Sunday night’s Democratic debate made it visibly apparent that our options for our future president are grim: No matter how you cut it, we’re getting one of three senescent white men, and barring catastrophe, nothing is going to change that.
Many of us are gravely disappointed that four years after the most disturbing election in history, the Democratic machine still failed to produce anything more electrifying than Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. They both know how it looks—a field of 53 contenders, including several viable women and people of color—whittled down to them. In apparent recognition of this fact, Biden has promised he’ll pick a woman to be his VP, saying,
“I commit that I will, in fact, pick a woman to be vice president. There are a number of women qualified to be president tomorrow. I would pick a woman to be my vice president.”
He also promised that if elected, he’d pick a black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
But picking a woman for the sake of picking a woman is a tired move. John McCain pulled that stunt back in 2008 with Sarah Palin who, before she sang Baby Got Back in a bear costume, was known as being one of the most memorably inept politicians in history until, well, you know. Women are not inherently good choices because of their gender configurations, and the idea that scattering his office with them in a gesture toward parity will somehow undo his long anti-woman voting record is as patronizing as it is cynical.
Since women are, in fact, just people, Biden’s options range from great to underwhelming. His rumored choices include everyone from Stacey Abrams, who would be a fantastic president in the not-terribly unlikely event of Biden’s death, but also Amy Klobuchar, a milquetoast centrist whose policies most Americans couldn’t list if they had to.
Sanders said that he would, “in all likelihood,” also choose a woman as his running mate. It’s not that he’s being evasive; rather than making a splashy announcement for the sake of headline-grabbing, he’s doing the much harder work of ensuring parity for women via anti-sexist platforms like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.
Biden’s hope is that with a woman at his side, liberal voters will forget about the time he tried to gut contraception coverage in the Affordable Care Act and his support of the Hyde Amendment, in addition to his obvious inability to stop belittling the women he comes into casual contact with. But this gambit didn’t work for McCain in 2008, and choosing a woman for the simple fact of doing so likely won’t work now.