Who’s Ridin’ with Biden? The Veepstakes Are High
This week, democracy-ish dives deep into the veepstakes. It’s almost certain that Biden will pick a Black woman as his vice-presidential nominee. (Fingers crossed.)
Biden has committed to choosing a female VP. Who’s the best pick? And who’s the most likely to get the nod?
Clearly, a Black woman would be a historic, and timely, choice. But there are pros and cons to everyone on the shortlist.
Toure and Danielle discuss several prominent possibilities, including Kamala Harris, Karen Bass, Val Demings and Stacey Abrams.
As Biden’s announcement looms, our hosts want to talk about the major contenders.
“Is contender-ess a word?” asks Toure.
Danielle wants to know why everything has to be “genderized.”
“Joe Biden genderized it,” Toure replies. Uncle Joe committed to choosing a female candidate back in March at the final primary debate.
But as we wait to learn his choice, we’re hearing a lot of noise from pundits, the Twittersphere and even the Democratic VP search committee itself. One contender is too ambitious. Another isn’t… ambitious enough, apparently.
Toure and Danielle cut through the BS and break it all down.
Episode Highlights –– Who Will Be the Black VP?
In one corner: the heavyweight –– Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris among the most prominent contenders on Biden’s shortlist.
“She is clearly very smart and one of the most popular, well-known senators in the country,” says Toure.
But both he and Danielle see pros and cons when considering the possibility of her nomination.
Biden’s close relationship to Obama is crucial for Biden –– “and Kamala is definitely within the FOB (friends of Barack) circle, says Toure. “She was friends with Barack since before he was president.”
Plus, he adds, “one of the key jobs of a vice-presidential nominee is to be an attack person –– saying truthful but nasty things about the other side.”
Toure isn’t thinking of how she would perform in the VP debate.
“It’s completely irrelevant, like preseason baseball.”
Biden largely avoids direct attacks against Trump because “he wants to create a permission structure” for right-leaning folks to vote for himself, he adds. But a great veep nominee can sling mud at their opponents, which attracts plenty of media attention but “allows the presidential candidate to stay clean,” says Toure.
He sees Harris as the best choice to put the president on blast so Uncle Joe doesn’t have to.
Is Harris Biden’s centrist match?
Danielle agrees that Harris will be an expert roaster of Trump –– without “pulling schoolyard bully bullshit tactics” like the Commander-in-Thief does daily.
And in the primary campaign, Harris claimed she’d prosecute Trump after the election. We saw how the former prosecutor eviscerated Brett Kavanaugh and William Barr in Senate hearings.
No doubt she’d “get under Donald's skin,” says Toure.
Plus, Harris is solidly moderate –– a great match for what appears to be Biden’s centrist calculus, in which “Republicans at the edge of their party feel comfortable coming over,” he adds.
‘Too ambitious is the new shrill’
Amidst the buzz of Harris’ shortlist status, Danielle has heard “whisperings about the fact that she doesn't seem apologetic for coming for his neck in the first debate.”
There’s also the criticism, courtesy of Chris Dodd, that she has “too much ambition.”
“How could you be in America's most exclusive club –– the U.S. senate –– and not have ambition?” Toure asks.
It was an idiotic criticism of Harris –– well, of any woman in politics, really.
“Folks who say that are sexist,” Danielle argues, adding that Biden’s age quite literally demands him to choose a candidate who demonstrates an immediate readiness to serve.
“Too ambitious is the new shrill,” Toure notes. “It’s something we only say about women. Could you even imagine somebody saying that a man seems too ambitious?”
He reads Dodd’s comment as an attempt to sabotage Harris’ candidacy within the VP search group. It means she’s a top contender.
But Danielle worries that Harris couldn’t rally a substantial amount of Black support in the primary.
“I don't know if that's because the field was too crowded, her message didn't resonate, or she didn't have enough money.”
In the other corner: the rookie –– Karen Bass
Next on Biden’s shortlist: Congresswoman Karen Bass of California. She has a compelling story: Bass was an emergency-room physician's assistant and a civil rights activist before she ran for statewide office. She served as the speaker of the house in California. When she was elected to Congress, she became chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
What’s more, Bass was the architect of the police reform bill that the Democrats put forward this year. While she’s not as big of a name –– or a personality –– as Kamala, Toure thinks most voters will find her less polarizing.
