Kamala Harris, Senator from California, and Elizabeth Warren, the senator from Massachusetts, are on the two-person short list for vice president with one almost certain to be chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate in his third bid for the oval office.
Biden’s choice is being hotly debated by party workers, democratic strategists, supporters of each candidate, political and race scholars and sociologists.
Election betting sites are doing robust business publishing the daily odds of each candidate, as the ebb and flow of news appearances, joining protests, work in the Senate, and various polls produce sometimes conflicting results of who is “most favored.”
Biden announced he would select a woman and over the course of a few months many names were considered before most fell alway in favor of Harris and Warren.
Biden’s final choice will be met with celebration by some and heightened disappointment by others.
Biden’s choice will be historical for many reasons, not the least of which the real opportunity for a woman to finally and belatedly occupy the second highest office in America.
The reality that we are in 2020 and still hoping for such a ground-breaking achievement is a glaring failure in a country that can’t get out of its patriarchal addiction and vote in the “other half of the population.”
The battle between the Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren is already historical in a good way, and unfortunately, in all the negative ways both Black women and white women are all too familiar with.
Both women are qualified in unique ways and both deliver attributes and experience that will benefit Biden’s cabinet and various segments of society.
Compelling cases can and are being made in equal number both for and against each woman. Smart analysts support one woman or the other, and their respective supporters are equally passionate and convinced their chosen candidate is the best choice for Biden and all Americans.
Detailed analysis of each candidate, their political views, their strengths and weaknesses, and the causes they champion can be found with a simple search and by visiting each person’s website.
This article isn’t a review of their current candidacy or their political positions.
We are now going to dive into the historical case for each candidate.
The Historical Case For Elizabeth Warren
The historical case for Elizabeth Warren can be focused on the simple fact that the largest demographic in America are white women and the country is on president number forty-five and exactly none have been white women.
White women have given time and money to both parties for centuries and have been rewarded with a some senators and governors, no vice presidents, and no presidents.
White women have given birth to every president, including President Obama.
White women have endured cheating and lying presidents, sick and dying presidents, racists, absent, misogynists, abusers, and rapists, while they maintained the appearance Americans and global leaders expected from the leader of the free world.
More white women back Elizabeth Warren.
White women saw Geraldine Ferraro (D) and Sarah Palin (R) be chosen to run for vice president but ultimately lose. Forty-one white women have been governors and fifty-seven have been senators – roles that traditionally launch presidents, except for white women.
White women waged an epic and historical hard-fought democratic campaign in 2008 only to see Hillary Clinton lose the nomination to first-term senator Barack Obama.
But white women saw Hillary Clinton storm back and become the first woman to break through and win a the party’s nomination to become the first woman to be selected to run for president by a major party.
White women have gotten close but have not closed the deal.
Elizabeth Warren is the latest white woman to attempt to break the presidential patriarchy and she and her backers hope that she is the one.
The Historical Case For Kamala Harris
The historical case for Kamala Harris rests on the simple fact that Black women are the most loyal democratic voters and the ones who get the least in return for their loyalty.
Black women nursed and raised all of the first presidents and played a significant role in caring for many others and their families for the past few hundred years.
Black women ran the houses, cared for the wives, raised the kids, and received as much or more abuse than Black men.
Black women fought for women’s rights along with white women only to see white women – and Black men – enjoy the fruits of their resistance efforts before they got those same voting rights.
Black women were at the birth of every Black liberation movement, or were early co-partners, but found themselves denied opportunity, same day and historical recognition, and rewards, while also seeing their critical contributions pushed to the back of the bus by both the media and, most disappointedly, Black men.
When Shirley Chisholm ran for president in 1972 she won a total of 430,000 votes, finishing with 2.7% of the total – though she finished 4th in California and 3rd in North Carolina.
Significantly, the National Organization for Women, always notoriously white, supported her while many Black men did not. This lead to Mrs. Chisholm saying “I face more discrimination as a woman than for being Black.” And, “Men are men, they think I am trying to take power from them. The Black man must step forward, but that doesn’t mean the Black woman must step back.”
Black women were also the difference that pushed President Obama over the top – twice.
