Joe Biden’s VP pick better be a Black woman – and it needs to be Kamala Harris
OPINION: At this point, Biden’s not trying to break box office records - he just doesn’t want to flop.
Some casting decisions make sense the moment the movie is announced.
Did it ever make sense to cast anyone but Denzel Washington as Malcolm X? Of course not, he was literally made for that role. Technically there was a casting call for the Mr. Rogers biopic, but everybody knew it was going to be Tom Hanks. Patrick Stewart as Professor X in the X-Men.
Angela Bassett as Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do with It. Blair Underwood as any Black husband who will eventually do his wife wrong – there are roles you just know certain actors are going to get.
There are bolder and more creative choices, but sometimes you just have to know your audience.
This is exactly why Joe Biden is going to pick Kamala Harris as his VP – she fits the role. At this point, Biden’s not trying to break box office records, he just doesn’t want to flop.
Biden is the Democratic nominee for president, something that outside of a few bad weeks in January and February, almost anyone could have predicted a year ago. The former vice president hasn’t been the best candidate. He’s stumbled in debates. He has been incredibly naïve about the level of opposition he’ll face from Republicans and has a penchant for getting into viral fights with voters at town halls and events.
One thing he has gotten right is his consistent commitment both publicly and behind the scenes to picking a Black woman as his vice president. Beyond demographics, Biden’s VP pick has to be younger than him, experienced in government and committed to rooting out the various ways that Trump has infected the federal government. The pick must also possess the ability to galvanize crowds – likely only online and through TV since coronavirus has all but ended door-to-door campaigns and big rallies for 2020.
Senator Kamala Harris fits every single one of these criteria, so why is team Biden pretending they’re going to pick anyone else?
Every time there is an article suggesting that Gretchen Whitmer, Amy Klobuchar, or Elizabeth Warren get cast as Biden’s running mate, I’m reminded of how many times the Gretchens, Amys and Elizabeths of the world get jobs over the qualified Kamalas.
All of these women are certainly qualified for the position, but outside of Warren, none of them bring anything to the table that Senator Harris doesn’t already have policy-wise. They also won’t make a dent in that block of 53 percent of white women that think a serial abuser of women is still going to make America great again.
If Biden casts a white woman as his running mate his entire presidential campaign will bomb at the ballot box the way Gemini Man bombed at the box office (Stick to Red Table Talk Will – we like you better there). It would be a slap in the face to thousands of Black voters that pulled his campaign out of a ditch after the Nevada Caucuses and propelled him to the victorious lane he occupies today.
Kamala Harris was an excellent attorney general, has been an outstanding senator and, all things being equal, ran a pretty good campaign for the Democratic nomination. Harris has also proposed criminal justice reform plans to make up for some of her missteps early in her career. She also signed on to Sen. Bernie Sanders‘ Medicare for All bill, before releasing her own plan.
Harris, however, isn’t Biden’s only VP option. No, there are others, but that’s a matter of knowing what the voting audience is looking for this year: Comfort and safety or a bold new direction?
Biden could also choose former Georgia State Rep. Stacey Abrams, who is an outstanding fundraiser, connects with a wider swath of Black voters than Harris and is probably the best ‘get out the vote’ strategist in the Democratic Party today. Abrams is incredibly popular across all demographics and is the kind of VP pick that would let the country know that big structural changes are coming.
If Biden really wanted to go all out, he could choose a VP who isn’t even in politics and go with AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins, who’s been championing the policy concerns of over 38 million seniors and soon to be seniors for six years. Jenkins is a healthcare expert, has federal government experience, and could certainly help move the senior vote for Biden.
Other VP candidates such as Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Val Demmings (D-FL), Karen Bass (D-CA), or New Jersey Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver are also worth a mention. There are plenty of Black women for Biden to choose from.
It all boils down to what Biden is trying to get the public to buy into. Does he want a blockbuster campaign with a dynamic Sarah Palin-type as VP or a reliable Tim Kaine-type that won’t really ruffle any feathers?
Does he want to go with the most reasonable casting decision, like Uzo Aduba as Shirley Chisolm, or does he want to think outside of the box and have Chadwick Boseman playing Thurgood Marshall?
America – particularly Black America – is going through a lot right now. Trump’s presidency of chaos has many voters ready for bold changes, but that doesn’t mean Biden needs to pick his running mate with that in mind.
Harris would fit perfectly with Biden’s institutionalist leanings. Beyond that, she’s exciting but not scary. She’s progressive but not radical. She’s galvanizing but not polarizing.
Quite frankly, I think we can all agree, compared to Donald Trump, Mike Pence and — yes even Biden — she comes across the most presidential. All Biden needs to do is officially pick her, so that Harris can be out on the virtual campaign trail, and raising money for senators in crucial swing states.
We don’t know how the 2020 presidential campaign film ends yet, but there’s no question who should play the best-supporting actress.
It’s Kamala for the win.
Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor of politics and journalism at Morgan State University, a contributor at Sirius XM and MSNBC, and a mediocre spades player. You can tweet him at @DrJasonJohnson.