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Biden Should Resist the Lure of Identity Politics

The night Trump won the Presidency my thoughts were a mixed bag. Shock was the dominant feeling, of course. I expected Hillary Clinton to win, and I had resigned myself to the fact that she would be this nation’s first female President. As the returns were rolling in that Tuesday evening and it gradually became apparent Donald Trump would be the forty-fifth President, I sat down with my decaf coffee and realized that while I was certainly uneasy about the coming four years of a Trump Presidency I was immensely relieved my kids would grow up in a world in which Hillary Clinton was not the first female American President. 

The 2016 election was a wild ride dominated at times by discussion of America electing a female President. Somewhat unbelievably, four years later this year’s election is proving to be even wilder. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic, but not even this can stop some American politicians from indulging in identity politics. Joe Biden has been seeking the Presidency since I was a young girl, and, at long last, he is poised to be his party’s nominee this year. Given that Biden is seventy-seven years old, his selection of a Vice President is crucial. Unfortunately Biden continues to insist he will select a female running mate, effectively eliminating a great many otherwise qualified individuals from his list of potential running mates and ensuring another Presidential election cycle dominated by identity politics. 

Just this week Biden rebuffed a suggestion that he select New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as his running mate, again reiterating his pledge to select a woman. The answer to the Vice Presidential nominee question should always be the same: “I will select the individual most qualified to serve as the American President.” This certainly ought to be Biden’s only consideration when vetting potential running mates given that, should he win in November, Biden will be seventy-eight by the time he takes the oath of office. 

The one thing those who seek true equality for women should disavow is a female selected to serve because she is female. Being a woman is not in and of itself a qualification to serve as the American President or Vice President anymore than simply being male is. Biden constantly beating the males-need-not-apply drum with regard to his Vice Presidential slot is not the fulfillment of feminist dreams. Equality on the political stage means ditching identity politics and selecting men and women based on their ability and willingness to serve their constituents. There are women and men who would make an excellent running mate for Biden, but he is doing any future female running mate of his a great disservice by announcing, repeatedly, that his primary objective is to select a woman. 

While I don’t think it is always helpful or necessary to compare American politics to politics in the UK, it is difficult to ignore the looming shadow of the UK’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, when discussing female leaders on the world stage. Surely America will see a female serve as Vice President and President in the coming years. Today I pray the same prayer I did four years ago when Hillary Clinton lost, that the woman who inevitably breaks this glass ceiling in America is a woman of sound character who, like Lady Thatcher, can stand on the world stage alongside men and be about the business of her country rather than the business of constantly highlighting and divisively promoting her gender. 

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