Much to the disappointment of activists and those who hoped to elect the first woman president, the Democratic race has narrowed down to two white men in their seventies—former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders.
But Biden made news at the latest CNN debate on March 15 with a new commitment to choose a woman as his vice president, if he wins the nomination. (Sanders came close, responding to the question with: “In all likelihood, I will.”)
While Biden has hinted in the past that he’d like to run with a woman, this was the first time he articulated it as a firm pledge. (He also reiterated his promise to nominate the first black woman to the Supreme Court.) “I commit that I will, in fact, appoint a woman to be vice president,” Biden told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “There are a number of women qualified to be president tomorrow.”
A number of those women are, of course, Biden’s former competition. Senators Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, and Elizabeth Warren have all dropped out of the presidential contest, increasing the pressure on the men who remain to choose a woman for what some call the race’s “consolation prize.”
The women’s activist group Supermajority has circulated a petition calling on both Biden and Sanders to commit to a woman with them on the ticket. Hillary Clinton said she would “love” to see a woman in the position. But it is now official: If Joe Biden is the nominee, a woman will appear on the presidential ticket.
The news made instant waves on Twitter—a lone bit of unexpected news in a stressful time. “@ewarren @staceyabrams and @KamalaHarris please sleep next to your phones. Let’s go!” tweeted the investor Arlan Hamilton. Even former presidential candidate Andrew Yang weighed in, tweeting: “Wow Joe just committed to a woman as VP. I like it.” He went on to note in a follow-up tweet that Harris and Klobuchar are obvious choices to sit “at or near the top of the shortlist.” (Some were less positive, criticizing the pledge as a form of “tokenism” and comparing Biden’s spottier record on issues like abortion access and civil rights to Sanders’ more progressive positions.)
Mattie Kahn is the culture director at Glamour.