“At first blush, she gives you some of the things that Kamala does, without the potential for embarrassment around her career as a prosecutor.”
Danielle thinks those points are fair, and that Nancy Pelosi was right to appoint Bass to lead policing legislation. But she finds it odd that Harris was characterized as too ambitious, but Bass is “not ambitious enough.”
Toure likes Bass and sees another criticism of her as wrongheaded: “The ‘she will lose Florida for us’ notion is fairly ridiculous, largely because vice-presidential candidates do not shape the electoral structure of any state –– ever.”
Danielle mentions that Bass built houses in Cuba when she was young –– “fucking 47 years ago. Can we have a conversation about who Trump is in bed with today?”
As she points out, “that motherfucker was on the phone with Putin on July 23” –– and somehow avoided bringing up reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers.
Republican attacks: F*ck ‘em
Danielle thinks Dems should quit thinking about what Republicans will say or do.
They’ll do “whatever fuck they want,” she argues, saying that Democratic candidates will be attacked for anything –– ”their hair color, their shoe size ––”
Toure interrupts: “In a Trump world, they’ll be attacked for things they are not.”
The president would have us believe that Biden wants to defund the police. (That’s clearly false; in fact, Biden wants to increase their budgets.) He says Uncle Joe is a socialist –– “so all of Bernie's ideas are just subsumed into Biden,” says Toure.
Biden is not a socialist by any stretch. So Republicans aren’t engaged in a “fair fight, in terms of how our folks are being characterized,” he adds. “Karen Bass is this, ergo Republicans will say this. Stop. They're gonna say whatever they want to say.”
Instead, Toure thinks we need to choose the candidate who is best for Joe, the one who makes him feel most comfortable.
“This candidate will not pull in votes. They will not significantly affect turnout. They're not going to shape, bring or lose any state. But they will suggest where Joe's mindset is and what sort of president he wants to be.”
Herstory in the making
Though he’s skeptical about the net electoral effect, Toure does think Black voters want a Black candidate –– “and they feel they deserve a Black candidate.”
He argues that it could be dangerous for Biden to consider so many Black women candidates, and then tap a non-Black candidate instead.
Now is the summer of BLM, “a moment of feeling the power of, we deserve to be in that spot, if for no other reason than for the future.”
Black voters saved Biden, who wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for Obama –– “and Jim Clyburn and Black voters of the South and Midwest, who propelled him when his candidacy seemed to be floundering,” he adds.
That alone should convince Biden to pick a Black person, at least for the historical value.
“It would put the ticket in a different historical light,” Toure says –– especially now, while we’re suffering through the most racist administration we’ve had since the era of slavery.
“If the Black president's VP has a Black female VP at his side, there’s almost a novelistic sort of differential.”
A cop for VP in the summer of BLM?
There’s one notable exception for Toure.
“If he chooses that cop, I'm gonna be mad,” he says.
Representative Demings (D-FL), who rose to prominence as a manager in Trump’s impeachment trial, served as a police officer for 27 years before rising to chief of the Orlando PD. Her husband is also a former police chief and a sheriff.
“It’s disqualifying,” Toure says, “if Biden chooses that cop in the year of BLM.”
Danielle is incredulous. Why is Harris, California's former attorney, a.k.a. its “top cop,” okay –– but Demings isn’t?
“I understand I’m threading a needle that some folks may say is hypocritical,” he replies. “Kamala's prosecutorial background is problematic … but I see a bit of daylight [between the two]. She wasn't actually in the streets, beating people's asses, a pawn of white supremacy wearing the fucking badge, rolling around in the fucking car.”
Danielle’s response: “Do you think every officer who is a person of color … is just wrestling with white supremacy? That Val Demings couldn't bring something purposeful and necessary, with a knowledge of [police departments’] inner workings, especially as a Black woman who rose to police chief?”
Even ‘good’ cops are part of a bad system
Toure thinks nobody, especially not a Black woman, can rise to the top of a system without being fully invested in it.
