Opinion: Biden should pick a Black woman for VP. Here are 6 great options
CNN host Van Jones is the CEO of the REFORM Alliance, a criminal justice organization. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN) Black women have been betting on the Democratic Party since the civil rights era. It is time for the Democratic Party to bet on them.
That's why this month Joe Biden must select a Black woman as his running mate.
Just consider that 98% of Black women voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016, according to Pew Research Center. They voted Democratic in similar numbers in a down-ticket race the next year.
Black women also do the hard work of organizing, registering voters and turning them out to vote. Without Black women, few of Democrats' electoral or policy victories of the past 50 years would have been possible -- and we would live in a far more unequal and less prosperous country.
Even now, many Black women are on the front lines, fighting to solve the nation's problems -- often with too few resources or too little respect. In many of America's hospitals, the essential workers saving lives in nursing uniforms disproportionately are Black women.
Fortunately for Biden and the rest of us, American politics boasts an array of Black female superstars, any of whom would be a great partner in his quest to win the election, and govern and reunite the nation. Strong progressives might dream of elevating living legends such as US Reps. Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters of California. But even a pragmatic moderate like Biden can pick from at least six Black women, all of whom would make outstanding candidates and vice presidents.
So let's take a closer look at this best option:
Sen. Kamala Harris appears to be the front-runner -- and for very good reasons.
Rep. Karen Bass of California is a highly accomplished, universally respected and deeply dedicated legislator at the state and national level.
Strengths: She would be a vice president who could get big things done for the administration. She is a quiet, determined and effective leader who has shown an ability to work across the aisle. When she was California Assembly speaker in 2008, she successfully worked with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and GOP lawmakers to address a budget shortfall of more than $40 billion. In 2015, she worked with former US House Speaker Paul Ryan and former US Rep. Ed Royce of California -- both Republicans -- to pass the African Growth and Opportunity Act. And today, she is organizing Congress around the Pandemic Protection Act (HR 6848). She also leads the Congressional Black Caucus, while maintaining constructive ties with Republican lawmakers.
Former national security adviser Susan Rice easily meets the main criteria for any vice president: She is ready right now to be president of the United States.
Strengths: Rice has all the national security and White House experience you could look for in any candidate. There are few concerns about her ability to be commander in chief. She already gets along with Biden from her days in the Barack Obama White House, so the two would not need to form a relationship first before campaigning or governing together.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is one of the country's most authentic and relatable political leaders.
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams is the great hope of the Democratic Party -- especially in a region where progressives have struggled to make progress.
Weaknesses: If Abrams had managed to win that 2018 gubernatorial contest, she might be the presidential nominee herself right now. She would certainly be more of a shoo-in for vice president. But while others on this list have gotten to show their governing chops, Abrams has not had that opportunity. Biden will have to decide whether going from minority leader in the Georgia Assembly to potential vice president of the United States is too big of a leap.
Rep. Val Demings of Florida is a respected congresswoman from Trump's new home state.
Weaknesses: Demings is still relatively unknown nationally. Her police background might have been more compelling to Biden before the wave of protests that reshaped the nation's political landscape, but now could be seen as a potential liability with progressive voters.
The people who suffer disproportionately from police brutality, Covid-19 and economic hardship -- like Black women -- need to be closest to the decisions for Americans to make it out of this mess. In other words, not only does the Democratic Party owe Black women for past support, the party needs them to solve the problems in the future.
Luckily, there is no shortage of strong and qualified candidates. Biden just needs to examine the options, weigh the strengths and weaknesses and pick the best Black woman for the job.