The PredictIt markets are putting the odds of the Democratic nominee for VP being African-American at more than 70 percent.
These odds reflect trader sentiments that have hardened since the latest string of racial tensions. Amid episodes of videographed white-on-black discrimination, police brutality, and looting across major cities, traders are concluding that heretofore favorites such as Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) are disqualified and that Joe Biden will gravitate toward African-American candidates who can appeal to his base.
Making money in this market requires us to gauge not merely the state of politics in the Democratic Party, but also the mindset of the one individual who has near-total autonomy to make the decision. This means considering an uncomfortable question: Does Joe Biden want an African-American running mate?
As an American, I would like to believe that presumptive major party nominees select their running mates without being clouded by their racial prejudices. As a trader, I know that, historically, this is exceptional rather than a norm.
Over the course of his career in politics, Biden has accumulated a long track record of racially insensitive remarks. “Poor kids” (juxtaposed with “white kids”), “gangbangers,” and patrons of 7-11 with a “slight Indian accent”, among others, have been on the receiving ends of Biden’s ad lib commentary on race.
Many of these remarks are recent and came during critical periods of his career when he had every incentive to conduct himself with greater tact. Eyeing a spot on the national ticket, Biden gushed that presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama was, “The first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.”
The issue is not simply a matter of clumsy word choice. Even if judged by the standards of his time, Biden’s record on civil rights is hardly a paragon of justice. From busing to crime, many of his contemporaries faced similar political dilemmas but chose a more progressive path than Biden.
Biden’s record is not only well-documented, but came under sustained attack from his Democratic colleagues during the presidential primaries—notably from Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who traders regard as a 39% frontrunner.
Biden’s track record of insensitivity toward minorities is too long-standing and consistent to write off as a series of gaffes.
I do not believe Biden is racist in the sense that he has animus towards those who are non-white. He appears, by all accounts, to be a kind and compassionate man. Even his racially-charged remarks can be interpreted in an endearing and well-meaning light—a reason, perhaps, why he has built and sustained such a strong relationship with the African-American community. And like Americans across the political spectrum, there is no reason to discount the possibility that Biden’s perspectives on race are evolving, particularly against the backdrop of every outrage the Trump presidency musters.
The totality of Biden’s record, however, is indicative of unconscious bias. It stems from a mindset that allows him to think that it is acceptable to reminisce about the Senate of the 1970s, when you could “get things done” in an atmosphere of “civility” with segregationists. It betrays the temperament of a career politician who never allowed his progressive instincts to get on the wrong side of the resentful white voters who determined his fate at the polls for four decades. And it points to an explanation for why Biden has repeatedly boasted with specificity about his role in some of the toughest crime laws in America, but apparently could not, in a now infamous an interview with Charlamagne tha God, remember the title of his plan for the African-American community.
Biden’s rhetoric and record, in my view, tells us who he ultimately considers to be in his peer group—who he feels he can relate to and trust. Unlike those traders who think Biden is primarily making a pick with regard to the short-term whims of his base, I think Biden’s comfort-level matters in the sense that he views his running mate as a governing partner.
Biden clearly does not have the courage to select a confidante with little regard to electoral considerations, like George W. Bush did with Dick Cheney. If he did, it is unlikely he would have preemptively limited consideration to women.
But I am also unconvinced that he will select a running mate without feeling confident that the individual could be a like-minded part of his team, and could step into the presidency.
Unlike the markets, which are putting a premium on African-American candidates, I am reluctantly concluding that Biden’s prejudices will steer him toward an experienced white woman.
There will of course be people in Biden’s orbit who push back, and tell him that he should compensate for his record by selecting an African-American candidate on the logic that this would shield him from scrutiny.
But competing voices advocating for a white woman will likely play into Biden’s confirmation bias that this is the responsible choice, both politically and in terms of responsibility to the country to anoint a capable successor. If looting and civil unrest spreads, and political opinion over the next month or so veers back from civil rights concerns in the direction of law and order, the argument will be that much easier to rationalize.
I am maxed out No on every African-American listed in the VP market.
Pratik Chougule is a contributor to Star Spangled Gamblers and author of the book How to Make Money from Political Predictions: A Guide to Generating High, Steady Returns from PredictIt.