Cops of every background operate under the same system. “And quite often, Black officers have to go further to prove to their white brothers and sisters: I'm blue before I'm Black … That’s what makes them pawns of white supremacy,” he says.
He doesn’t have hope that a cop will ever see the value of abolition of police or other radical reforms we need.
“We're missing the fact that she's not going from cop to VP. She made a pit stop as a two-term Congressional representative,” Danielle points out. “As an impeachment manager, she really opened my eyes to what she brings to the table.”
She thinks that there are plenty of Black and Brown cops who signed up because they want to “change the system from the outside in.”
Is Demings a ‘bridge’ too far?
Toure makes it clear that he’s not dismissing Demings’ service in the House. But regardless of one’s intentions at the outset, he thinks that police officers are uniquely vulnerable to “being pushed in different directions, in different spaces and areas with specific tactics that “lead to performing the job in a certain way.”
He rejects the notion that Black cops behave in ways that are more revolutionary, or even just less anti-Black, than white cops do.
“They are all part of a problem … The notion that some cops are good, and some are bad is a childish way of understanding the entirety of policing.”
Danielle wonders: How will Toure react if Biden taps Demings as his VP?
“If he chooses her, what are we saying as Black people, as activists, as progressives? Are we off this train?”
Toure says he’ll cross that bridge when he comes to it.
“Well, you've got a week to walk there,” Danielle says.
Enter Stacey Abrams
Rounding out the list of potential VPs: former National Security Advisor Susan Rice, D.C. Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms and Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth.
“I don't think you can choose somebody who has no electoral experience,” Toure says of Rice.
Lance-Bottoms is “a wonderful person,” he adds. “But I don't think she's going to get the nod this time. It's very hard to see her going from mayor to Vice President.”
He thinks Duckworth has “great depth and personal power … but it's not about Biden choosing a non-white person. It's about Biden choosing a Black person. Because Black people and Black voters are the reason why he's here.”
Which brings us to Stacey Abrams.
“She has household name recognition, but I don't think the media would accept her as day-one ready to be president,” Toure says.
“I am so tired of the conversation about how Trump –– a fucking grifter piece of shit –– could become president of the United States, but somehow Stacey Abrams couldn't be ready on day one,” says Danielle. “That to me is the lens of maleness.”
The new ‘southern strategy’
The difference, Toure says, is that “on the Republican side, they reject government elites, knowledge, facts –– all that shit. They don't care that Trump is a buffoon. But the Democratic Party prizes elites, prizes education, prizes knowledge, book learning and wisdom.”
Danielle doesn’t see the problem. “Every single box you just named, Stacey Abrams checks … I will go hard for her until she's officially out of the race, because I think that she really is the future of the Democratic Party. She's a smart, ambitious, thoughtful, strategic woman and daughter of the South, which we need a new southern strategy for.”
Toure agrees –– he just wishes we were talking about Governor Abrams instead of State Representative Abrams.
“She is representative, though, of what Republicans have done to corrupt our system. We know good goddamn well that Abrams won that race. She is representative of the kind of grit and determination we need to have. And consistency to get the Brian Kemps, the Trumps and the DeSantises of the world out power. It would signal that their time, their cheating and their lying is up.”
Do-mocracy in action
By the time the next episode of democracy-ish airs, we'll know who Biden’s riding with.
“For some reason, I feel slightly more hopeful about America than I have at the end of other recent episodes,” Toure says.
“Because we're talking about the future of democracy, as if it's not already done,” says Danielle.
“It's always good to be hopeful. Even though I’m looking over your shoulder –– like, are the Storm Trumpers coming, and are they gonna take Toure first?”
“Yeah, I probably ran my mouth too much,” he replies. “Thank you for listening to DO-mocracy-ish––”
Danielle laughs. “Is that like, YO-semite?”
We will be back next week. Because there will be a country, and a VP pick.
Pray about it.
Get your weekly rundown of the presidential election from a Black progressive point of view on democracy-ish. Consider Danielle Moodie and Toure as your tour guides, flight attendants and/or therapists as we move through this dumpster fire of an election cycle — together!