This piece was originally published by The Hill on August 3, 2020.
Women achieve equality in life and in politics when they succeed based on merit, not because a man decides that a woman should have the job.
Last week, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden announced his agenda for women, which includes a renewed commitment to select a female as his vice presidential running mate.
There certainly are many Democratic women leaders with experiences that traditionally have served as qualifications for the role — from military heroism to federal office.
Besides being a U.S. senator, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois is an Iraq War veteran, Purple Heart recipient, and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) served as attorney general of California before being elected to Congress. In 2016, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) held the distinction of having the most bills enacted into law of the current Congress. And there were two other female senators who ran for the Democratic nomination: Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). This list doesn’t even include everyone who Biden’s campaign supposedly is vetting for the job.
But Biden’s decision to limit the pool of candidates to women undercuts any woman who is selected. Women achieve equality when they are selected after competing on their own with everyone, not a predetermined smaller group based on sex.
During the 2016 presidential race, Carly Fiorina said, “I’m not running because I’m a woman. … I’ve never been a token in my life. I just happen to be a woman. And I think the point of this nation is that everyone, regardless of what they look like, or who they are, or where they come from, every American should have the opportunity to use their God-given gifts and fulfill their potential.”
Fiorina’s argument was that people shouldn’t vote for her just because she is a woman, but because she was the best candidate who just happened to be a woman. This distinction matters. When this is the argument that wins, women win.
Women are rising to the top in politics and increasing their numbers. A record 131 women serve in the 116th Congress and there are now nine women governors.
Women can and do successfully compete against men in politics. It is insulting and inaccurate to suggest that a woman can only make it to the top when a man decides to pick her.
By committing to select a woman at a debate in March before he had figured out who would make the best running mate, Biden signaled that he would not be picking his VP based on merits or what the country needed as the election approached. Instead, he restricted his pool of vice presidential candidates exclusively to women to virtue signal — not to do what is best for women or the country. The issues facing our nation have dramatically changed since March when Biden made his announcement to help him win the Democratic primary.
If Biden had evaluated all the potential candidates, then determined who would be best for the job and that candidate happened to be a woman, that would be something worth celebrating.
Maybe the best candidate is a woman. But by announcing he was going to pick a woman months before he actually made the selection, Biden reduced the value of any symbolic victory for American women.
The nation faces major challenges. If Biden wins in November, his vice president will be among the most powerful understudies in history. It’s a shame that her qualifications will always be questioned because of how she was chosen.
Karin A. Lips is the founder and president of the Network of Enlightened Women, which educates women on conservative principles. She is a senior fellow with the Independent Women’s Forum and editor of “She’s Conservative: Stories of Trials and Triumphs on America’s College Campuses.” Follow her on Twitter @klips.