A former top adviser to Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) is accusing Joe Biden’s campaign of ignoring credible progressive candidates in its search for a vice presidential nominee.
Nina Turner, a onetime Ohio state senator who co-chaired Sanders’ failed 2020 campaign, told Hill.TV’s Rising on Thursday that the current makeup of Biden’s running mate shortlist signaled he was not serious about uniting progressive behind his candidacy.
“If you are a progressive, you need not apply, that’s just the bottom line here,” Turner said, noting that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a progressive former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, was being omitted from consideration despite her qualifications for the role. “No one should be surprised by this, certainly [former] Vice President Joe Biden has the right to pick whomever he decides to. However, there is a component within the mainstream Democratic Party that has a disdain for progressives.”
The former Sanders co-chair further claimed that progressives had to understand the current moment, defined by protests against police brutality and systemic racism in response to the death of George Floyd, was unlikely to be permanent.
“This woke crowd, this is just temporary, this is just an illusion,” Turner said. “This moment is forcing any of the Black women that you see even being mentioned … for the vice-presidential slot, they are being mentioned because of the bubbling up of the grassroots.”
Turner added that Biden’s running mate search should be “an affirmation of humanity” rather than an exercise in “just checking off the box.”
The comments come as the presumptive nominee’s campaign has pushed back its timeline for announcing its vice presidential pick. Biden, who has promised to make history by picking a woman as his running mate, initially floated the idea that an announcement would be made on August 1. This week, though, Biden told reporters that his campaign would not follow that schedule, but would instead unveil its choice by early August, “several weeks before the convention.”
Although the reason for the pushback remains unclear, it potentially might have something to do with the complications Biden’s campaign has encountered on its search.
Biden campaigned for his party’s nomination as an unabashed moderate, often willing to attack Sanders and other progressive rivals as pushing an unrealistic agenda. Most notably, this was the case with Medicare for All, the signature healthcare policy of the Sanders campaign, which was was adopted by most of the other progressives running. Throughout the primaries, Biden railed against the proposal, at times even accusing proponents of lying about its financial cost.
Given such attacks, Biden has struggled since winning the nomination to bring the most ardent of Sanders supporters into his camp, despite the Vermont senator’s endorsement. As such, many believe that if the former vice president were to pick a running mate outside the party’s progressive wing, he would risk alienating such voters even more ahead of the general election.