While Rep. Karen Bass (D., Calif.) receives extensive vetting for Joe Biden's vice presidential slot, one Democratic consultant says the congresswoman "makes Bernie Sanders look like Ronald Reagan," the Atlantic reported Friday.
The Biden campaign is reportedly taking Bass's potential nomination "very seriously," but the California congresswoman's friendly relationship with Communist Cuba and past praise for late-dictator Fidel Castro could potentially turn away Cuban-American voters in Florida.
"There has been a shift on how to engage with Cuba, but there hasn't been a shift in Castro's popularity," said Democratic consultant and former Obama pollster Fernand Amandi.
Bass dismissed the concern, however, telling the Atlantic that Floridian voters won't care about her ties to Cuba because of the coronavirus. "The idea that this issue is the foremost issue on the minds of people in Florida, when people are dying, when there aren't [enough] ICU beds," Bass said. "It's hard for me to believe that that is what's going to be on people's minds in the next hundred days."
When Fidel Castro died in 2016, Bass remembered him as "comandante en jefe," a phrase often used to praise the Cuban dictator. Claiming she had simply attempted to translate "commander-in-chief," Bass said, "If I had to make that statement over again, I wouldn't use those words."
Bass's ties with Cuba go back several decades. In the 1970s, the congresswoman spent time working on construction in Cuba as a member of the Venceremos Brigade. The youth organization, founded by the Castro regime and the radical Students for a Democratic Society, organizes trips for Americans to Cuba to foster "solidarity with the Cuban Revolution by working side by side with Cuban workers and challenging U.S. policies towards Cuba," according to the group's official website.
"I was a young radical," Bass told the Sacramento Bee. "Those young people that are out saying ‘defund the police'? That was me."
Bass has also visited the island many times as a congresswoman and California assemblywoman, serving as an integral voice in support of normalizing Cuban-American relations. In 2015, Bass joined Secretary of State John Kerry's mission to reopen the American embassy in Cuba. A year later, President Obama tapped the congresswoman to join his delegation for his visit to the country.
In recent weeks, Bass's star has only risen for Team Biden. The Sacramento Bee editorial board—which is headed by a former aide to Sen. Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) —endorsed Bass's bid to become vice president on Friday over the California senator. Bass currently serves as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, which could serve Biden well during a period of severe racial unrest.
"If Biden chooses a California VP, he likely won't pick Karen Bass," the board writes. "Clearly, however, the community activist whose passion for service led others to draft her into electoral politics is the better choice."