Back in May, the Biden campaign announced that the former Vice President would be naming his own vice presidential candidate “around August 1” — a date that came and went over the weekend.
The campaign has now told reporters that the pick will likely come in the second week of August, making this possibly one of the fastest broken campaign promises in American history (I’m not sure on that, because there’s been a lot of history in the two hundred years we have collectively experienced since March of 2020). The Biden campaign’s holdup appears to be centered around what Biden wants and what people who aren’t Biden want.
As of Friday, it appeared that there were really two candidates – Kamala Harris and Susan Rice — though Nancy Pelosi has been privately pushing Rep. Karen Bass, it appears her star dimmed quickly. However, what is interesting is that between people pushing Bass and people pushing Rice, the only agreement anyone has is that anyone who isn’t Joe Biden doesn’t want Kamala Harris.
That in and of itself is a sign that the Biden camp is unsure of how it should position itself in this election and how it should approach Biden’s role as President should he win.
Rice served as National Security Adviser for Barack Obama, the same administration that Biden served as Vice President. Bass, meanwhile, is a longtime progressive California politician and ally of Nancy Pelosi. Each pick has its own “establishment” feel to it. Rice would be a likely choice to “carry on” Obama’s legacy as Biden’s successor, while Bass would be a means for Pelosi to continue to shape party policy through the White House.
Harris, it seems, does not represent the Democratic Party’s establishment — or they don’t think she does, at any rate. At the same time, progressive activists soundly rejected her in the primaries and most of her support fled for Biden and more “moderate” (inasmuch as they can be) candidates. If the running mate’s job was to shore up votes among the ultra-progressive, they could surely find someone better than her. Luckily for her, the running mate is never really a person who will get more votes out.
But the job of the running mate has historically been to shore up support among the party’s leaders. If the party’s establishment wanted to get the ultra-progressive politicians on board, they would offer up someone that the other side could agree to support. But if Pelosi and other old voices in the party are trying to get Bass or Rice on the ticket, then that means something a bit more troublesome is brewing within the party.
It’s no secret that the Democratic Party has been struggling with its own version of “tea party” insurgency. The rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others has proven to be a pain, and they have had to capitulate to them on numerous occasions to try and keep them in line (and often not really succeeded in doing so). While one could argue that Harris is a happy medium for both sides, the fact that Pelosi and the rest of the Party’s leadership are pushing their own people (those they deem “safer”) indicates that they don’t want to make concessions to the ultra-progressives and instead want to neuter them.
What makes the Harris situation stranger is that Biden himself is said to be the primary advocate for her, and he is certainly not someone you could really count among the ultra-progressive wing of the party. He is treating the pick in a more old-school way, though. He is looking for a politician who has “paid their dues” and has won elections. He wants a strong candidate beside him, a desire that is probably fueled in part by his struggles in public speaking as of late. He needs a strong surrogate on the campaign trail.
What we don’t know is whether Rice or Bass could be that surrogate for him. Based on past performance, we know Harris will be.
It is going to be a battle of wills to see who ultimately controls the ticket, and that appears to be the reason for the delay in naming a running mate. If they have pushed the choice back two weeks, it means that they aren’t quite there yet. Though they are running out of time.