Why Joe Biden Will Choose Stacey Abrams As a Running Mate in the 2020 presidential election

I wish the old phrase “I’ll bet a dollar to a doughnut” wasn’t so outdated, because that’s how I’d like to end this blog. It offers reasons why presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Joe Biden, will probably pick black Georgia legislator, Stacey Abrams as his vice-presidential candidate for the 2020 election. The doughnut phrase harks back to a time when doughnuts cost five cents and were not spelled donuts.

A recent front-page article in the Washington Post by Sean Sullivan and Vanessa Williams (May 16, 2020), carries the header: “Abram’s pitch could put Biden in tough spot”. The Post journalists cite complications created for Biden by Abrams’ unconventional offer of herself as Biden’s running mate. The story begins with the development that rocket-propelled Biden’s sagging campaign into frontrunner status. That was South Carolina Congressman James Clyburn’s ringing endorsement in late February, days before the Super Tuesday Primary on March 3.

Clyburn, a leading black representative in Congress and Democratic majority Whip, had senior status with black voters who dominate the Democratic party in South Carolina. It was the overwhelming African American vote in South Carolina that propelled Biden past previous frontrunner, Bernie Sanders. After their disappointing performance in Super Tuesday’s vote, other candidates, eventually followed by Warren and Sanders, pulled out of the Democratic race and endorsed Biden. So Biden is heavily in debt to Clyburn and African American voters. Biden earlier committed himself to nominating a woman as vice-presidential candidate, which now narrows the choices to female politicians with name recognition. These include presidential candidates, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar; others mentioned by media are Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan, and Susan Rice, National Security Adviser to President Barack Obama. Harris and Rice are black.

A problem Sullivan and Williams cite regarding Abrams’ bid is that in spite of her dynamic campaign and unexpectedly close loss in the campaign for Governor of Georgia, Abrams’ only significant political experience is as a representative in the Georgia legislature, in which she rose to become Democratic minority leader. The Post writers cited political fundraiser, Quentin James, who said that Biden must go after white swing voters in critical states. That’s where Amy Klobuchar would be a significant asset. Elizabeth Warren has spent decades cultivating a strong following, offering imaginative policies and a link to the Democratic left.

Now we come to the qualities that I think make Abrams not only a logical choice for Biden, but one who would be critical in his campaign. One need only hear a few words of any speech by Abrams to recognize that she is a speaker of rare eloquence and power. She magically avoids tired clichés, speaks calmly, clearly and with pause for effect, unlike the often-rambling Biden.  She blends in personal experience and everyday detail and can be almost Lincolnesque in her ability to explain and articulate reasons for political positions

Engaged as a typist for a Congressional campaign at age 17, she was hired as a speechwriter on the strength of edits she made while typing (Wikipedia, Stacey Abrams, 2020). Think about the boldness of high-schooler Abrams suggesting changes to campaign text. Without a doubt, she would not only command overwhelming support among black voters, but would raise turnout in a voter group with lower than average participation in elections.

With a Master’s degree in public affairs and a Juris Doctor from the Yale Law School, Abrams has among the strongest academic-intellectual backgrounds among younger politicians (she is 46). She is supported by an intellectually accomplished family and parents who were Methodist ministers so she will be able to put herself in the shoes of evangelical Christians.  Abrams has gained a series of awards, including Public Official of the Year by Governance Magazine in 2014.

Abrams’ proposal to become Biden’s running mate revealed a rare quality among contemporary politicians: the ability to hold opposite ideas in her head at the same time. On the one hand her pitch to Biden was unprecedentedly aggressive, but on the other she showed humility, stating she would support and follow the leadership of the president, accepting roles and tasks given to her. This should not be underestimated from Biden’s perspective. We have the example in the G.W. Bush administration of an advisor for the vice-presidential nomination (Dick Cheney) who nominated himself, became vice president, and later all but took over policy leadership from the president.

Next, and particularly critical, would be Abrams’ ability to contend rhetorically and tactically with Donald Trump, a formidable and ruthless campaigner, Trump showed mastery in manipulating the media in the early months of the 2016 campaign. He had poll ratings of around 3% before he announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president in June 2015. One month later, after black headlines and denunciations in the mainstream press, Trump dominated a field of sixteen credentialed Republican candidates.  Those candidates included senators and successful governors of states.

Hardened and seasoned by growing up and becoming politically active as an African American woman in Georgia,  Abrams took on controversial challenges like pushing to remove the Confederate flag incorporated in the Georgia state banner, She would not be intimidated , pushed to emotional excess, or induced to make ill-advised responses to Trump. She appears to have 360-degree political awareness, the ability to gauge public opinion and help Democrats avoid bear traps in what would undoubtedly be a very tough campaign. With forty years of political experience behind him, Joe Biden has well-developed political insights. This showed when he left New Hampshire and a limping campaign to give his full energies to South Carolina. He took a bold step in announcing that his running mate would be a woman.

Finally, Biden is certainly aware of the reaction of African Americans should he choose a white woman rather than a black running mate. That leaves Kamala Harris and Susan Rice. Stacey Abrams is far and away the best and most exciting speaker among the three. I conclude Biden will show appropriate judgment in choosing Abrams.

 

 

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