Posted on June 1, 2020

Racial Clashes Scramble Biden’s VP Choices

Susan Crabtree, Real Clear Politics, June 1, 2020

The intense and careening 2020 news cycle is reshuffling the prospects of the top contenders to become Joe Biden’s running mate so quickly that the shifting headlines have become a blur.

Just before Memorial Day weekend, Sen. Kamala Harris seemed best positioned to get the nod after Biden was forced to apologize for scolding African American voters that “if you have a problem figuring whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.”

Three days later, George Floyd, a black security guard, died while pleading for relief from a white Minneapolis police officer whose knee was pressed against his neck. The death occurred just as many areas of the country were beginning to tentatively reopen after months of COVID-19 lockdowns. Now the nation is caught in the throes of one of the fiercest race conflicts in decades as clashes between protesters and police have erupted across the country and looters and arson threaten many small businesses already struggling to survive.

Back in early May, before the Secret Service was rushing President Trump to an underground bunker as protesters threatened the White House perimeter, a column in RealClearPolitics labeled Harris “the do no harm choice for VP.” {snip}

After the past week’s racial unrest, however, Harris’ law enforcement background — as a prosecutor who put people behind bars for marijuana crimes and threatened to jail parents of truants — is hamstringing her. The same can be said for Rep. Val Demings, a black two-term congresswoman who previously served as the first female police chief of Orlando and represents a key region, the Interstate 4 corridor, in the critical swing state of Florida. Her husband is Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, who previously served as sheriff.

Although a relative newcomer to the national political scene, Demings earned plaudits on the left for her performance as one of seven impeachment managers late last fall. But her years running the Orlando police, which has a history of criticism for using excessive force, is now under the microscope and could take her out of contention amid the current racial turmoil.


Still, it would be politically tone-deaf not to acknowledge that the last few news cycles have been the toughest on Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s veepstakes chances. {snip}

After the former vice president committed to naming a woman as a running mate, Klobuchar was undoubtedly in the top tier of contenders – until Biden’s “you ain’t black” blunder in a radio interview led many to conclude that a black woman candidate would have an edge.


Klobuchar had a tough-on-crime record, and during her presidential campaign faced protests from black leaders in Minnesota after news reports aired criticism about her controversial murder prosecution of a black teenager named Myon Burrell. Klobuchar has said that the case should be reviewed, and recently sent a letter to the local prosecutor’s office asking for an independent probe, but civil rights leaders have pressed her to demand a completely new investigation.

Critics also are renewing questions about her failure to bring charges against several police officers during her time as county attorney. Derek Chauvin, the fired policeman who killed Floyd, was investigated in 2006 for a fatal shooting while Klobuchar was working as a local prosecutor, although she left that job before a grand jury was convened in the case.


But Rep. Jim Clyburn, the powerful South Carolina Democrat and former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Friday that the timing is terrible for Klobuchar even though he respects her and believes she is qualified to be vice president.

“We are all victims sometimes of timing and some of us benefit tremendously from timing,” Clyburn told reporters. “This is very tough timing for Amy Klobuchar.”


Amid the unrest, Clyburn, for one, is still backing Demings and Harris and says their law enforcement backgrounds should not be disqualifying but viewed in the historical context of when they served.

Several other black women are also in the VP mix and they lack the law-enforcement baggage of Harris and Demings. Former Georgia state Rep. Stacey Abrams has been actively campaigning for the job for months while Susan Rice, President Obama’s controversial national security adviser, is among the names regularly circulating in the media.


Black Lives Matter movement co-founder Alicia Garza backed Warren in the presidential primary because she had the most “robust black agenda.”