Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Hillary for Vice President
Originally Written: August 14, 2007
Recently there has been some actual discussion in the media of one of the big elephants in the room of the democratic presidential nominees race. The two frontrunners in that race are Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, a woman and a black man. One way to look at the lack of discussion until now is that it’s no big deal, Americans are ready for a non white-male candidate. Another way to look at it is that the democrats are in denial that it might actually be an issue and are afraid to talk about it openly. This fear is understandable, its easy to put your foot in your mouth over these issues as several candidates have demonstrated recently (see Biden re:”nice black man” and Richardson re:”being gay is a choice”). I think its clear there is more than a little denial and fear involved here.
Some people (re:”why not Edwards?”) are now more openely discussing the fact that on paper, looking only at identity issues John Edwards should be a shoe-in. A white-male from the south? What other kinds of presidents are there really? However, because of his ideas and his less impressive financial resources he is being counted as an unlikely also-ran behind Obama and Hillary. We sometimes say that certain candidates are “running for vice president” because they have no real chance of being chosen to lead but they’d help fill out the ballot and grad some consituency that the main candidate can’t appeal to. Perhaps Richardson and Edwards are running for VP. But I’d like to suggest a more radical idea that I haven’t heard yet and could have more potential for the long run.
Hillary could be running for VP to Edwards. I don’t know how it would happen but it has potential. Edwards has appeal broadly, his main defect is a bit of inexperience and a leaning too far to the left. Using the current presidency as a guide that inexperience could be countered but a more experienced VP such as Hillary. She is currently a senator and knows how the presidency works from the inside. This presidency has also taught us that the VP does not need to be a simple backup body in case the president dies implementing an intiative here and there. Dick Cheney was an incredibly involved VP who was instrumental in every aspect of decision making at the White House. Being that kind of VP isn’t really a second prize. In fact it seems to be a great job, all the benefits of power without all the responsibility and criticism.
This would be the perfect job for Hillary. By not being the presidential candidate the inevitable conservative attacks on her using her husband would be less important, she’s just the VP after all. At the same time, she could shore up any lack of gravitas Edwards has. The borderline democratic voter who is uncomfortable with a woman in power would have ways to convince themselves Edwards was really in control. Grass roots liberals would be able to convince themselves that Hillary wasn’t really in charge and that her cynical approach to policy would be overcome by Edwards’ optimism. There is ample room on both sides for self-dulusion that could allow a democratic landslide as both wings of the party get a bit of what they want.
In the era of powerful co-presidents like Dick Cheney Hillary has a model for a way to get to the White House with true influence and ease the electorate into the idea of a woman as president.
And then there’s greed. Because this approach offers a tantalizing possibility. It offers the chance to produce a Reagan-stle era of power for the democrats. After eight years of co-presidency, of growing economy, reducing debt and reducing foreign entanglements there would be an experience new democratic candidate ready to take over, Hillary. It wouldn’t be inevitable, but the experience of an involved vice president is always a strong candidate. This would also provide the opportunity for a weary electorate to vote for a woman they know and have seen in power.
If the democracts are worried Americans are not ready to elect a woman this is a strategy that could work. If Hillary can strike the kind of deal Cheney did with Bush then she may even be able to stomach it.