African-American activists are escalating their efforts to persuade former Vice President Joe Biden not to name Sen. Amy Klobuchar as his running mate, arguing he needs to choose someone who would excite black voters.
Those efforts come amid the national spotlight on the case of a black man in Minnesota who died on Monday after being pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer who had his knee to man’s neck. That situation appears to be turning up the volume on calls for Biden not to choose Klobuchar.
Klobuchar – the Minnesota senator who didn't resonate with black voters during her bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination – was already being criticized by activists as a choice that would not motivate black voters to support Biden in November’s general election. African-Americans are a key part of the Democratic Party’s base.
Now, the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., has seemed to amplify those calls.
A video that was recorded by a bystander shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck, pinning him to the ground for several minutes, as Floyd repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.” He died a short time later at a nearby medical facility. By Tuesday morning the video had gone viral across the nation – sparking protests and putting the incident firmly in the national spotlight.
Sunny Hostin -- the lawyer and columnist who’s a co-host of the popular daytime TV program "The View" -- on Wednesday argued that Klobuchar's a “non-starter” as she discussed Floyd’s death, which Hostin plainly called a “murder.”
“We're seeing that black people in Minneapolis are arrested at nine times the rate of a white person for nonviolent offenses," Hostin said. "That says something to me, and I think, you know, when we talk about politics, and we talk about Joe Biden's selection for a vice presidential pick, that is why the black community has said that Amy Klobuchar is a nonstarter for them, because in many respects from 1999 to 2007, she declined to prosecute over two dozen cases involving police killings of unarmed people."
Klobuchar’s prosecutorial record as the attorney of Hennepin County – Minnesota’s largest county – was at times a sore spot during her primary run.
In particular, was her handling of a case involving Myon Burrell. The black teenager was accused of the 2002 shooting death of an 11-year-old girl. Klobuchar spotlighted the case to showcase her toughness on crime, but critics raised questions about whether Burrell was railroaded by police. The issue stuck with the senator on the campaign trail, with protesters forcing her to cancel a rally in suburban Minneapolis days before Super Tuesday.
An investigation by The Associated Press found flaws in the case, which spurred some civil rights leaders in Minnesota to call for the senator to suspend her presidential campaign.
After she dropped out of the race following a poor showing in the South Carolina primary – where she won just 1 percent of the black vote -- Klobuchar did call for an independent investigation into the Burrell case. That call was applauded by the Minnesota NAACP.
Biden said in March that he’d name a female as his running mate if he won the nomination. And earlier this week the presumptive Democratic nominee noted that “multiple black women [are] being considered” for vice president. Among those thought to be in serious contention are Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who last year ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination, 2018 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams, and Rep. Val Demings of Florida.
Earlier this month, seven black strategists wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post urging Biden to select a woman of color as his running mate and warned that Klobuchar – if named – would “only alienate black voters.”
Aimee Allison -- founder of She the People, a group that promotes women of color in politics – told Politico last week that Klobuchar would “risk losing the very base the Democrats need to win” if she was picked as the party’s vice presidential nominee.
On Tuesday she tweeted, “When I said that Senator Klobuchar should in no way be a VP pick, I'm talking about a person that could write a statement about the police murder of George Floyd without saying POLICE MURDER or GEORGE FLOYD.”
Allison’s tweet included the re-tweet of Klobuchar’s statement regarding Floyd’s death, in which senator described the incident as “horrifying” and called for “a complete and thorough outside investigation into what occurred, and those involved in this incident must be held accountable.”
Klobuchar's statement was issued before Floyd's name was publicly reported.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison -- who is black and who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic presidential primaries -- tweeted, "@amyklobuchar thank you. Great statement."
Since ending her White House bid, Klobuchar’s endorsed a slate of racially diverse down-ballot candidates across the country, has worked with Abrams to push for vote by mail bill that enjoys minority support, and wrote a bill that would give students at historically black colleges expanded access to broadband.
Klobuchar’s many supporters point out that if she’s named as Biden’s running, she’ll boost Democratic efforts to recapture the white working class voters in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania who backed Donald Trump in 2016, helping the GOP nominee to narrowly flip the three Rust Belt states that had long voted for Democrats in presidential elections.
But timing is often everything in campaign politics, and the targeting of Klobuchar by critics comes as Biden’s facing his own controversy with black voters.
On Friday, he apologized during a conference call with black business leaders for comments he made hours earlier on the popular morning radio program "The Breakfast Club." Biden had told host Charlamagne tha God that "if you have a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump, then you ain't black."
Biden – who served for eight years as vice president under President Barack Obama -- has long enjoyed strong support in the African-American community. And their votes were crucial to his capturing of the Democratic nomination.
Some pundits – pointing to “The Breakfast Club” comments – have suggested that Biden now needs to name a black running mate to put the controversy to rest and to shore up his base.
But Fox News contributor Donna Brazile disagrees.
Brazile – who became the first black woman to steer a major presidential campaign in 2000 as she ran Vice President Al Gore’s bid – and who later went on to serve as Democratic National Committee chair – said that “there’re plenty of qualified black women who are capable of being president of the United States. She should be considered based on her merits, qualifications and most importantly, the ability to serve as President of the United States.”
Brazile stressed that “I don’t want this to go down the path that we’re putting a black woman on the ticket because Joe Biden has problems. There’s no evidence right now because of his remarks -- that he quickly apologized for – that he has a problem. If that was the case, then I’d say that Donald Trump needs a black woman on the ticket because of all of his problems.”
And in an op-ed on Fox News, she wrote that “Biden has won the overwhelming support of black elected leaders and millions of African-Americans who have judged him based on his record, leadership and character.”