Editor’s Note: CNN host Van Jones is the CEO of the REFORM Alliance, a criminal justice organization. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
Black women have been betting on the Democratic Party since the civil rights era. It is time for the Democratic Party to bet on them.
That’s why this month Joe Biden must select a Black woman as his running mate.
Black women also do the hard work of organizing, registering voters and turning them out to vote. Without Black women, few of Democrats’ electoral or policy victories of the past 50 years would have been possible – and we would live in a far more unequal and less prosperous country.
Even now, many Black women are on the front lines, fighting to solve the nation’s problems – often with too few resources or too little respect. In many of America’s hospitals, the essential workers saving lives in nursing uniforms disproportionately are Black women.
Black women are also leading the charge to jail the police officers who shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her own home in March – rendering her, sadly, as yet another icon of systemic injustice. In fact, the biggest political movement of our time, Black Lives Matter, was co-founded by three African American women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tameti.
Fortunately for Biden and the rest of us, American politics boasts an array of Black female superstars, any of whom would be a great partner in his quest to win the election, and govern and reunite the nation. Strong progressives might dream of elevating living legends such as US Reps. Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters of California. But even a pragmatic moderate like Biden can pick from at least six Black women, all of whom would make outstanding candidates and vice presidents.
So let’s take a closer look at this best option:
Sen. Kamala Harris appears to be the front-runner – and for very good reasons.
Strengths: She is tough, smart and experienced – having already served ably in local, state and federal office. As District Attorney of San Francisco, she launched “Back on Track,” a re-entry program that deferred jail sentences for young people and offered other services in its place. As Attorney General of California, she launched tough investigations into two police departments over allegations of excessive force. And, as a US Senator, she has been a strong advocate in Senate hearings about issues relevant to the American people.
Harris has been tried and tested on the national stage during her own presidential run. And, as a US senator from the wealthy state of California, she could help the Biden campaign raise money in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. (By the way: No man was ever ruled out as vice president simply because he was ambitious, so let’s dispense with that nonsense criticism.)
Weaknesses: Biden might worry that her law enforcement background would be a turn-off for younger voters, who already associate him with the now-hated 1994 crime bill. He might also wonder whether they have good governing chemistry, since they clashed in the first Democratic primary debate last year.
Rep. Karen Bass of California is a highly accomplished, universally respected and deeply dedicated legislator at the state and national level.