The demand that Joe Biden choose a Black woman as his vice presidential nominee to facilitate Black empowerment is ill-advised and strategically wrong. President Obama’s election is a good example of the fact that one individual, no matter how outstanding, cannot empower a community.
It takes a groundswell to achieve that.
Nominating a Black female would neither empower the black community, nor help the new administration to deal with daunting challenges it inherits. Biden will take over the most broken government in almost a century. His first challenge would be to calm the nerves of a troubled nation, restore Americans’ confidence and give them hope.
He will need all available leadership talent in his team to restore a country afflicted with racial injustice, massive unemployment, the most horrendous health crisis — COVID-19 — and a severely polarized nation.
The presumptive Democratic nominee is being bombarded with advice from political pundits and media gurus about his vice-presidential pick. Some suggest a race preference, others gender some are more specific, recommending a Black woman. Yet others suggest making geography a factor to strengthen his regional weak links.
But the best advice, so far, came from two black leaders: Cedric Richmond, Biden campaign co-chair: “I support him because I trust his judgment. He held the position himself for eight years and knows what it takes to be a vice president. I will support whoever he selects.” U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn, the influential South Carolina congressman, tossed a softball, saying that a Black woman “would be a plus, but it is not a must.’
While Susan Rice, Kamala Harris, Val Demings, Keisha Lance Bottoms and Stacy Abrams are highly accomplished women, Biden can only select one of them, doing a disservice to others and the Black cause, which needs a groundswell of Black talent. Biden administration could use each one of them to lead a department — that would empower black community.
When the opportunity comes, Biden should appoint Anita Hill the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. That will advance the Black cause.
The current health crisis has thrust a few governors into the national limelight. Their outstanding performance in responding to the coronavirus deserves Biden’s attention. Governors are most suited for administrative positions like vice president and would make a trusted partner for a transitional president. Andrew Cuomo stands out; others include Gavin Newsom, Jay Inslee and Gretchen Whitmore.
Biden also should not overlook a few good Republicans for healing and rebuilding a new America: Mike DeWine, Harry Logan and John Kasich, are also proven leaders and good Americans.
Finally, as a transitional president, Biden’s choice of vice president will determine whether Democrats have a one-term presidency or three terms; his choice must be capable of winning the presidency on his or her own.
Mohammad S. Shakir is former executive director of the Asian American Advisory Board in Miami-Dade County.