As I said last year, Hillary’s biggest mistake was to pick a male clone of herself as her vice-presidential running mate. Did she ever call Bernie to see if he might be interested in the job so the left could begin to feel like they finally had skin in the game? No, that would be too old-school. In realpolitik, you build alliance between the two largest factions. You do it like Kennedy/Johnson, who hated each other but won the election. That’s what we want, right?
Why anyone would want these two jobs right now is beyond my comprehension. FDR rose to the task, but he got all his crises one by one, the depression, the jobs programs—oh, the socialism! The war. They all started at different times, and the job killed the man, his smoking habit notwithstanding.
Why would Joe or anyone want to walk into the White House, just as the pandemic is peaking, hundreds of thousands newly buried, race relations as bad as the 1950s, the worst unemployment in history, federal bureaucracies heavily injured, the Western alliance dissolving as our important embassies remain unstaffed, and the super-rich building spaceships to new, exploitable planets?
I love Jonathan Alter’s book, “The Defining Moment: FDR’s Hundred Days and the Triumph of Hope.” His description of Roosevelt’s relationship with Hoover during the election day/inauguration interim is brutal. Roosevelt came in quite determined that Hoover would have no influence on the FDR administration, and he played out the clock as the economy tanked, all the while, smiling, waving and smoking. He was adept at engineering a situation that would be totally humiliating to the former president, not outwardly, but in his soul. In those days, they played softball.
Joe Biden has to face a financial collapse, citizens continuing to die daily in large numbers, and he has to entirely rebuild our relationships with European countries. He has to find ways to show there’s plenty of credibility with the FBI and CIA, et al. He has to get 51% of the country to talk to 39%, mutually, to realize we’re better off following common truths and alliances. That would be Lincoln’s domain. He has taken on everything FDR encountered, except World War II, but this is early to suppose it couldn’t happen for the third time under Biden, through no fault of his own—or through blunder, the most common excuse. Biden also inherits ongoing wars.
He’s been looking at Kamala Harris, who would be much better as attorney general, Amy Klobuchar (clone; my apology to Amy) makes a great senator from Minnesota; Stacey Abrams, a strong, intelligent, determined, assertive woman who’s been defeated in a governor’s race in Georgia against a corrupt opponent, through gerrymandering. She and Harris are African American women, along with Susan Rice and Val Demings, also being considered, and in case you haven’t heard, that’s the demographic that wins elections for Democrats.
I really wish Elizabeth Warren could be considered a woman of color. (Well, DNA?) Elizabeth is very clearheaded, pointedly practical, a smart planner, and she can smell corruption. She has hundreds of plans to bring genuine liberalism back to America. She shares many of the same aspirations as Bernie. She’s the best representative of the leftward faction within the Democratic (“big tent”) party. Kennedy was Eastern elite/Johnson was Deep South blue dog. Biden is moderate-centrist-Democrat/Warren is left of center. We need both of them on the ticket.
But just like Hillary, Joe could blow it again.
When did we start doing it this way—letting the presidential candidate choose number two, no matter how unknown? When did we stop the tried-and-true practice of uniting the party, in order to win? It’s something that’s evolved. On Google I learned the president/VP relationship has taken many forms. It used to be the case that the vice-president was chosen by earning the second largest number of votes after the president, regardless of party. There was a period of time when the vice-presidency “wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit,” since the person holding the office was closed out of the president’s inner circle and his main function was to stand in for the president at important funerals.
Jimmy Carter empowered the VP position. He picked Walter Mondale, who also had run to be president early in the same cycle, a rival, at first. Carter gave Mondale a long list of responsibilities and the job gained new respect. This trend became overblown during Bush/Cheney, with vast power to Cheney, compared with past vice-presidents.
The history of vice-presidential experience is checkered, and currently we are satisfied with choosing according to how the candidate gets along with the person running for the top job, but we need a balanced ticket, so more of us can find something to love—Elizabeth—please.
Sandra Barnhouse is a local artist, author and retired university publications editor.