Extra! Extra!: VEEPSTAKES Edition

this post written by Natalie and Himani!

During the final debate of the primary season, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden made a firm promise: “I commit that I’ll pick a woman to be Vice President.” And with the race for the nomination effectively (though not actually… ahem, New York) over, attention has shifted towards whom Biden might select as his running mate. The stakes are high with this Veep pick, as Biden has suggested that he’ll only serve one term as president.

Biden’s already named the leaders of his vetting committees — including Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Apple Exec (and former Biden counsel) Cynthia Hogan and, regrettably, former Sen. Chris Dodd — with plans to announce the nominee in July.

So, in this week’s Extra! Extra!, we take a break from our usual fare and offer some commentary on some of the names you’re most likely to hear, as we make our way through the vetting process.


Stacey Abrams, Former Democratic Nominee for Governor from Georgia

Stacey Abrams makes the case for herself as Biden’s VP pick

There’s Nothing Wrong With Stacey Abrams’s Campaign to Be Vice-President

Natalie: It’s been interesting to watch people react to Stacey Abrams’ openly campaigning for the vice presidency. We’re so used to this process being secretive that folks bristle at someone rebelling against that convention. The truth is Abrams doesn’t have access to the conventional pathways to power — she’s not someone who served with Biden or who has an advocate close to the former vice president — so this is the path she’s chosen. Frankly, I find it refreshing and inspiring to see a black woman willing to claim what she wants.

But, with respect to the actual selection: I think Abrams is probably the best candidate in the field while also being the riskiest choice. She’s probably the most effective communicator in the field and her political acumen is unmatched. Moreover, I think she’d be the best governing partner for Biden…she’s more of an idealist than Biden, yes, but her tenure in the Georgia legislature shows the pragmatic “get shit done” type of leader she is…exactly the type of leader Biden believes himself to be.

Himani: So my rough understanding of parliamentary systems is that technically constituents are voting for the party for parliamentary seats and then the winning party picks their leader for Prime Minister, although more often than not (and I think increasingly?) the person slated to be PM is established throughout the campaign. (Brits, Canadians, and others who live in Parliamentary systems – please correct in the comments if I’ve gotten any of this wrong.) Americans, who are relatively more skeptical of government, like having the control that voting directly for their national leader provides. But it’s always struck me as more than a little incongruous that the VP selection is, as Natalie says, usually a secretive process.

Like Natalie, I find Abrams’ approach refreshing for calling out the bull shit of the process for what it is. I’ve liked Abrams ever since I learned of her in 2018, and I was devastated when the gubernatorial election was, literally, stolen from her. But, she’s proven herself to be a capable leader in other ways, as she says, through her national organizations trying to fight voter suppression and ensure everyone is counted in the census (yeah, that’s still happening…).

Tammy Baldwin, Senator from Wisconsin

If Biden is serious about winning, he should pick Tammy Baldwin as his running mate

Natalie: I’m not sure how anyone justifies having Amy Klobuchar on the short list but not Tammy Baldwin. She brings the same Midwestern values to the table as AK but she’s from a swing state. Plus, the possibility that Joe Biden could nominate the first openly LGBT person to the vice presidency would be monumental.

Himani: Honestly, I didn’t know much about Tammy Baldwin before reading this article and before getting too far into it, this sentence in the second paragraph caught my eye (and my ire): “He needs a qualified candidate who can help him win a key swing state such as Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin.” I am so, SO tired of presidential political analysis that takes this lens of focusing on swing states, as if the rest of us not living in swing states are just chopped liver whose votes do not matter. Yes, I know this is how the electoral college works, but it’s frustrating as all hell and seriously calls into question whether the charade we do here in America is actually “democracy” (of course, rampant voter suppression is what calls the American political system into question even more).

Combined, those four states make up 15% of the US population. 15%! 15% of the population that basically decides who the fuck is going to be president for four years? And those four states, mind you, are disproportionately non-Hispanic white – to the tune of 7 full percentage points! (60% of the US population is what the census deems “non-Hispanic” white – their term, not mine – whereas 67% of the population in those four states, combined, is non-Hispanic white.) As if the nonsense that passes for “representation” in the Senate weren’t bad enough.

Speaking of the Senate, I think Democrats need to stop compromising every other political office for the presidency. Mitch McConnell has sufficiently proven again and again that the Senate wields an incredible amount of power and even in the minority position he effectively gutted the Affordable Care Act. Losing Baldwin’s seat in Wisconsin is not a minor consideration, in my opinion.

Catherine Cortez Masto, Senator from Nevada

Joe Biden vowed to pick a woman for vice president. Why not a Latina?

