In the final debate of the Democratic presidential primary campaign, former Vice President Joe Biden said: "If I’m elected president, my Cabinet, my administration will look like the country. And I commit that I will in fact pick a woman to be vice president. There are a number of women who are qualified to be the president tomorrow. I would pick a woman to be my vice president.”
That woman should be Stacey Abrams.
“I would be an excellent running mate,” she said in a recent Elle magazine interview. Abrams likely would have become this nation’s first Black woman governor if Georgia’s gubernatorial election had not been upended by Republican duplicity and voter suppression in 2018.
“I have the capacity to attract voters by motivating typically ignored communities. I have a strong history of executive and management experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors,” she told Elle. "I’ve spent 25 years in independent study of foreign policy. I am ready to help advance an agenda of restoring America’s place in the world. If I am selected, I am prepared and excited to serve.”
To give Democrats their best chance to get President Trump out of office, Biden should be equally excited to choose Abrams.
A former Georgia state representative, Abrams is one of her party’s ascendant stars. When she was chosen to deliver the Democratic response to Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Abrams "embodies the American Dream, and her powerful message of progress for all is deeply needed during this time for our country.”
Abrams also embodies the Democrats’ most loyal constituency — Black women. It is time for the party’s leadership to reflect that. If, as Representative Ayanna Pressley often says, “Those closest to the pain should be closest to the power,” this is Abrams’ moment to become a progressive standard bearer for her party on the world stage. At only 46 years old and with a steady eye on those disenfranchised through divisive politics and/or voter suppression, she could shape inclusive policies for decades.
Though his campaign has been mostly sidelined by the pandemic, Biden is having one of his best weeks since his candidacy enjoyed a Lazarus-like comeback in the South Carolina primary. (Yes, it feels like that happened last year. It was about seven weeks ago.)
He was endorsed by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, both former opponents, as well as President Obama, with whom he served through eight years of this nation’s last cogent presidency.
Long before most first heard of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, this nation was already facing the most important election in its history. Democracy cannot afford four more years of Trump, with his greed, lies, and spiraling pandemic body count to which he seems indifferent. This is no time for cautious half-stepping.
Abrams is not the only woman vying to be Biden’s vice presidential pick. Names in the mix have ranged from Senators Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar, both of whom ran against Biden, to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who has criticized the federal government’s response to the pandemic and garnered Trump’s ire. And during a recent conversation with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Warren said she would accept a VP slot.
Biden’s decision will mark only the third time in American history that a woman will be chosen as a presidential running mate: Geraldine Ferraro, a Democrat, in 1984 and Sarah Palin, a Republican, in 2008. Whoever Biden selects will be more than a constitutionally mandated appendage. Time and again, women have proven their ability to lead at the highest levels. It’s no accident that several nations with the most exemplary responses to the coronavirus crisis are led by women, including Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s prime minister; Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor; and President Tsai Ing-wen of Taiwan.
If he wins in November, Biden at 77 will be the oldest man elected president. That makes his VP choice even more crucial. A daughter of ministers, Abrams has kept faith that this country can fully thrive only with liberty, opportunity, and justice for all, even as she knows some voters will be threatened by a Black woman that close to the presidency.
Biden needs to envision what this country should be, not what it’s been. Abrams on the ticket would offer hope for a more boldly progressive America. And for the former vice president, her selection could energize a campaign some Democrats find dull and uninspiring — just in case saving democracy and America isn’t inspiration enough.
Renée Graham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @reneeygraham.