Biden may have intended this to be about an imagined expansion of possibility for women but wound up creating a pre-narrowed field, from which he, the benevolent corrector of representational deficiency (who had just aggressively run against six women), would eventually pluck some lucky contestant. He also ensured that no man could feel that he had been passed over for a woman and no woman could feel that she’d been selected as the right person for the job, merely as the right woman.

And oh, how the conversation about what it means to be the right kind of woman, unfolding in the void created by the absence of a real live choice, has soured.

To start, in ensuring that all contenders were female, Biden set up a cat-fight narrative for a media always salivating to cover one. This is what has permitted the poisonous Kamala-versus-Karen narratives — in which California senator Kamala Harris has been held up as the alarmingly ambitious antithesis of selfless legislator Karen Bass.