Cortez Masto could boost Biden candidacy

Natalie: Former Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is someone whose opinion carries a lot of weight with Biden, after having served in the Senate together for 25 years, and, given that, it’s hard to imagine that his recommendation of Catherine Cortez Masto won’t carry some weight. Early poll numbers show that having Cortez Masto on the ticket would help Biden substantially with Latinx voters — an area in which he struggles currently — giving him the boost he needs to win in Nevada, Florida and, possibly, Texas. Her 2016 win, I think, is a testament to her ability to bring new voters to the table…as she outperformed most polling to pull out a narrow win.

As with Harris, I worry about what a deep dive into Cortez Masto’s time as Attorney General might reveal (and how that might impact turnout) and, of course, she’d have a tougher road than some others in the field in building a national profile.

Himani: Listen, if we are going to obsess over swing states, then at least do it in the way these two articles about Catherine Cortez Masto do, which looks beyond just the white voters to see who the key voting blocs are that have carried the Democratic party in the past. Both articles make an excellent point about the lack of Latinx representation at the national level and, considering the Latinx community is the country’s fastest growing population, it’s time to change that.

Val Demings, Congresswoman from Florida

Val Demings: ‘I would be honored to serve alongside Joe Biden’ as vice president

Val Demings is the coalition pick for vice president

Natalie: It’s hard for me not to root for Demings, simply because I know that it would drive the president absolutely mad. Giving the vice presidential slot to the black woman who helped shepherd his impeachment through the Senate? He’d be apoplectic. Demings acquitted herself well in those hearings; her forceful assertion that no one was above the law bought back memories of Barbara Jordan.

She’s never won statewide in Florida before so, obviously, that’s a concern, as is
her legacy as the former police chief in Orlando.

Kamala Harris, Senator from California

Handicapping the Biden VP race: Kamala Harris by a mile

Why Kamala Harris Is the ‘Do No Harm’ Choice for VP

Joe Biden isn’t the Democratic Party’s future. He needs a vice president who is.

Natalie: Can I be honest? It’s hard for me to find a reason for Biden not to pick Kamala Harris. That’s not to say I think she’s the best candidate in the field; instead I just think, for this moment, she offers the most reward and the least amount of risk. I don’t take her early withdrawal from the primary as a sign of her potential weakness as a running mate… in a regular election, she’s a top tier competitor, but we just happen to be living in the Upside Down.

Harris takes a lot of abuse from progressives, some warranted, some not… but here’s the reality: of the candidates on this list, she’s behind only Elizabeth Warren when it comes to espousing a progressive agenda. The same critiques made about Harris’ AG tenure could, likely, be made for Catherine Cortez Masto, Val Demings, Amy Klobuchar or Gretchen Whitmer… so why not go with the most demonstrably progressive of those choices?

Amy Klobuchar, Senator from Minnesota

Amy Klobuchar is Joe Biden’s most logical pick for vice president

Natalie: The upside to Amy Klobuchar is clear: she’s a thrice elected senator from the Midwest who could work to recapture the swing voters lost in 2016. She’d likely camp out in Wisconsin and Michigan for most of the general election. The downside to Klobuchar is equally obvious: it’s hard to fathom what part of the Democratic base would be excited by a Klobuchar candidacy.

Himani: I couldn’t agree with you more, Natalie, that it’s unclear who is excited by Klobuchar. She barely registered in the primary, even among the Midwestern states, and I know that there were a lot of factors there, with sexism being pretty substantial one, but I am afraid that her resounding loss will be an easy talking point for Republicans that will only serve to divide the Democratic party further apart and alienate progressives from the entire ticket.

Elizabeth Warren, Senator from Massachusetts

Elizabeth Warren is the favored VP pick among Democrats, poll shows

Why Joe Biden needs Elizabeth Warren

Natalie: I supported Elizabeth Warren in the primary and, with every new plan she releases to address the ongoing pandemic, I cry a little bit thinking about the kind of leadership we could’ve had. But, honestly, it never even occurred to me that she’d be a candidate for Biden’s vice president. They’d give her a spot on the short list out of courtesy, sure, but the idea that she’d ultimately be chosen? It seemed so unlikely that I didn’t even contemplate the possibility.

Would it be the best thing for the country? Absolutely. In addition to her progressive agenda, her ability to raise money from small donors is unmatched by anyone else in the field and Biden needs all the help he can get in that arena. But the idea that Biden, who’d be the oldest president in history, would pick someone who’d also be the oldest vice president in history? I just can’t fathom that happening.

Himani: I both do and don’t want Warren to be picked. She’s obviously the most competent person and any one of her plans would save hundreds of lives. But for her to be VP after everything that happened? It feels like the consolation prize you give to the woman everyone knows should’ve won, but no one wants to admit it because that admission means acknowledging that sexism is alive and well, after all. And, as the Vox article points out, Massachusetts currently has a Republican Governor who would select her temporary replacement until a special election is held.

Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan

‘You don’t run for that:’ Whitmer says she won’t campaign to be Biden’s VP

Gretchen Whitmer is a national figure now. What you need to know about ‘The woman in Michigan’

Natalie: Strong handling of the coronavirus crisis has bolstered the political fortunes of governors across the country and Gretchen Whitmer is chief among them. And, because the thought of a strong woman doing her job effectively is perpetually bothersome to this president, Whitmer’s been a target of Trump’s ire, raising her profile alongside her poll numbers.

Though she first showed up on my radar in 2013 when she revealed the story of her own sexual assault on the floor of the Michigan Senate, I think she’s still too fresh to be thrust into the national spotlight this early (she was just elected governor in 2019). She’s a face to watch for in the future.

Himani: Whitmer is great, I’m not debating that. But, right now, in particular, I do worry that, as these articles point out, the outspoken minority protesting the social distancing measures she imposed to protect the state could make her a liability in Michigan and, possibly, other swing states. And now I’m being a hypocrite and doing the thing I said I hated about presidential politics.

Dark Horses

A black biracial, bisexual girl raised in the South, working hard to restore North Carolina's good name. Lover of sports, politics, good TV and Sonia Sotomayor. Spends her Thursday nights trying to make #Shonday happen.

Natalie has written 114 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. while abrams is my personal fave for reasons sighted, I think Tammy Duckworth would be the best choice. She’s ‘safe’ in terms of being in the middle of the left-center spectrum for Dems, and her senate seat would be replaced by a Dem pick. She’s powerful in being a veteran, a mom, mixed race, midwestern, and having a track record of fighting hard on practical matters that help regular people, while not riling anyone up.

  2. I sincerely, sincerely hope that it is not Janet Napolitano. Her immigration record is abhorrent, as is the way that she’s responded (or not) to the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) wildcat strikes by graduate workers in the UC system (my gf among them). THat would be a truly unappetizing ticket.

  3. Governor of California just announced that the state will send every eligible voter a vote by mail ballot for the November election. Good job, California; but of course, this won’t happen on the federal level, but gives me some hope other states(hopefully swing states & Texas) will follow.

    If Biden chooses Eric Garcetti & wins it will be the first time the VP would be non-Christian & Jewish. I’ve found the job he’s been doing to be acceptable. He’s calm, friendly, & inclusive in his daily briefings(& general mayoral stuff). But, at the same time I don’t want him to be tied to that awful abused Biden. Fuck.

  4. there are many competent politicians on this list.

    it is also hard to listen to biden (especially with the assault allegations and well documented creep behavior) saying he will pick “a woman VP” and it not feel like tokenism / being thrown a bone.

    alas! electability electability.

    • Yeah, it’s especially annoying just how silent most of the VP candidates have been about his track record. Like obviously “being a progressive, feminist candidate that will push stuffy ole Biden to the left on the issues that matter” is a good line to push to get more votes from progressives, but their lack of any action related to Tara Reade’s claims is not something that’s gonna look good to that demographic, but if they speak up then they’re likely to be snubbed by Biden.

      It’s a lose-lose situation unfortunately, that can really only be solved with Biden himself facing the music, even with the fallout that’d have.

  5. I can only speak to Canadian Parliament but you’re mostly right, Himani. Each party has a Leader, selected between elections by the membership of that party after a campaign within the party ranging in length anywhere from a few months to over a year. Party Leaders have no pre-determined length of their tenure, just are replaced after one steps down or looses a confidence vote from the members of their party (confidence votes sometimes take place every two years and their conventions but that depends on the party). During a general election (federal or provincially), the party Leaders are the centre of the national campaign, similar to presidential campaign, such as traveling across the country and participating in debates. Meanwhile, all candidates for each party run campaigns to win a seat in each riding (district), tied to the national/provincial campaign but focusing on local issues and the local candidate. The party of the most seats after the election forms the government and their Leader becomes the Prime Minister or Premier in provincial politics. I hope this reads clearly (sometimes things I try to convey come across as unclear, sorry if it does), but if not, I’m happy to answer any other questions.

    • Himani, you asked about other parliamentary systems. I can tell you about the Dutch system, we’ve had a parliamentary system since 1919. Basically, for national elections, everyone votes one a single day on the party of their choice. The 150 seats are divided by total votes per party. Say a party gets 10 seats, the first 10 people on the list make it unless someone lower on the list has more preference votes. This system is used by many who want more women in parliament, there are “vote for women” campaigns. A lot of people just vote for the party leader.

