- Joe Biden’s pick for vice president should help contrast his style and bring the Democratic party together.
- That’s why the right pick is clear: Sen. Kamala Harris.
- Michael Gordon is a longtime Democratic strategist, a former spokesperson for the Justice Department, and the principal for the strategic-communications firm Group Gordon.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
America is more than ready for a woman president. If a majority of Americans had its way in 2016, Hillary Clinton would be the one guiding our nation through this coronavirus pandemic instead of our indecisive, fragile president.
Time after time we have seen highly successful leadership from women governors, mayors, and CEOs in the United States, and foreign nations have thrived with powerful women at the helm. It will happen here, too – and relatively soon, at least electorally.
In the meantime, we are long past due for a woman vice president – and with former Vice President and likely Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s pledge to have a woman as his running mate, it appears the time is finally at hand. Sen. Kamala Harris is the woman for the job, and Biden should name her sooner rather than later as the pick.
The case for Kamala
Kamala Harris has strong appeal among both moderates and progressives, which has no doubt contributed to her polling as the top VP choice. Moreover, as the only black female presidential contender, she represents arguably the most influential voting bloc for the Democratic party.
And with her proven track record and level-headedness, she makes a strong case to be a good president on day one – a consideration that will likely be a greater factor in the battle of the septuagenarians.
Harris also would add to the ticket sharp debate skills that can help to keep Trump, the master of distraction and deception, honest. We saw her abilities on full display when she grilled Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings.
Joe Biden is all too familiar with Harris’s debate deftness: she lanced him on the debate stage last summer. But it’s not uncommon for former rivals to join hands in the general, and it further underscores the party coming together. She would be a happy warrior going up against the wooden, insincere Mike Pence.
No candidate is perfect, and Harris has her share of red flags. For one, her presidential bid unraveled in part due to poor campaign management and internal turmoil. She also opened herself up to attacks by introducing a less-than-airtight healthcare plan. But Harris has the skill set and integrity to overcome the stumbles that plagued her campaign and be an exceptional veep – and President.
Amplification vs. Contrast
Broadly speaking, there are two theories of VP picks: amplification and contrast. A vice president who amplifies the ticket provides a boost in regions or policies where the presidential candidate already is strong. Sen. Amy Klobuchar is a high-visibility amplification option after leading a strong national campaign that demonstrated her political might. But she might not create the right surge that would bring Biden to the Oval. Klobuchar demonstrated strong Midwestern appeal, but Biden is already strong in that region.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a notable contrast candidate who has shown that she can energize Democrats further left from center than Biden’s core. That she struggled to resonate with voters in her home state and adjacent ones may be a red flag.
The better contrast candidate is Kamala Harris. Harris brings an energy that Biden doesn’t have, and she is respected on all fronts. During her presidential run, she pitched a platform that threaded the needle between left and center and has credibility across the board. She can help to unite a party that needs so critically to be at full strength heading into the general.
In the absence of a strong amplification candidate or a stronger contrast candidate, Harris should be an easy choice. Biden has said he wants to nominate an African American woman to the Supreme Court, but I hope that does not mean he won’t pick Harris for VP.
Timing the announcement
Traditionally, candidates announce their VP choice right before the Convention. That’s because voters pay more attention to the Convention and focus more on the race as Election Day approaches.
As it has with all other facets of American life, the coronavirus has upended campaigning and even delayed primary voting in some states. Every day, Biden is losing precious opportunity to meet voters and travel the country – while Trump is governing during a crisis.
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American media will be all-consumed with the coronavirus until it is clearly on a downward slope. At the point of the shift, Biden should announce Harris and help bring the country’s attention back to presidential politics. After the announcement, Harris could be out on the stump, doubling the outreach efforts to voters and making up for lost time.
Though it is no longer in the cards for 2020, a female president of the United States is closer than ever. In the immediate term, Kamala Harris is the best option to ensure that the Biden campaign puts an end to our long national nightmare.
Michael Gordon has a long history in Democratic politics and communications strategy. He worked in the Clinton White House and as a spokesperson for the Clinton Justice Department. He also has served on multiple national, state, and local campaigns.