Biden’s VP Choice Could Win or Lose the Election

Update:  August 11, 2020

See Alexandra Petri, “Team Biden wishes it had known something was slightly wrong with every woman before promising a female,” Washington Post, August 11, 2020.

Joe Biden’s choice of a vice-presidential candidate may win or lose the election.

Biden made a huge mistake when he announced in March that he would base his selection of  his VP candidate on the criterion of sex.

He appears to be on the verge of making a similar mistake by basing his choice on race.

With few exceptions, most of the “candidates “ for the vice-presidential nomination would not be on Biden’s “short list” if it were not for sex and/or race.

The whole process of selecting a VP candidate has been a shameful spectacle which resembles a popularity contest. In proceeding in this manner, Biden has shown himself to be weak and indecisive.

Only one criterion should be uppermost in his mind as he makes his choice: Who will help him win an electoral victory in a tight race with Donald Trump?

The question of who would be ready to take over as president suggests infirmity and a lack of self-confidence on the part of Biden, and in any case will be moot if he loses the election. First, he has to win, and that is far from a foregone conclusion.

For an insightful analysis, from France, see

Maxime Chervaux (Politiste), “Joe Biden n’est pas le grand favori de la présidentielle américaine; Le politiste Maxime Chervaux considère que le candidat démocrate va souffrir face à Donald Trump sur au moins trois sujets : la sécurité, l’immigration et la Chine,” Le Monde, le 06 août 2020 (à 05h00, mis à jour le 07 août 2020 à 15h15).

Nonetheless, Biden still has a chance to recover from these potentially fatal mistakes by taking bold, decisive action.

Even now, he could decide to pick the best possible vice-presidential candidate based solely on a person’s character and track record and his or her potential to help him win the presidency in November.

Biden’s victory is of critical importance to the nation, and to the cause of democracy throughout the world.  It is imperative that he win and that Trump be removed from office, in order to:

1) put in office a team that can implement a national strategy to control the coronavirus and the economic devastation it has caused and is causing;

2) elect a mentally stable and rational commander-in-chief who can be trusted to deal calmly with nuclear threats and the nuclear codes (see William Perry, The Button); and

3) remove from power the most corrupt and lawless administration in the country’s history which, if reelected, would pose a mortal threat to the nation’s Constitution and democratic institutions.

In the Observer’s opinion, Biden’s best choice for vice-president, using these criteria, would be Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York.   Biden could explain that the world has changed since March, and that the nation now faces an existential threat in the form of a coronavirus pandemic that is devastating both the country’s people and its economy. With some 160,000 Americans dead as of today, another 100,000 or 150,000 could die by January 20, 2021, and who knows how many more after that if Trump is reelected. Tens of thousands of these deaths were and are avoidable.

No one in the U.S. is better qualified than Andrew Cuomo to organize and execute a national strategy to combat Covid-19. The New York Governor has an extraordinary track record of following the science, mobilizing the population, and effectively deploying resources.

Cuomo’s selection would remind everyone that the coronavirus catastrophe is a life and death question that should be the central issue in the 2020 campaign.  Cuomo, moreover, has been brilliant in eliciting the active participation and support of the people of New York in efforts to control the pandemic.

The second best choice for VP is Elizabeth Warren. She has been vetted thoroughly, and is well-suited to lead the effort to dismantle the robber-baron policies of the Trump Administration. Earlier perceptions of her being too far to the left are irrelevant now, as it has become evident that an extraordinary effort by the Government will be required to deal with the pandemic and to get the country back on track.

Gretchen Whitmer could be a good third choice, though she has not been vetted at the national level.  She has a good record on Covid-19, and could definitely help Biden secure electoral votes in the Midwest.  She is apparently under serious conversation, having met with Biden last weekend.


Matt Viser, “Gretchen Whitmer met with Joe Biden to discuss vice presidential nomination,” Washington Post, August 7, 2020 (11L30 p.m. EDT).

None of the other candidates on the list have been fully vetted at the national level (except for Kamala Harris). None would be on Biden’s list if they weren’t black or women.

To select Cuomo, Warren, or Whitmer would represent a certain break with the identity politics that seem to have dominated in the Democratic Party in recent years. Precisely for that reason it would strengthen Biden’s candidacy.

To make such a choice would recognize certain brute facts, however difficult it may be to discuss them within the Democratic Party.  The first is that the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, is running an avowedly racist campaign, appealing not only to racists but also to all those who may be tired of the wall-to-wall media coverage of African Americans and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

Here, Biden needs to distinguish between what is just, right, and true, on the one hand, and what may be required to win the electoral college in the phantasmagorical media and propaganda circus and atmosphere which Trump has created, on the other.

He must operate in the reality that is, and not the one we used to know and which many of us would undoubtedly prefer to be living in now.

It is regrettable but perhaps true:  This may simply not be the year to run on a ticket with a black woman as the VP candidate.  To do so could play directly into Trump’s racist strategy, which is aimed at riding a white backlash into a second term in the White House.

It has become almost impossible to freely discuss issues of race within the Democratic Party, or even the society.  Jim Clyburn and other African-Americans are probably the only ones who can raise such issues.  They should speak out, loudly, as to some extent Clyburn has already done in seeking to create space for Biden to choose a non-black vice-presidential candidate if that is his preference.

Biden could also announce that he would be giving the most serious consideration to the appointment of Kamala Harris as Attorney General and Susan Rice as Secretary of State, two positions for which they seem to be extraordinarily well-qualified.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.