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.
“Toward the end of debate season, no one showed a better ability to be an attack dog –– taking down a disgusting, rich old man –– than Elizabeth Warren … She pulled out a knife and gutted Michael Bloomberg in front of everyone. To see her do to Trump what she did to Bloomberg, week after week … I would pay pay-per-view prices to see that.”
Biden’s VP choices: all over the map
The veepstakes is a complex game: candidates need gravitas, razor-sharp wit and the right demographic appeal.
“It's like riding a tightrope on a unicycle with a polar bear on your back,” says Christina.
In terms of geography and voter turnout, Danielle thinks that Stacey Abrams makes the most sense: “She is young. She is a daughter of the South. And she has put together an entire voting apparatus.”
For Touré, a geography-focused VP pick would be Governor Gretchen Whitmer, aka “The Woman from Michigan,” because it’s one of the four key states that he needs to win.
Christina disagrees, citing Whitmer’s numbers in Detroit when she ran in the primary. “She doesn't inspire Black people in Detroit. So how's she gonna inspire Black people across the country?”
A Midwestern woman is redundant for Biden, Danielle adds. She thinks he already appeals to the white working class.
“He needs what he is not … That's why I don't even want to have a conversation about fucking Klobuchar. Aside from the fact that I find her as boring as milk toast.”
Fear of a Black female candidate
“So here's the thing,” says Christina, echoing Uncle Joe’s favorite phrase. “Biden has the outer-ring suburbs and the rural part of the Democratic party. He needs somebody who can get cities and the first ring of the suburbs.”
Neither Whitmer or Klobuchar fit the bill. Warren comes close.
“But here's the dirty little secret we're not talking about,” she says. “There has never been a time in American history that Black women have received anything before white women.
“I think that even good Democrats might have a problem with Biden choosing a Black female running mate, who could possibly be the president of the United States before Hillary Clinton, before Elizabeth Warren. Before Geraldine Ferraro [Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984].”
White women understood Obama’s victory, she explains. “Because that's patriarchy … we saw how it worked for him in ways that transcended race. I don't know how white female voters will behave with a Black female on the ticket.”
Fear of any female candidate
Touré is curious to see if white women will be the stopgap. He’s “angry with the Democratic Party for rejecting many great women candidates in this race because there's this deep fear of 'we can't nominate another woman.'
Danielle thinks that Hillary didn't fail because she's a woman.
“There were flaws in her campaign .. and she’s just a polarizing figure. That is the reality. She had a ton of baggage … and then Russian espionage … and Comey and all of that shit.”
She and Christina agree that the idea we can't choose a woman is flawed.
“If you were paying attention in 2008, when a 44 year old Black man whose middle name is Hussein comes out and knocks off the most powerful Democratic Party in the latter 20th century … it didn't necessarily have to do with [his rival’s] ovaries,” says Christina.
“A whole bunch of white Democrats … were quiet hands behind Obama’s nomination. They were tired of the Clintons and the mess they brought, and how they roll.”
Good public servants are hard to find
Considering the pervasive disrespect that candidates of color face, Stacey Abrams really stands out, says Christina.
“She consistently fights for poor and marginalized people, all while going through the mire of Southern politics.”
Politicians can be sorted into two buckets, she says: Those who are in it for the power –– “the pin … the big desk and the big door, and those who –– I would put Abrams, AOC, Ayanna Presley and Mike Tubbs [Mayor of Stockton, California] in this category –– believe in helping poor people.
“I say this as a compliment: They are the nerdiest of the nerds. They recognize they have to do all this politician type stuff … to figure out problems … and assemble the best teams to find solutions. Because they really do believe that government can work for people.”
These kinds of politicians deal with “all the N-words, and you talking about my hair, my complexion and my weight and if I’m married or not married, and my family,” Christina adds.
“Digging through the papers I wrote in high school all because I just want to serve others.”
“Because we have bigger problems,” Danielle says.
The Pippen effect
Building on Touré’s “Last Dance”-inspired basketball analogy, Christina says, “we see teams all the time choosing someone for their immediate needs –– or choosing someone to build a franchise. What's Joe Biden going to do?”
The Democrats need to build a franchise, says Danielle. “And we need to do it now. Because we haven't been.”
Christina thinks Black women are like the Scottie Pippen of the ‘97-’98 Chicago Bulls: “We are vastly underpaid. We completely overperform. We’re tired of your shit. And where is the respect?”
“True,” Touré replies.
This week, our Scottie Pippen was Christina Greer, he adds.
“Next time we see you, we're gonna give you a delicate hug.”
“Maybe more of an air hug,” says Danielle.
Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Touré as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle—together! #dcppolitics