Former vice president and the presumptive Democratic Party nominee Joe Biden says he will announce his running mate before Aug. 1. He has said it will be a woman. And a lot of the speculation says it will be a woman of color.
So why not someone from Indian Country?
This is Trahant Reports.
It’s true that Native Americans are a tiny minority — roughly 2 percent of the population — but Native voters could make a difference in at least six states, four of which Donald Trump won four years ago. (Those four states: Arizona, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Michigan a total of 52 electoral votes.)
There is a story here.
In 2014, a rookie WNBA basketball player, Shoni Schimmel, was on the all-star ballot. She did not even start for her team, the Atlanta Dream, yet she captured the imagination of Indian Country and the voter turnout for that election was amazing. She ended up taking second place, beating far more established WNBA players with name identification. It was a social media election — the ideal landscape for a dedicated Native community.
Normally a WNBA election would not be relevant to a presidential contest. But think about the landscape in 2020. It’s a pandemic election. Most of the campaign will be on social media, where a dedicated community can make a difference.
That’s the “why.” What about the who?
There are three potential running mates that immediately come to mind …
Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth Nation, is media savvy and the first Native woman to win that office. She has been in the news a lot in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. “As a Native American woman, it is not lost on me that I work in a system that was created, in many ways, to eliminate and erase me … So I’m not interested in just making policy change here and there,” she told NPR; it’s time for systemic change.
The second Native American who ought to be on any list for vice presidential consideration is Rep. Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo. She’s a Democrat from New Mexico. What does she bring? She recently told The Albuquerque Journal, “It’s no secret, I know what it is like to live paycheck-to-paycheck. … I know what it is like to piece together health care. I know what it is like to be on food stamps.”
Both Flanagan and Haaland are experienced campaigners who would immediately contribute to a presidential candidate. The third person on my list has campaigned, but her strength is experience in government. That’s Alaska’s former Lt. Governor Val Davidson, Yupik. She is currently the president of Alaska Pacific University.
What she could bring to the White House is the experience of actually running a large government organization, Alaska’s Department of Health and Human Services. She is an expert in health care (including Native health) and can explain in everyday terms why a government spends X on this and not Y on that.
She could make Medicaid cool again.
I am Mark Trahant.