Illustration by Genevieve Humphreys
Television is rich with women in powerful political positions — for instance, HBO’s Selina Meyer on “Veep” and CBS’s Elizabeth McCord on “Madam Secretary.” But when it comes to the real world, that “highest, hardest glass ceiling” that Hillary Clinton spoke of is still firmly in place. After a hundred years of women’s suffrage, the United States has yet to have a woman president or vice president. The 2020 election saw the most women enter the race for president in history, and unfortunately, none of them won.
This year, electing a woman president certainly will not happen, but it shouldn’t be overlooked that we can still shatter a glass ceiling this November. A female vice president would make history and be more than a “consolation prize” for women. Joe Biden committed to picking a woman running mate and announced that he is forming a selection committee. There have only been two women to ever have a serious shot at the job, and Biden is acutely aware that he is in the position to do more than just pick a future vice president, but possibly a future president.
However, understandably many women view his decision with distrust. Sophomore Victoria Henretty thinks he can not merely pick just any woman.
“It is extremely important that if a woman is picked that it isn’t done for the sake of seeming progressive,” Henretty said.
Sophomore Lindsey Bonin expressed a similar sentiment.
“The reason we need women in politics is to represent the interests of women … being a woman isn’t an inherently feminist action,” Bonin said. “Truly intersectional feminism requires acting in the best interests of all women.”
On that note, several women have been suggested as possible running mates, representing various communities.
10. Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice
For eight years, she was an architect of our foreign policy, and as an African American woman of 55, she would represent the sort of diverse younger pick Biden needs. However, she is an untested campaigner and is in the same shadow of scandal that plagued Hillary Clinton in 2016. Ultimately, with no national profile and a foreign policy record that would further alienate Bernie progressives, she would be a tougher sell.
9. Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan
Her leadership on COVID-19 has earned her a place on Biden’s shortlist. Michigan is a must-win battleground state that went for Trump in 2016 by a narrow margin, and if he wants a young running mate that knows how to win there, then the 48-year-old Whitmer makes for a smart choice. She is, however, in the midst of a Republican-created controversy around her latest executive orders in response to the pandemic. GOP tricks aside, she would do little to excite the progressive base.
8. Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida
A second-term congresswoman, Demings is surrounded by VP speculation because of her role as a House impeachment manager. She has a remarkable story and I believe many voters of color can be motivated to vote for a ticket with her on it. Demings grew up poor and Black in the south only to become Orlando’s first woman police chief. However, in 2015, the Atlantic reported on dozens of lawsuits alleging things like excessive force against her department.
7. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts
At 46 years old, Pressley would signal the strongest possible generational shift. The first Black congresswoman from Massachusetts has quickly risen to fame, but her youth and limited experience in national politics could seriously harm Biden as Sarah Palin did for John McCain in 2008. Choosing her could divert attention from attacks on Trump to questions about her more extreme differences with Biden on decriminalizing sex work and defunding ICE.
6. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
If Biden truly needs ideological balance on the ticket, Warren makes some sense. With the economy suffering, Biden could also benefit from her expertise. But, she’s not much younger than Biden and has received criticism over her false Native American heritage. Not to mention that her famed progressivism makes her a polarizing figure to both the left and independents. Her history of feuding with Biden and the fact that Massachusetts has a Republican governor are major drags on an already unlikely pick.
5. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Biden has expressed a desire for a running mate that is experienced and shares his vision for America; therefore, a Biden-Klobuchar ticket looks like a no brainer. Amy benefits from the two being such close friends since Biden wants to replicate the close relationship he had with Obama. According to the numbers, she is the most effective Democrat in the Senate and boasts double-digit wins in the same state that Hillary Clinton barely eked out. However, she has limited appeal to progressives and African Americans.
4. Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin
Biden knows he needs to win in a key state like Wisconsin, and for that reason, Tammy Baldwin is another smart progressive choice. Baldwin was just reelected by 11 points in the same state that gave Trump his 270th elector. The existence of Baldwin–Trump voters is a plus, but with how high the stakes are it is fair to be concerned with Baldwin being an unknown figure to voters of color. However, as a gay man, I would love to see a lesbian take down Mike Pence in a debate.
3. Former Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
A Solis pick would be unexpected, but she strengthens Biden’s ties to the labor movement and would garner enthusiasm with progressives and Hispanics. The former Obama official has a long record opposing trade deals like CAFTA and fought against anti-immigrant legislation in Congress. She would help in Arizona and Florida by bringing to the ticket decades of activism and organizing. However, she is not the generational shift that many want Biden to take, but I think discounting her would be a serious mistake.
2. Senator Kamala Harris of California
Kamala Harris is perhaps the most likely choice. She’s young, experienced, and the most prominent Black politician in the country. Although her failed presidential campaign showed a lot of indecision and equivocation, Joe learned firsthand how strong a debater she is and her attacks on him might hurt her. The left criticizes her criminal justice record and many still view her as a flip-flopper on healthcare, but perhaps she will be better at selling Biden’s message than her own. One thing is for certain, she is well-liked by women of color and they will be essential to winning.
1. Former Georgia Legislator Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams is first on my list not because of her race or gender, but because of what she has been able to achieve despite them. A lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a former Truman Scholar and nonprofit executive, Abrams would go to Washington, D.C. with a new kind of experience backed up by years of research and living the issues important to Americans. So, while her critics say she isn’t ready, I say she is more than ready to offer this country something new. Last year, she tripled minority turnout and energized young voters with her near-victory in Georgia, proving that she has the appeal and much-needed charisma to win.
Whomever Biden chooses will be a trailblazer for more than just women, she will be a trailblazer for everyone who ever felt unrepresented in history. This is because, for those of us along the margins of society, she will stand for the possibility of what can be regardless of who she is.