May 23, 2020

Biden's Pledge to Pick a Female Running Mate


Anybody else think that we may have witnessed a historic moment in that last Democratic primary debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders when Biden promised to select a female VP? At the time I'm writing this post, he hasn't selected one yet; however, there have been a number of recent news reports that he has put a list together and started vetting at least a few. I'm thinking this pledge may be looked back on as an important turning point where any male Democratic presidential candidate will be expected to select a female VP in order to remain viable. I do not necessarily think this is a bad thing, but I do wonder if it is wise to cut the field of possible choices in half.

In Biden's specific case, I think that making this promise was a smart move. Not only did it seem to catch Sanders off-guard, but it helps counter one of the narratives around Biden. So yes, it seemed like a good thing for Biden to do. My question is about the precedent it might set. Going forward, will any male Democratic presidential candidate be expected to choose a female running mate?

I suspect so. After all, this is the Democratic Party we are talking about. They need to appeal to a certain segment of "progressive" voters, and this could be a way to do it. Not only would it not surprise me to find male presidential candidates constrained in this way, but I suspect it is just a matter of time until White presidential candidates of either gender in the Democratic Party are expected to choose someone of color as their running mate.

I can't say any of this necessarily bothers me. Like I said above, I think the main potential downside boils down to the wisdom of artificially limiting one's choices. I'd hate to think that a presidential candidate might feel pressured to select someone they didn't particularly want to work with. Maybe my opinion of him is simply too high, but I suspect this may have been the situation in which John McCain found himself not so long ago.

Personally, I'm hoping we see more female presidential candidates. I'd hate to think that they should be pressured to select a male VP candidate. I think they should be free to select whoever they perceive as the strongest VP, regardless of gender. Of course, I recognize that it is different when we are talking about male presidential candidates. Thus, I would not necessarily object to evolving norms whereby male candidates needed to pick female running mates while female candidates could pick whoever they wanted.

It is easy to complain about the sort of scenario where pools of VP candidates become increasingly narrow, starting with gender, then race, then who knows what else (perhaps even religion). I suspect we may end up there eventually given where things seem to be heading on the political left. Still, it is hard for me to get too upset over this when I suspect that all sorts of similar considerations are already being made of which the average voter may be unaware.

Maybe the day will come where an atheist presidential candidate strategically selects a religious VP candidate as a way of showing voters that they are not hostile to religious believers. Would that be so terrible? I don't think so.