Potential for 2 Black VPs is a moment for celebration — and reflection — advocates say

Potential for 2 Black VPs is a moment for celebration — and reflection — advocates say

The 2024 election holds up a historic possibility: Two Black vice presidential candidates facing off on opposing tickets. 

While Vice President Harris remains on the Democratic ticket with President Biden, rumors are swirling that Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) may be chosen as former President Trump’s running mate. 

It would be a watershed moment in a country that continues to grapple with its legacy of racism. 

“I remember having these conversations in 2018, when you saw a number of Black folks running for governor,” Rashad Robinson, spokesperson for Color Of Change PAC, told The Hill.  

“While we didn’t win those races, now you see a number of Black lieutenant governors in places like Pennsylvania and Michigan,” he added. “You have this sort of real sense of people taking on opportunities and roles, and I think that that is important.” 

A record 62 Black members are serving in Congress, accounting for 11.5 percent of total membership.  

The number of elected Black Americans speaks to a desire among an increasingly diverse set of voters to be represented in public office.  

“America is not just Black and white anymore, America is a combination of Asians, Indians, Latinos and everything in between,” Camille Moore, chair of the Georgia Black Republican Council, told The Hill.  

“When the party continues to put up candidates or present candidates for any level that do not show the diversity of this country, you’re going to have a problem winning elections.”

But Robinson warns that as important as representation is, voters must also keep a critical eye on the candidates.  

“We know that just because you are Black doesn’t mean that you are interested in doing anything for Black folks,” said Robinson. “There is a long and unforgivable history of Black folk being servants to racial discrimination on pathways to personal power.” 

Both Harris and Scott are familiar with Black voter frustrations.  

Harris was the first Black district attorney of San Francisco and the first Black attorney general of California. That history as a prosecutor was a major issue in 2020, when she launched her own bid for the White House before Biden selected her as a running mate.  

She led what some considered a tough-on-crime agenda. As the Democratic Party has grown more progressive — particularly among Black voters — Harris’s history evoked concerns among racial justice advocates.

Moore said that these concerns sometimes resurface when Harris addresses voters. 

“I think that her manner or her delivery in which she relates to people goes back to her being a prosecutor,” said Moore. “I think that it comes across very stiff, very matter of fact, which in many instances can turn off the average Black person.” 

Still, when Biden won in 2020, Harris’s identity was celebrated among Black voters nationwide.  

But Black voter support for Biden has begun to waver. Recent polls show Biden’s approval rating among Black adults at 42 percent. Harris’s approval rating also appears to be sinking, with only 40 percent of voters having a favorable opinion of the vice president, according to January polling by the LA Times. 

But Scott has also come under fire recently from Black leaders, particularly because of his endorsement of Trump after dropping his own presidential bid.

Scott’s association with the GOP indicates support for policies that have been harmful for Black Americans, said Democratic strategist Antjuan Seawright, and could be his downfall. 

“What Kamala Harris has stood for, who she stood with and what she stood against versus the alternative — I think it will be a no-brainer for how the majority of African Americans feel about where their heart, head and where their vote should be,” said Seawright, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy. 

As a member of the GOP, Scott has pushed back against the idea of institutionalized racism, criticized the Black Lives Matter movement and blamed media for exaggerating police violence. 

But Moore suggests that Scott could alter perception of both the Republicans Party and Trump if he secures a Cabinet position. 

“I think that if Trump is the nominee and Scott is his VP, I think you will start seeing diversity in the message that is being presented,” said Moore. “Scott will have some impact in terms of policy statements that the president may roll out because Scott has to be out there himself, speaking about issues.” 

But Trump continues to poll poorly among Black voters; a December poll found that only 25 percent of Black adults had a favorable view of him.  

Republicans remain hopeful, however.  

“I would say the days of Democrat politicians being able to earn the Black vote simply by having a ‘D’ next to their name are over,” Brian Seitchik, GOP strategist and Trump campaign alum, told The Hill.  

“They’re going to have to explain to Black voters and all voters how a vote for them is going to improve their lives on a daily basis, and Democrats have just not done an effective job of that recently, opening up an opportunity for Republicans.” 

Moore adds that Scott has an opportunity to present himself as a relatable candidate to Black voters across political lines.  

“He can talk in a manner and use language that the common Black American can listen to and say, OK, he’s just Joe Blow down the street, right?” Moore said. “Because he talks like us, and he doesn’t come across as someone that comes from a profession that is very stiff and sterile.”

But Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, points out that Black voters have consistently voted Democratic even when multiple Black candidates are presented – such as the 2022 Senate battle in Georgia between Hershel Walker and the Rev. Raphael Warnock.  

“Black votes as a voting bloc have been really clear in the way that they show up and in candidates that they support,” said Shropshire. “They’ve been really clear that you cannot just offer us any old Black person. Black voters understand candidates that understand the issues, that will represent the interests of Black communities and Black voters across the board for decades now have rejected Black Republican candidates.”  


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