East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee has always been known as a stalwart progressive, although, her brand of lefty politics has not often proven popular outside the Bay Area bubble. But as the entire country begins to embrace her political values in greater numbers, Lee is in the midst of a career renaissance that is now beginning to produce low-level vice-presidential whispers.
As Joe Biden continues to search for a female vice-presidential nominee, possibly a black female candidate, the list includes some big names like Sen. Kamala Harris or some less well-known and perhaps less experienced public officials.
Washington Post opinion writer James Downie wrote on Sunday that Lee is being overlooked by Biden’s campaign and would make an excellent choice for his VP.
The wave of black progressive victories this month in New York and Kentucky shows someone like Lee could excite this growing and vocal base in the Democratic Party. “If Biden wants to show he’s listening to these voters, there’s one name that apparently isn’t on his current vice-presidential shortlist, but should be: Rep. Barbara Lee,” Downie wrote.
Lee’s background as a black single mother who rose to chief of staff for former East Bay Rep. Ron Dellums, before serving in the state Legislature and serving in Congress since 1998, is an inspirational biography, Downie wrote.
Her decision in 2002 to presciently vote against giving President George W. Bush authorization for military use following 9/11 is legendary for its courage and forethought, Downie continued.
“In choosing Lee, Biden would get a fighter who has the policies to meet the moment. This month, she introduced a bill for a national commission that would ‘examine the effects of slavery, institutional racism, and discrimination against people of color,’” Downie wrote.
“Fifty-six percent of Americans — including 78 percent of Democrats — now support Medicare-for-all, which Lee has backed for years. And her years as ‘the House’s steadiest advocate for peace’ have permanently endeared her to progressive and younger voters and activists.”
However, there is no indication that Biden’s campaign is even eyeing Lee as a VP candidate. Even if it has been contemplated behind closed doors, there are number of potential problems with tabbing Lee. She is wholly untested to play on the national stage. Because Lee’s politics is in sync with the region’s voters, she has rarely faced any push back for beliefs and votes.
For many voters in the East Bay, “Barbara Lee speaks for me” — her famous campaign tagline — is not just a slogan, but a fact. But what happens when Lee is branded by Trump as a radical black activist or a typical “San Francisco liberal”? Would she have the requisite muscle memory to fight back on the fly? And why does the Democratic ticket need someone who represents constituencies that will already vote for Biden without much cajoling? Lee is a progressive and someone from the deep blue state of California? Both slam dunks for Biden in November.