Joe Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris to be his running mate signals one thing: he believes that Black voters are the key to his chances of winning the White House. While he is certain to win upwards of 90% of the Black vote, just as Democratic nominees have done for decades, the more pressing issue is Black voter participation.Having Harris on the ticket is a bet that she is best suited from among the vice-presidential field to increase the number of Black voters who will turn out for the election. The Biden gamble seems to be that if Harris can help rebound Black turnout, which dropped seven points from 2012 to 2016, then he can carry the states that Hillary Clinton lost by extremely narrow margins – Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. And the hope is that choosing Harris may also make Biden more competitive in purple and red states like Florida, North Carolina and perhaps even Georgia.
Naming Harris to the ticket, however, is the easy part. In order for Black turnout to increase, she will need to maintain a consistent presence in the areas central to the Biden electoral strategy. And she will need to fight hard to ensure grassroots organizations are properly funded and resourced to help mobilize Black voters.
But make no mistake: the Biden-Harris ticket is an explicit declaration that the campaign has cast its lot in with Black voters.Over the past few months, the Biden campaign has promised Black Americans many things, including a Black woman on the US supreme court, and, also, the potential for a Black woman vice-president. Now that it’s official, and Senator Kamala Harris has been announced as Biden’s running mate, one can’t help but feel that this moment feels … hollow.
Today, hundreds of thousands of Black men and women on the frontlines of a deadly pandemic face death, evictions and massive unemployment. I wish I could believe that Vice-President Kamala Harris would make a material difference in our lives, but I find it hard to.