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Bankole: Black women will be key for Democrats in 2020

Bankole Thompson

A lot of names are being thrown around as possible running mates for whoever becomes the Democratic nominee for president next year. Even Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has made the list of potential candidates for vice president, according to some politicos close to the presidential campaign of former Vice President Joe Biden.

But Democrats would be foolish to render an all-white presidential ticket in 2020. That would mark a colossal failure to recognize the rapid change that is taking place inside the party and the demands from the grassroots for the party to begin to reflect the true meaning of the big tent.

Too often, white liberals preach diversity only in press releases but it does not reflect the structure of the Democratic apparatus. Who gets seated at what table, and who is appointed to certain committees is largely a function of high-powered connections, and in most cases competent and courageous black women are left on the outside looking in.

In fact, two years ago when Thomas Perez took the helm at the Democratic National Committee, he faced a mutiny from some black women who have been involved in Democratic politics publicly expressing discontent about the party and how they’ve been excluded in top hires.

A 2017 letter to Perez from a group of prominent African American women stated the following: “Black women have consistently shown up for Democrats as a loyal voting bloc, demonstrating time and again that we are crucial to the protection of progressive policies such as economic security, affordable health care and criminal justice reform. ...We have shown how black women lead, yet the Party’s leadership from Washington to the state parties have few or no black women in leadership.”

The sentiments expressed in the letter are nothing new. For a long time, they’ve been the topic at dinner tables, coffee shops and in political meetings. What’s new is that black women who have been frustrated with how the party has sidelined them are now going public to express legitimate discontent. They are shaming the party to step up, because black women have always been the largest voting bloc in the black community, casting votes that decided elections, including that of former President Barack Obama.

Another case in point is Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones faced a tough election to the U.S. Senate last year, but he eventually succeeded because of black women who came out forcefully to successfully support his campaign.

That’s all the more reason why Democrats must choose a black woman as a running mate in 2020. None of the top Democratic contenders for the presidency must be allowed to run an all-white male ticket. Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, whose groundbreaking campaign in the Deep South showed us the power of inclusive politics, would be an electrifying running mate on any Democratic ticket. 

Stacey Abrams gives the keynote address at the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Memorial Luncheon at the NAACP Convention at Cobo Center in Detroit on Monday,  July 22, 2019.

Abrams is bold, courageous and independent. She is not a status quo Democrat and has demonstrated a willingness to challenge the system to address inequality. She will bring a fresh and needed perspective that is missing in how the party engages black women and the black community at large.

Boston Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley could also add a new dimension to the Democratic ticket because of her insistence on getting young people engaged and challenging party powerbrokers to do more for the black community.

Both Abrams and Pressley represent a new energy and promise that Democrats looking for real change should readily embrace. If either ends up on the Democratic ticket next year, it will be a game-changer and it will give a lot of people who have been ignored an ownership in the discussions about their future.

More importantly, it will underscore the last paragraph in the letter the group of black women sent to DNC boss Perez: “We stand ready to join you, your team, and party leadership on the front lines but not as silent partners.”

Twitter: @BankoleDetNews

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