There is a case for Hillary Clinton to put Bernie Sanders on the ticket as her running mate.
Once upon a time, there was an election year known as 1960. A young, handsome Democrat was doing pretty well in the primaries, but there was this one old codger who’d been around since the FDR years who was nipping at his heels. At the convention that summer, JFK accumulated 806 delegate votes, LBJ had 409, and the remaining 309 were divvied up amongst the other half dozen or so also-rans. How does the party go forward to take on Nixon, thus fractured?
By the end of the convention, JFK recognized in LBJ a good man (though someone who’d challenged him vociferously), and an opportunity to bring in constituencies that he was soft in. So he asked Johnson to be his running mate and Johnson graciously accepted. Many historians now say asking LBJ to be his running mate was one of the wiser decisions candidate Kennedy made. Not to suggest there are direct parallels between 1960 and 2016, but there’s a lesson to be learned in turning rivals into running mates.
LBJ was a complex man, and his presidency was a reflection of those turbulent times. The War on Poverty, racial inequality, the Civil Rights Act, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. By 1968, things were even worse. The Tet Offensive and the disaster Vietnam had become… No wonder the man said screw this on March 31st of that year. And not long after making that announcement, both MLK and RFK were assasinated. 1968 was a terrible year for America.
These are turbulent times too, though arguably not as turbulent, though no less urgent. International terrorism, a warming planet, income inequality, a Supreme Court that’s handed our elections over to the highest bidders, an utterly dysfunctional Congress that’s owned by the gun lobby—who’ve given unfettered access to guns to crazy people who shouldn’t have access to a pea shooter.
As of this writing, May 20th 2016, it appears that Secretary Clinton has the delegate count pretty much locked up. She’s almost certainly going to be the nominee. But there are problems with her candidacy, some of which Senator Sanders can relieve.
• She’s not as progressive as he is. Putting him on the ticket ameliorates her of that stigma without turning off the more centrist Democrats.
• Sanders does far better with younger voters, a demographic HRC sorely needs. His presence has energized many who weren’t even born yet when Bill and Hillary occupied the White House. Remember, to the under 40 voter, Hillary Clinton’s persona has been framed not by her role since Watergate, but by the loudmouths crying out in talk radio, cable television, etc. The Hillary they think they know isn’t the Hillary you think you know.
• Sanders is a champion for the poor and a tireless crusader against corporatism. If, as Vice President, he’s tasked with addressing those socio-economic issues, as Al Gore later did with climate change, that would lighten the load on the President and free her up to focus on international and diplomatic concerns—something that’s more in her wheelhouse anyway.
If asked to be her running mate, would he accept? I have no idea, but it wouldn’t hurt to try. And if he declines, she can always go back to whomever else she had in mind. No harm, no foul.
Is there a down side to a Clinton/Sanders ticket? Several, actually. Neither is exactly the proverbial spring chicken, and if Trump taps someone young and energetic as his Veep, they’ll try to make age an issue. Also, the cries of “socialist!” will run 24/7 on Fox News and talk radio, so it’ll be up to the DNC to rebut them—something I have little confidence in their ability to do. You and I both know it’s B.S., but to the average Foxophile, socialism is synonymous with child molester, even though today’s average conservatives couldn’t define socialism to save their lives.
But the up side? Instant party unity. What few disgruntled curmudgeons might still exist prior to the convention would be irrelevant. Unless Jesus Christ shows up at the RNC hootenanny in Cleveland this summer and begs Trump to let him be his running mate, a Clinton/Sanders ticket would almost guarantee victory. And THAT is the name of this game. Until a running mate transitions over to the role of Vice President, their “job” is to get the ticket over the top. I believe this would be an unstoppable team.
And worst case scenario? Let’s say the Republicans continue to beat the dead horse known as Hillary’s email controversy, and something truly scandalous comes of it (I’m not suggesting for a moment there’s any there there, but bear with me for the sake of argument). Should the GOP unearth some damaging dirt, they’ll no doubt try to impeach her. Impeaching the Clintons is their national pastime, after all. Should that happen, President Bernie Sanders would be sworn in, and the progressive movement gets a shot in the arm.
Are there risks? Sure. Every major decision carries risks. But in my never so humble opinion, asking Senator Sanders to be her running mate outweighs them. Make it so.
Feature image composite courtesy of BBC