Let’s be clear: America is no longer on the brink of catastrophe; we are in a headlong free fall toward chaos. The most recent set of presidential-race polls are a stark reflection of voters’ growing dismay with the dangerous, tumultuous leadership that has wrought the rising pandemic death toll, an escalating climate crisis, widening financial disparities, increased gun violence and attacks on immigrants, Black and Brown people and peaceful protesters.
But a lot can happen in the next 13 weeks to influence what choices voters actually make on Election Day, including whether they even bother to cast their ballots. If the Democratic base and Democratic-leaning voters fail to turn out on November 3, it may well be because the presidential ticket didn’t offer the diverse, powerful leadership voters believe is needed to reverse our country’s free fall into chaos. In a newly released Higher Heights for America poll of battleground state voters conducted by the polling firm Brilliant Corners, 48 percent, a majority of base Biden voters, agree that Biden should select a Black woman as his vice president, while only 23 percent of those base Biden voters think he should select a White woman. A breakdown of these likely voters makes it even more clear why former Vice President Joe Biden should select a Black woman to be his running mate. By wide margins, among the key groups of voters, Biden needs most to win, a majority of White women (48 percent) and young voters (60 percent) agree it’s important that Biden select a Black woman, as do a plurality of minority women (54 percent) and college-educated women (48 percent).
When asked about their preference, voters overwhelmingly expressed their belief that they prefer a Black woman for VP over a White woman. Across the key groups that Biden needs the most, voters said that they prefer someone who has a “lived experience and diverse perspective that reflects the challenges our country faces”; a “historic choice” and someone “who represents a new generation of leadership and America’s changing diversity.”
There is a list of Black women for Biden to consider who each bring their unique qualifications and lived experiences that voters are seeking. Former Georgia State House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice are more than prepared to lead. These women are part of an emerging generation of leaders who not only reflect the diversity of America but also have the ability to help Biden unify the country at an extremely divisive moment. Voters place a high value on the prospect of one of these women filling our country’s top elected executive offices and bringing their lived experiences, diverse perspectives and proven track records as legislators, prosecutors, law officials and foreign policy advisers to the task of creating solutions for the extremely complex and entrenched challenges facing our country.
For weeks now we have witnessed the Biden campaign conduct the most thorough and public vetting of potential vice-presidential running mates in the history of U.S. politics. The former vice president has said he wants to choose a running mate with whom he is simpatico, and that chemistry will be important in providing our country with the effective leadership it desperately needs. But it’s also crucial for Biden to select a running mate whom voters believe is prepared from day one to take bold, decisive steps to help address the laundry list of existential threats that are no longer on our doorstep, but squarely in our living room.
Millennials, Generation Xers, and White women are consistently identified as necessary but uncertain pieces to the diverse coalition of voters that progressives need to win in battleground states and take leadership of the White House, Congress and state legislatures in 2021. But the general election will be competitive from the top of the ticket to the bottom, and as we’ve seen in the past, there’s no guarantee that voters in these key groups will turn out in favor of progressives unless they’re motivated by the chance to vote for candidates who support their concerns. The ones we polled overwhelmingly expressed that a Black women vice president running mate could provide such motivation.
As Biden moves over the next few days towards picking his running mate, he should consider that President Barack Obama didn’t make the obvious partnership choice in seeking him out as a running mate. Yet that choice resulted in one of the most successful presidential partnerships in large part because Obama selected an adviser who brought a different lived experience and viewpoint than his own to problem solving. Biden now has the opportunity to create a similarly successful and historic presidential partnership by selecting a Black woman as his running mate.
Glynda C. Carr is president and CEO of Higher Heights for America, the leading national organization exclusively dedicated to advancing Black women’s political power.