- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 23, 2020

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s history-making pledge to tap a woman as his running mate isn’t enough for women of color who are demanding the presumed Democratic presidential nominee’s pick comes from their community.

Mr. Biden has refused to make that commitment and said this week that he plans to set up a vetting committee by May 1 — intensifying a debate that has been raging on over what he needs most to strengthen the ticket.

Stacey Abrams, a former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and voting rights activist, turned up the pressure this week when she said she is concerned about Mr. Biden “not picking a woman of color.

“Because women of color, particularly black women, are the strongest part of the Democratic Party, the most loyal,” Ms. Abrams said on ABC’s “The View.”

“But that loyalty is not simply how we vote, it is how we work and if we want to signal that work will continue, that we want to reach not just to certain segments of our community, but to our entire country then we need a ticket that reflects the diversity of America,” she said.

Tom Perez, Democratic National Committee chairman, is fond of saying diversity is the strength of the party and that was clear at times during the primary as the massive field touted the importance of black women, elevating issues such as the higher maternal mortality rates among black women.

That emphasis on diversity seemed to ebb, however, when the Democratic nomination race boiled down to a contest between Mr. Biden and Sen. Bernard Sanders — a pair of white men over the age of 70.

But Mr. Biden’s presidential aspirations were resuscitated by black voters, and Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, an icon of the civil rights movement, has said it would be “good to have a woman of color” on the Democratic ticket.

For his part, Mr. Biden told the CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh this week that he would commit putting a woman of color on the Supreme Court, but he would not promise to tap a woman of color as his running mate.

“There are a number, a number of qualified women out there,” Mr. Biden said.

Democrats have wrestled with the best way to rebound from presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s disappointing loss in 2016.

Some have argued that Democrats must field a ticket that is more appealing to noncollege educated white voters, while others have argued that Mrs. Clinton fell short because black voter turnout dipped from 2016.

Post-election analysis found a dip in black voter turnout between 2012 and 2016 cost Mrs. Clinton victories in states such as Michigan and Wisconsin.

President Trump carried those states by 10,000 votes and almost 23,000 votes, respectively.

Others have argued that Mrs. Clinton could have won Pennsylvania with better black turnout in Philadelphia.

Some political insiders say that Mr. Biden could avoid a repeat of 2016 by selecting a black woman.

A poll commissioned by BlackPAC, an independent organization focused on politically engaging black voters, released this month found that 55% of black voters in eight swing states said they would be more enthusiastic and more likely to vote for Mr. Biden if he went that way.

Party insiders have floated various vice presidential prospects, including former first lady Michelle Obama.

Former Obama White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett shot down that idea this week, telling The Hill that, “She doesn’t want the job.”

The Biden campaign, meanwhile, floated the idea last spring that he might ask Ms. Abrams, who is black, to be his running mate early on in the process as a way to unify the party.

At the time, Ms. Abrams was mulling a presidential bid of her own and panned the idea. Now the 47-year-old is openly lobbying for the job.

Voters in the early primary states would frequently say their dream ticket would be Mr. Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris. California’s first black senator is a former state attorney general who would bring youth — she’s 55 — and experience to the ticket.

Former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Florida Rep. Val Demings, both of whom are black, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, who is Hispanic, also are thought to be on the shortlist.

Mr. Biden has fueled the speculation that race might not be the No. 1 thing is he looking for.

He has praised Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and hosted Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on his podcast “Here’s the Deal.”

That focus on those three hasn’t sat well with some liberal observers.

Tiffany Cross, a black activist and MSNBC analyst, circulated on social media a screenshot from CNN this week on social media that showed Ms. Warren, Ms. Klobuchar, and Ms. Whitmer above the banner “Biden Hopes to Have VP Selection Panel in Place by May 1.”

“They try REALLY hard to erase us,” Ms. Cross tweeted.

Responding to the post, Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People, an organization devoted to mobilizing women of color that hosted a Democratic presidential forum last year, said, “NOOOO.”

Ms. Allison’s group drove home their concern Thursday on Twitter.

“It bears repeating: Putting a woman of color on the ticket is not just a moral good, but a strategic imperative for our path to the White House,” the group tweeted.

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