Joe Biden will soon make one of the most important decisions of his candidacy, and the former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee promised to pick a woman as his running mate.

While there are several outstanding women across the country, there is increasing pressure that in order to energize the base, Biden must pick a qualified African American woman for the job. I agree. The stakes of this election are incredibly high and getting this wrong could be costly. If Biden wants to win in November, he needs a qualified black woman by his side.

Voters are no longer going to accept party leadership’s excuse that “we can’t find anyone qualified.” Viable candidates include U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, U.S. Rep. Val Demings and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams, as well as big-city mayors like Atlanta’s Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has received national acclaim for her impressive leadership during the COVID-19 crisis. There is too much talent that can not only help Biden win the presidency, but if necessary, could step into the presidency itself.
In addition to the existence of an extremely qualified bench of black women to consider as VP, African American women are a powerful voting bloc in the electorate and have determined the outcome of several recent elections. Ask U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat from Alabama, if the black vote mattered in his election. Ask Nancy Pelosi if the turnout of motivated black women helped her regain her title as Speaker of the House.

Black women are historically leaders in their families and their communities. Their voice and votes could be the key to energizing and unlocking entire neighborhoods. This is particularly important in the key electoral states the party lost in 2016. In 2016, turnout fell among African Americans by about 7 percent, approximately 750,000 voters. High turnout in urban cities and rural communities can turn the tide in key swing states.

The party line that the threat of another four years of President Donald Trump will alone increase black turnout is a one-dimensional response to a very complicated reality. Democrats and Biden must motivate by running with candidates who will inspire the base. This is not the time for cookie-cutter candidates. The November elections and the future of the Democratic Party hangs in the balance of a decision that must excite the base and significantly increase turnout.

We cannot ignore the fact that in November, voters will have to choose between two white men in their 70s in an era where inclusion and representation are crucial to progress. For the Democratic Party to tout itself as the party of diversity, they need someone in the White House to reflect those values. What better place than in the vice presidency?

The chorus for a black female veep grows louder each day. More than 200 black women — leaders in the public and private sectors — recently sent a letter to Biden, urging him to pick a black woman. Signers ranged from actors Vanessa Williams and Pauletta Washington, to former Essence magazine editor Susan Taylor, to Johnetta Cole, former president of Spelman College.

Biden is expected to announce his running mate later this summer. He’s under considerable pressure, but this decision will forge his candidacy and shape the future of his party. DNC Chairman Tom Perez said, “Black women led us to victory; black women are the backbone of the Democratic Party.”

It’s time to prove it.