Experts: Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden nears decision on running mate

Published: 5 August 2020

As Joe Biden nears the announcement of his vice-presidential choice, the top contenders and their advocates are making final appeals. The leading contenders include California Sen. Kamala Harris, California Rep. Karen Bass and Obama national security adviser Susan Rice. The selection amounts to the most significant choice Biden has confronted in his nearly five-decade political career. He has pledged to select a woman and is facing calls to choose the first Black woman to compete on a presidential ticket. (CTV News)

Here are some experts from McGill University that can provide comment on this issue:

Barry Eidlin, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

Joe Biden has spent his entire career as a weathervane, adjusting his positions as the political winds shifted. In the 1980s and 90s, this meant that he bragged about slashing social programs, and enthusiastically supported ‘tough on crime’ policies that aggravated many of the problems that motivate #BlackLivesMatter protesters today, including mass incarceration and police brutality. Today, in the wake of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, it means that he knows he must choose a woman, preferably a Black woman, as his running mate. This is progress, and a change from Trump’s overt racism and misogyny. But a more diverse Democratic Party ticket with Biden at the top will do little to solve the problems that have sparked one of the largest protest movements in U.S. history. Beyond the symbolism of potentially naming the first Black woman vice president, Biden’s policies are unlikely to address the calls for racial justice and structural reform that have grown louder in recent months.”

Barry Eidlin is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology. As a comparative historical sociologist, his research explores the changing relationship between social mobilization, political processes, and ideology in advanced capitalist democracies.

barry.eidlin [at] (English, French)

Jason Opal, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of History and Classical Studies

Biden has two choices for VP: an experienced and known personality to evoke a kind of "return to Obama-style normalcy," or someone who appeals to and represents the progressive-left elements in the Democratic Party. In category one, Susan Rice or Kamala Harris would be the front-runners, while in category two, Stacy Abrams would be the likely champion. Of course, Biden's choice speaks to the larger political tension that runs through his entire campaign, if not his entire career: How to appeal simultaneously to the elusive "Middle America" and to activist/progressive elements at the same time?”

Jason Opal is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of History and Classical Studies, where he teaches and writes about the US Constitution in different periods of American history. His work tries to integrate social, cultural, and intellectual history and to shed light on such broad topics as nationalism, capitalism, democracy and U.S.-Canada foreign relations.

jason.opal [at] (English, French)

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