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Politics During A Pandemic

Who Will Joe Biden Pick As His Running Mate?

Who will the Democratic nominee be?  That’s what was on the mind of a lot of my students in our Women’s Studies course, as we said our goodbyes and headed out for our Spring Break in early March.  The unprecedented field of six women running for the Democratic nomination had dwindled to one:  Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, who, polling around 1-2%,  perhaps just didn’t get around to formally dropping out of the race.  Most of us could not have predicted that the entire world’s attention would turn away from politics when the global pandemic of the Coronavirus swept across the globe, killing thousands of people. 

Each day President Donald Trump is leading a task force in a televised presentation to update us on the status of the pandemic, and what the country is doing to come to the aid of the millions of people affected by the scourge.  So although the question is who will presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden choose, instead of focusing on campaign issues, we are learning a whole new vocabulary, such as PPE (personal protective equipment), social distancing and what it means to “flatten the curve.” It gives President Trump, a surprising television platform, one that seems to be grimly gripping our attention.

            Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden cannot hope to compete for the public’s attention with his basement TV studio, set up to allow him to communicate in the age of social distancing.  He does, however, have an opportunity to garner significant media attention when he announces his running mate, who he has vowed will be a woman.  If we allow some “magical thinking” about who the perfect running mate is for Joe Biden, especially at this time, our attention turns to what is needed most right now.  Someone once said that a week is a lifetime in politics, and at no time has this been truer than now, when each week—actually each moment–brings so many changes.  Former president Barack Obama advised Biden to choose someone who is yin to his yang and who could offer what he is lacking.  From a communication perspective I would  say Biden could use a dynamic speaker and debator and someone considerably younger with significant verve.

            With this moment by moment changing landscape of life in the United States, a running mate for Joe Biden who has a medical background, or someone who is on the frontlines of the corona virus crisis makes  the most compelling choice. A female Sanjay Gupta perhaps:  educated, compassionate, excellent on message and young enough to add exuberance to the Biden ticket while speaking with credibility to the current health crisis.  Some possibilities?  How about:

Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota made a strong bid for president and seemed to get better as the campaign went on.  She’s funny and smart but may lack the kind of charisma to call attention to Biden’s campaign from naysayers who think he is just too old school establishment.  That her husband had the virus could even give her campaign a boost, in a strange “of the moment” way.

Kim Schrier, a Democrat from Virginia who won a Congressional seat in the 2018 mid-term elections for Washington’s 8th Congressional District seat, long held by a Republican.

Val Demings, congresswoman from Florida who gained national attention for her role in the impeachment hearings.   

Kamala Harris,  senator from California who made a surprisingly lackluster presidential showing and dropped out two months before the Iowa caucuses.  She took Biden on for his position on busing and has excellent speaking skills and a California-cool kind of charisma.  

Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan who rose to national attention as she pleaded with the federal government to pay attention to her state, which quickly rose as a hot spot in the Coronavirus epidemic.  

Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island governor who came to national attention also over the Coronavirus.

Or will it be a woman, who, like Sarah Palin, few Americans had ever even heard of?

Only time with tell and only Joe Biden may know which direction he is leaning.  Admittedly, this kind of exercise is a bit like “parlor games,” so who do you think it will be?

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