By Quardricos Bernard Driskell

It has been reported that Joe Biden is in conversation about selecting a running mate. Even though the coronavirus has taken some steam out of his campaign, choosing a running mate in a few months would give his candidacy the boost it needs. 

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC-6), the highest-ranking African American in Congress and perhaps Mr. Biden’s most crucial supporter, said he would like a Black woman as his running mate. I couldn’t agree more with Rep. Clyburn.  

It is hard to be a woman, especially a Black woman, and blaze trails in pretty much any space, especially elected public office. Hence, the excitement over the record number of women elected to the 116th Congress.

Professor Quardricos Bernard Driskell (Courtesy Photo: LinkedIn)

However, the power of Black women organizing has been crystalized in helping then candidate, Doug Jones defeat Roy Moore in Alabama to win the Senate seat; long held by Jeff Sessions – arguably, the biggest political upset for Trump and the gang to date. Georgia’s democratic gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams, almost secured a win, garnering more votes statewide than any other democrat in more than a generation. Acknowledging the power of her presence and appeal, the national party chose to give her the 2019 democratic response to the State of the Union. These are the results of the powerful voting bloc that Black women comprise. 

While there are names that have been floated, including Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WA), my hometown Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms or Stacey Abrams, both of whom would make excellent running mates. I think U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is probably the best positioned to serve as the vice president running to Biden.  

Sen. Harris served as California’s attorney general from 2011 through 2016, and as San Francisco’s district attorney prior to that, before announcing her bid to be the democratic nominee for the presidency. Throughout Sen. Harris’ professional career, she has often made history as the first African American or first Asian American to hold specific positions. In 2017, she entered the Senate as the first African-American woman from California.

As a Senator, she has introduced legislation to protect forests and rivers in California, and she along with the other African-American Senators, Sen. Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Scott (R-SC) introduced the Justice of Victims of Lynching Act of 2018.

Most recently even during this global pandemic, Sen. Harris joined Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WA) in announcing new legislation to expedite the procurement of medical equipment, under the Defense Production Act (DPA), to combat the spread of coronavirus. Despite multiple announcements, Trump has not utilized the federal government’s entire authority under DPA, so the legislation would require the president to do so in order to quickly produce and ensure access to supplies, including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), for health care workers on the frontlines of this pandemic.

She also championed support for Howard University, her undergraduate alma mater in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, as part of the appropriations package included in the overall bill to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak.

In other public platforms, Sen. Harris has branded herself as a prosecutor who fought from the inside for progressive change. Certainly, it is expected that any candidate for presidential office who has spent the balance of her career as a prosecutor inherently would face criticism. Black women are not well represented in the public prosecutor’s office. According to a Justice For All report, 95 percent of elected prosecutors are White, 79 percent White men; three in five states have no Black elected prosecutors; and just one percent of elected prosecutors are minority women.

In her career as a public prosecutor, Sen. Harris has achieved some notable victories in criminal justice reform, including efforts to reduce recidivism and eliminate bias in law enforcement. She also burnished her progressive credentials in 2004 with a controversial decision as district attorney not to seek the death penalty for a man suspected of killing a police officer. According to PolitiFact, she championed The Back On Track program, which was implemented to help nonviolent, first-time drug offenders’ transition back to the communities they belong to and prevent recidivism.

She also helped propelled the Open Justice initiative, a data driven project that provides information on police custody deaths. Additionally, she oversaw the implementation of the body camera program when she was California’s attorney general. Beyond criminal justice and law enforcement, she helped broker a mortgage relief settlement where California homeowners received $18.4 billion in mortgage relief during house market crash. 

The vice president selection has traditionally reflected a combination of political calculations, often a running mate with a slightly different ideology, governing experience and personal chemistry. If former Vice President Biden was to win in November, he would be 78 at the time of inauguration, and most certainly would be trying to rebuild the country in the wake of a pandemic — factors that make it less likely that he would select someone with a relatively thin political resume. 

Sen. Harris has the national name recognition, political shrewdness, intelligence and political resume – a good mixture of seasoned politician and younger ticket-mate who would be ready to step in after four or eight years.  The selection of his running mate will be one of the most important decisions of his campaign to date. I hope he will choose wisely. 

Professor Quardricos Bernard Driskell is an adjunct professor of legislative politics at The George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management. Follow him on Twitter @q_driskell4

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