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Echoes of 1984 in Biden’s Vice-Presidential Choice

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Echoes of 1984 in Biden’s Vice-Presidential Choice

The Wall Street Journal August 12, 2020
OtherCulture & Society

A ticket with a Catholic woman from Queens lost Catholics and women—and narrowly won Queens.

Maureen Dowd took it on the chin Saturday for stating in her New York Times column that “it has been 36 years since a man and a woman ran together on a Democratic Party ticket.” Hillary Clinton, who you may recall won the Democratic nomination in 2016 and chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate, was among those pointing out the error.

Ms. Dowd’s column was mainly about whether Joe Biden’s running mate, who we now know is California Sen. Kamala Harris, will have to endure the same indignities that Rep. Geraldine Ferraro did when she joined Walter Mondale’s ticket in 1984 to challenge President Reagan. The more interesting question might be the extent to which blunt appeals to gender and race still animate the American electorate today. As George Will put it after Ferraro died, “she was an instrument—Geraldine Ferraro was—of identity politics, a Catholic woman from Queens.” The result? Mondale lost Catholics and women. Reagan even came close in Queens.

Like all presidential candidates, Mr. Biden was looking for someone to help him—or at least not hurt him—geographically and with certain voting blocs. His campaign has made no secret of his strategy to win back white working-class residents of battleground states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin who left the Democratic Party to vote for Donald Trump. It’s hard to see how Ms. Harris will help him with those voters. Barack Obama won them over in 2008 by playing down racial differences on the campaign trail. Ms. Harris’s most memorable moment during the primary was to suggest that Mr. Biden was a racist for expressing opinions about forced busing in the 1970s that turned out to be nearly identical to her own.

Continue reading the entire piece here at The Wall Street Journal (paywall)


Jason L. Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, and a Fox News commentator. Follow him on Twitter here.

Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images