicans that we have to make a change. We need someone who's young and dynamic like Stacey Abrams, who's going to help with that message.”

Does the VP pick really matter?

Democracy-ish stans know that Touré doesn’t think the vice-presidential nominee makes a substantive difference. “Voters choose from the top of the ticket,” he says.

Our guest political scientist disagrees.

“The number two does matter,” Christina says. “Biden completely helped Barack Obama. He delivered Pennsylvania ... the white working classes' amorphous little Loch Ness monster that Democrats are obsessed with. He gave Obama gravitas.”

Touré thinks there's any number of white men who could’ve done the same thing.

“I don't see any evidence of people voting for Biden who didn't like Obama … talk about Pennsylvania –– you don't think it was the Black and brown people in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia turning out in droves?”

Even so, Pennsylvania was (and still is) a swing state.

“There was guarantee that Obama was going to win Pennsylvania,” Christina says. “Biden also was able to convince his older white male senate colleagues to do groundwork in their own states. To me, this is Black history.”

JFK had LBJ. Who is Biden’s contrast candidate?

JFK and LBJ are a perfect example of a successful, but symbiotic, Democratic ticket, says Christina.

“Massachusetts and Texas –– they hate one another. Yet they knew they had to be a team.”

Obama and Biden were a similar dynamic duo, she adds.

“We need ideological and geographic diversity, age diversity, race diversity … Biden understands that now, when he's at the top of the ticket, if he chooses another old white dude, it would just be the death of his campaign.

“Because we want youth. We need a contrast now.”

The fuzzy math of a potential veep

Even though Touré doesn’t think the VP choice matters, he admits that if Biden chose a Black woman, he’d be more interested in the ticket.

To use a basketball analogy, Biden is a Michael Jordan who needs to find his Scottie Pippen, he says.

But he worries that Biden’s camp might be making a cynical calculus.

“How many more Black people can we get to vote for us? He’s been killing it with Black people throughout the primary. How much more can we max out on that group, versus pulling in a white person to try to push that number higher?”

Christina thinks Biden and his team know that a large percentage of Black women will be disappointed –– even outright pissed –– if he doesn’t choose a Black woman as his running mate. 

”But they will still show up and bring everybody else,” she adds. “Black men have a little bit more wiggle room, which makes me nervous.”

“15 percent of whom voted for Donald Trump,” Danielle says.

‘Kamala Harris, Top Cop’

Abrams isn’t the only Black woman on Biden’s purported VP shortlist. Senator Kamala Harris has been floated as a possibility, too.

“I love Kamala,” says Touré. “But she did not light Black people on fire in the primary –– at all.”

So is it logical for Biden to motivate Black voters?

“No,” says Christina. “But that's my fear: the Democratic Party will do it, thinking she's Black, she'll get Black voters.”

But the data suggests Black voters –– especially those who are younger and male –– “really struggle” with Harris.

Christina thinks Harris is brilliant –– and ready to be Commander-in-Chief. But we’ve seen Trump’s playbook. Given her career as a prosecutor (including a six-year stint as California’s attorney general).the negative ads write themselves, she says.

“Joe Biden –– crime bill, Kamala Harris –– top cop.”

It's unfair that Harris is held to different standards than her white colleagues, Christina says. But suppressing the Black male vote in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania –– even by 7 or 8 percent ––will be enough to keep Trump in office, despite the tanking economy and his abysmal response to COVID-19.

“If we want to win, we need to be realistic about how the Black electorate behaves, because we are the keepers of the Democratic party –– and democracy,” she says.

What about Warren?

Touré wonders why Democratic candidates almost never choose running mates who are their major rivals.

“There's already an active audience for Elizabeth Warren. Why not choose her?”

Tapping Warren as VP might make sense because she represents the progressive wing of the party.

“I think that Elizabeth Warren and the policies she offered were a hell of a lot better than the ones any of the other candidates put together,” Danielle says.

“Biden can either steal her ideas or go with her,” Touré says. “Obviously, some will say, but then Black people will be angry. Well, guess what? Where are they gonna go –– home?”

He points out that one of the key jobs of any vice-presidential nominee is to act as an “attack dog.”

Most presidential candidates try to stay above the fray, but veeps get their hands dirty, he adds.