The press is giving plenty of play to demands from various activist groups calling on Joe Biden to select a Black woman as his running mate this year. It’s a subject he’s been pressed on repeatedly by many in his party. Originally, James Clyburn had said this was a move Uncle Joe needed to make, though he’s since backed off and said that any woman would do. Here’s one piece from the Associated Press that falls into this general category. But as I’ll get to in a moment, there seems to be a glaring omission in this debate among progressives.
Biden launched a committee last week to begin vetting possible candidates for the vice presidency, a process he has said will likely last through July. He has already committed to picking a woman.
But black voters and leaders say he needs to go further and pick a black woman. They argue that Biden’s success — and that of the Democratic Party as a whole — depends on black people turning out to vote in November. They want a tangible return for their loyalty, not just a thank you for showing up on Election Day.
“Black people want an acknowledgement of the many years of support they have given the Democratic Party,” said Niambi Carter, a Howard University political science professor.
The fact that this entire debate is centered on identity politics rather than simply hunting for the best possible candidate won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been paying the slightest bit of attention to Democratic politics for the past couple of decades. Narrowing the field of potential running mates based on a combination of gender and race is the calling card of the Democratic Party these days.
If that’s the case, so be it. But everyone should be able to play this game now that the rules of engagement have been established. Most of the Democrats clearly want to ensure that the veep is Black, though most of them have also said they’d be willing to “settle for” a Hispanic candidate. But where, in all of this debate, are the calls for an Asian running mate? Don’t they qualify as minorities anymore?
Sure, the media is happy to talk about racism as applied to Asians when it suits their purposes. That’s particularly true if people are threatening Asians over the spread of the novel coronavirus. But when it comes to determining who will be second in line for the most powerful position on the planet based on nothing more than the subjective view of the color of someone’s skin, you get nothing but the sound of crickets when it comes to Asian-Americans.
If we use the Democrats’ own criteria for establishing why this should be the predominant factor in the process, they’re failing their own test. I’ll grant you that there’s reason for liberals to push for a woman. The three major party, viable female candidates for either President or Vice President all failed to win the office. But we’ve at least already had a Black president, which is obviously a bigger brass ring to grab than the vice presidency. (An office which John Garner once characterized as being “not worth a bucket of warm piss.”) When, in the history of our country, have you ever seen an Asian-American face on the ticket for either party?
Where is all of the concern for Asians as a minority community in need of more high-profile representation? This has become typical of Democrats for quite a while now. You constantly hear them talking about the oppression of “Black and brown” people, but rarely is there any concern shown for their Asian brothers and sisters in the same fashion. While Asian-Americans weren’t subjected to literal slavery in the same way as African-Americans, they certainly faced their share of violence, abuse, and intolerance. Examples abound from the settling of the west in the 19th century to the internment camps of World War 2.
We might be able to hazard a few guesses as to why they don’t receive the same amount of love from the Democrats. One factor might be that Asians only make up 5% of the population, while Blacks and Hispanics account for a lot more votes (12 and 17 percent respectively). Perhaps that just doesn’t represent enough votes to bother pandering to them in the same fashion.
And that’s got to be disappointing to Asian-American voters. After all, Asian-Americans favor the Democrats over the Republicans by a thirty point margin. Is this just another, more blatant example of the Democrats taking one demographic group for granted while leaving them out of the larger conversation? (The way they do with Black voters most of the time unless there’s an election going on.)
Or maybe it’s just because Asian-Americans have the highest average and median incomes in the United States, even scoring significantly higher than whites. It’s hard to escape the feeling that the success so many Asian-Americans have achieved despite (rather than because of) the color of their skin is an unpleasant reminder to Democratic politicians that race might not be such a determinative factor in success in America as they’d like to claim.
Still, this might be worth bringing up during an interview with Joe Biden, Tom Perez or James Clyburn one of these days. What’s with the total radio silence on the subject of an Asian-American running mate? And before you start complaining to me that I’m “focusing” on race too much, Democrats, take a step back. You made the rules. I’m just playing by them.