      Because of our system of multiple parties, I don’t think we’ve had one party with >50% of votes. Parties need to work together. This is usually the biggest few parties. The leaders of these parties will meet up and work out what they might agree on, make compromises and deals, figure out what their plan is for the next 4 years. If it works out, the leader from the largest party is PM, the ministers are chosen from the ones making up this coalition. They will report their plan, and because of the coalition system, thing tend to be more middle of the road. Some larger parties are never in government, because no one wants to work with them, like the right-wing.

      If a coalition fails to agree on a new development, a government can “fall” and we get new elections. This might also happen if enough people in parliament give up their faith in the coalition.

      Historically, people voted by their social and religious group (Catholics, protestants, socialists, etc). Since it’s pretty easy to start a party and get a seat in parliament, people start small parties all the time. We have a party for the animals, party for the elderly, sub-groups of parties that fall apart. It’s occasionally messy. But if I look at the complicated district system and the extreme options in the US, I’m very happy with what I’ve got.

      • Thank you so much for sharing this! It’s always so fascinating to me to learn about other systems of governance – especially when they fall under the broad umbrella of “democracy” and just seeing how varied that can be.

        • You are very welcome. I was feeling a little worried I’d gone into full autistic overdrive and bombard you with information.

          Every now and then people start wondering if we shouldn’t have a district system, to better look after groups that feel left out. (It often comes from more rural people.) However, the beauty of our system means that even small movements get a voice (with an electoral threshold of only 0,67%). I never have to choose for the watered down version of my ideology to make my voice heard.

          What I always find strange about the US system is that there are no elections possible if they lose the support of parliament or if the president dies. Just wait 4 years, no matter what.

          Downside of big coalitions with many parties? Belgium once spent 589 days without federal government. (Belgium has a fairly complicated system of government, be warned.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010%E2%80%9311_Belgian_government_formation

          • Yea I feel like there are good and bad things about each of the different types of democratic government. They do run special election for lower level positions (e.g. if Warren was selected for VP and Biden won in Nov, the governor of MA would select her temporary replacement but he is also required to hold a special election within like 150 days or something so that people vote for who will have her Senate seat until the end of the her term. This is how Doug Jones became senator in AL). Thanks again for the info!

  6. thanks for the review, love it when you do these!

    if people get to vote, seems like if Cortez Masto tests well-to-ok in Florida/Texas, that would be the safest pick to help with electoral college demographic realities.

    however, if voter suppression limits the voting demographic, then the safest pick will be whoever can pull or motivate those that remain to vote against trump/republicans. super worried that democrats will line up a ticket that the republicans successfully undercut by disenfranchising voters, especially given that they’ve stacked the courts with partisans.

    on his own, i don’t think Biden motivates anyone who didn’t vote in the last presidential election to vote in this one. while i might have hoped that last 3 years would, there have been so many folks throughout the primaries saying they’d only vote in the general if their candidate was the nominee.

  7. Imagine this: Warren is VP. Biden is elected because he’s the lesser of two evils. Biden turns out to go senile in the first year, and unlike the current situation, he steps down (or is gently guided to retirement). Warren can show us what she’s got for the next three years and be re-elected in 2024.

  8. I was listening to a politics podcast and it was casually thrown out there that a female VP is probably the fastest way to get a women into the White House. Sadly, I think it’s true – and maybe the only way to for now, whether it’s through succession because of an early retirement or death or just people getting used to a woman in authority. So I don’t think it’s tokenism, in that it may speed the breaking of the ultimate glass ceiling.

    BUT I do have to say that I heartedly disagree re: Kamala Harris. Yes, it’s true that for some reason a disproportionate number of our female elected representatives had to spend the beginning of their careers locking people up in jail to show that they deserve power, so many of them have similar baggage. But Kamala Harris irks me more than your average prosecutor turned politician. I was willing to give her a chance at the beginning of the primary season, because I believe that we all can learn and grow from our life experiences. But literally every aspect of her campaign, from the slogan “For the People” to the themes of her speeches to her debate answers, revolved around a law and order rhetoric that appeals to our more base instincts of revenge against the conservatives who pulled the rug out from under us in 2016, rather than any sort of hopeful, forward-thinking vision of a better society. True, a lot of people who would never vote for her on principle (and there are many) also already won’t vote for Biden on principle, but I am far from a Bernie Bro, voted for Hillary Clinton enthusiastically, and currently plan on voting for Biden in the general despite feeling decidedly unenthusiastic about it, and adding her to the ticket will make it that much harder to stomach. If there are others like me, I worry about the effect on turn out especially among left of center millennials, where Biden is already hemorrhaging support.

    • This is a really interesting take. I have been acutely aware of how much the current president is driving the conversation across the political spectrum. I hate that he is still shaping conversation even for people who claim to not buy into his absurdism.

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