And when the first white woman – Hillary Clinton – had a chance to be president, Black women rallied behind her and gave her 98% of their votes – over 45 points higher than what white women gave her and more than ten points higher than what Black men gave her.
Black women tried harder, by virtue of their voting, to elect the first woman president, than white women did.
Two Black women, including Kamala Harris, have been senators, and none have been governors of a state.
So, let’s see what we have:
White women: Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, 41 governors, and 57 Senators.
Black Women: Shirley Chisholm, and two Senators.
Since the Civil Rights movement white people have reliably voted for Republicans over Democrats, while simultaneously Black voters in general and Black women voters in particular have most reliably voted for democrats.
In addition, Black women carried democrats to sweeping wins during the most recent 2018 and have been deciding factors in democratic races across America for many years.
Intangibles both historical and recent can also be factored. Those include post Biden administration continuity, age, ability to get things done, domestic and foreign policy skills, and all the usual skills needed to effectuate change in an intransigent environment.
The person chosen will need the ability to rally the voters who will be hurt and angry. And she will need to be deft at working behind the scenes yet be gets things done in a way that doesn’t knee-cap the Biden presidency.
Finally, which one can get men to follow them? Can Elizabeth Warren break some of the decades old hold the republican party has on white men? Can she rally Black men? And can Kamala Harris win back the 12% of Black men who sided with Trump in 2016?
Kamala Harris has a better chance to win back Black men than Elizabeth Warren has to win back white men.
In case you missed this piece from November 6, 2019, check out “Will Black Men Vote Like Black Women in 2020?”
Will Black Men Vote Like Black Women in 2020?
96% of black women voted for nominee Obama and then President Obama. About the same percentage of Black Women voted for Hilary Clinton. Black men meanwhile, voted at a slightly lower rate for President Obama, both times, and a lot less for Hilary Clinton – 88%, with a full 12% of Black men voting for…
The historical case, while not exhaustive, shows that a case can be made for both Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. Both will strengthen the Biden administration in different ways.
And both have devoted followers and supporters who will be energized to work the campaign with unprecedented fervor.
Their cases are compelling but not equal.
Race will, as always, play a prominent role, and both candidates have critical racial intangibles that must also be factored.
Unlike any candidate ever, Kamala Harris is also half Asian. Race and ethnic identities are complicated and often confusing. Kamala’s mother is Indian and her father is Jamaican which is to say that in America Kamala is Black. But in actuality she is half-Indian – considered Asian for voting purposes – and her earlier presidential campaign was a point of pride with many in the Indian community.
Elizabeth Warren is a white woman who controversially claimed native ancestry that she walked back after publicizing DNA test results at the urging of Donald Trump.
The final racial component that is historical and forever current, is systemic racism from all corners of industry, law enforcement, schooling, credit, housing, jobs, military, and of course, police murders of Black women and men.
With protests and uprisings a daily occurrence again across America in small towns and major cities, and when monuments to racist historical figures are being torn down, America is looking for leadership navigating the environment to successfully get from where we are today to where we need to be in the near future.
America needs a person who is knowledgeable speaking about law enforcement and race, policing reforms, and all the adjacent pieces that are critical to overhauling systemic racism embedded within law enforcement. And while both women are capable, only Kamala Harris has the real world experience of working all aspects of dismantling systemic racism and having the unique racial background to know the practical application and impacts of everyday racism.
Elizabeth Warren knows about racism in theory and in the abstract but not as one who has been on the receiving end of racism.
Kamala Harris is intimately aware of racism in jobs, predatory lending, community policing, school funding, school debt, childcare, rape kit backlog, fair sentencing, mother and infant mortality, food deserts, police brutality, recidivism, police accountability, and of course holding the current administration accountable for their historical malfeasance.
Joe Biden will have a strong vice president who will, finally, be the first woman vice president. I believe that our current national needs that are borne out of newfound focus on the current and neverending mistreatment of Black people and people of color, is a moment for Kamala Harris.
America must face itself and reckon with an ugly reflection that must be addressed in ways it has never before addressed. The best person to face the cancer of racism is herself a Black woman – the most abused and underappreciated people in America.
The most loyal democratic voting bloc deserves representation at the highest level of government and now is the time.
Right now in this moment in America Kamala Harris is who Biden should chose for vice president.
© 2020 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.