I wrote yesterday about the dilemma Joe Biden faces in choosing a vice president: He’s under intense, public pressure to pick a black woman as his running mate, led in good part by Stacey Abrams, and that pressure is openly centered around an aggressive campaign to corner him into choosing Abrams herself. If he shows himself to be pushed around this easily, it will set the tone not only for the rest of his campaign but (should he win) for his presidency.
Astead Herndon of the New York Times reports in detail this morning on that effort. The most alarming part is that Biden is listening to Al Sharpton, who is dialing up the pressure and throwing his support publicly behind Abrams:
The Rev. Al Sharpton, for instance, who speaks to Mr. Biden regularly, is to announce his support for Ms. Abrams as vice president as soon as next week, according to those familiar with his plans . . . “Now I’ve told him my preference is for a black woman, but you’ve got to also choose the right black woman,” Mr. Sharpton said in an interview. “In the middle of this pandemic, you have to choose someone that people, and particularly black people, believe can govern from day one.”
It is hard to write anything so damning about Joe Biden as he speaks to Al Sharpton “regularly.” Sharpton is as toxic a figure as exists in American public life. Space does not permit here a full summary of Sharpton’s sins, which include inciting murder, riot, and arson, leading a hoax rape accusation against innocent men, anti-Semitism, and tax evasion; for more, you can read Seth Mandel, Stuart Stevens, Dennis Saffran, Jillian Melchior here and here, Jeff Dunetz here and here, and the Atlantic‘s roundup of bipartisan critics of MSNBC’s hiring Sharpton in 2011. (Maybe the most bizarre of all was Sharpton nodding along with a caller to his radio show who accused Sarah Palin of killing Michael Jackson). There are plenty of terrible people in American politics, but Sharpton has a body count to go with an unusually broad range of misconduct.
There’s a long, shabby list of Democrats who have enabled and embraced Sharpton, including Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Biden’s old boss, Barack Obama. Donald Trump, too, has helped legitimize Sharpton. All of them should be ashamed of themselves, and there is no excuse for Biden letting Sharpton wield this kind of influence over the most important decision of his presidential campaign. We may find out soon who is really in charge here.
This post has been updated since publication.