I’ve laid out my test for who presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden should pick as his vice presidential running mate, and it’s a simple one: “which vice-presidential candidate gives Joe Biden the best chance of winning.”
When the party needed uniting, I advocated for Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is, objectively I’d argue, the single best qualified person to assume the presidency in a worst-case scenario, while her portfolio of plans would give Biden a head-start in reversing the litany of damage the current regime has inflicted in our party. But as both the nationwide social justice movement and the coronavirus pandemic swept the country, the nation’s political picture was reshuffled, and the dynamics of what Biden needed in a vice president to maximize the chances of victory for himself and his party changed.
I laid this new case in a post advocating for California Rep. Karen Bass. The argument could be summaries as follows:
1. Biden’s VP should maximize Democratic chances for victory.
2. Donald Trump and downballot Republicans are losing. And losing big-time.
3. Trump and his Republican base are demoralized and flailing.
4. VP nominee should not excite Trump or his demoralized base.
5. VP nominee should do no harm.
At the time, Bass fit the bill: As a relative political unknown, neither Trump nor the Republican right-wing noise machine would have the time to build a case against her. She wouldn’t give Republicans or Trump a shot of energy. We couldn’t say that about either Warren or Obama national security advisor Susan Rice (Benghazi!).
Furthermore, as a reliable progressive Los Angeles-area legislator, Bass wouldn’t threaten the unity of the party’s progressive wing, and doesn’t have the kind of law-enforcement-related baggage that Harris (as California attorney general) or Florida Rep. Val Demmings (as a sheriff) have.
Some complained about her lack of national stature, but that was the point. Trump and his party are driving off a cliff, so why give them the chance to use Biden’s VP pick to change the topic of conversations?
And to be clear, Biden will win no matter who he chooses. This calculation was about winning Senate and House seats in places like Alaska, Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Texas. The tighter Biden can make the race at the top, the easier it is for our downballot candidates.
But new revelations about Bass means she now fails point #5: “do no harm.”
Yeah, that is, undoubtedly, disqualifying.
Scientology is a dangerous cult. This is indisputable. (If you really want to know more, the book Going Clear is a great first step.) You know how we attack Republican candidates who have said kind things about Qanon? This is the same thing. There are lines that can’t be crossed, and this is definitely one of them.
So where does that leave us? With a bunch of awesome other possibilities.
In more than two dozen interviews with CNN in recent days, members of Congress, top Democratic donors, Biden allies and others close to the vice presidential vetting process said California Rep. Karen Bass
, the 66-year-old chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, has gained real traction in the late stage of the search. Amid furious last-minute lobbying and speculation about Biden's historic decision, California Sen. Kamala Harris
and Susan Rice, Barack Obama's former national security adviser, are also believed to be among the most serious contenders [...]
Several additional women have also gone through extensive examination by the Biden team, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Florida Rep. Val Demings and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Others, including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham have also received various levels of scrutiny by the vetting team.
So if this list is to be believed, and it does track, the remaining top non-Bass choices are Harris, Rice, Warren, Demings, and Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
Duckworth has been named co-chair of the Democratic National Convention, so some have speculated that means she’s out of the running. But why would it? If you buy into my VP argument, then she’s the best of the rest—no law enforcement background, reliably liberal, and a war hero. She has had limited exposure in the right-wing media machine. Her war sacrifices (she lost her legs and partial use of an arm in combat) won’t stop Trump from going after her—look at how he treated Arizona senator and former POW John McCain. But it would reinforce Trump’s brand of bullying and crassness that has cost him the support of college-educated suburban white women—the key swing demographic this election.
To be clear, everyone on this list would be great, assuming they pass vetting. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is an intriguing possibility. The two governors would both be great. Obviously, I’d be over the moon if Warren was the pick, even if we have to go through three more months of insufferable racial taunts of “Pocahontas,” but I’d also be excited about Harris or Demings or Rice.
This isn’t an either-or situation. This isn’t an election. None of us have a say in the matter. One person will make this decision, and he doesn’t care what I, or you, think. When faced with a choice like this one, one in which it is impossible to please everyone, you have to dig into your own core values and make the decision that is right for you. I don’t envy Biden having to make this one.
What I can unequivocally say is that he can’t make a wrong decision. Each one of these women is impressive in their own rights, each one will bring strengths to the table, and each one will have weaknesses. They’re human, after all. But each one will be a service to the ticket, and we should be happy to go into electoral battle with any of them.
Bass was an intriguing possibility, but it didn’t work out. Duckworth could fit the bill nicely. My heart belongs to Warren. Rice is going to be in the Biden administration, and VP would not be a bad place for her. Harris fills me with confidence.
No matter who Biden picks, we’re going to be okay.