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First things first, the race is not over yet, not by a long shot. The math is increasingly difficult, though not impossible, for Bernie Sanders to win the nomination for the Democratic candidacy come July. Results in Washington, Hawai’i and Alaska over the weekend are a significant resurgence for Sanders, and he could well come back to win it from here, despite Clinton’s strong start.
For the sake of argument, and for this debate, let’s assume it won’t happen. A Clinton win in July represents a potentially disastrous nomination for the Democratic Party, unless she plays a very clever political game from here forward. Ignoring the special place in hell that members of the Republican Party seem keen for her to occupy, she is also one of the least liked and least trusted candidates for the Democratic nomination in years, even among members of her own party.
The best way to claw back some of those elusive favorability ratings is with a perfect choice of VP, and Bernie Sanders may well be that man.
Now, there has been almost unprecedented hostility between the two camps, so perhaps it is an unlikely outcome, but for Clinton it could be a masterstroke. It would certainly be an unexpected, but fascinating move if she did choose to pursue it, and could end up being politically expedient for both sides if managed correctly.
Why Clinton Should Do It.
From her early position of strength, Clinton is facing a difficult run in to the nomination in July. Huge wins for Bernie Sanders in Washington and Alaska mean that her campaign may still be significantly upset, even if Sanders does not quite have time to snatch the nomination from her.
If she does limp over the line, damage control will be the priority item on the agenda. Her candidacy will be tainted by the close run candidacy, and she needs to immediately make concessions to prove that she has listened to the popular voice that has cried out to disown her. Putting Bernie Sanders on her ticket would be the perfect way to do that.
For many Sanders supporters, it is not merely about loving Bernie, but also hating Hillary. If she could get Sanders to endorse her, and even agree to run side by side with her, this would go a long way to repairing some of the damage her battle with Bernie has done to her image. I would imagine it would be difficult for a Sanders supporter to resist if he were to suddenly turn around and claim that, actually, Clinton is not so bad after all.
There has been so much hatred towards Clinton that she needs a win, she needs some of those disenchanted voters who may otherwise vote for Trump, or at least not turn out to vote for her. In short, she needs to capture a portion of the vote whom have been alienated from politics as usual. There are numerous ways to do that, of course, but why wouldn’t you go with the person who has already captured all that energy, in Bernie Sanders?
Received wisdom is that the best Vice Presidential candidate comes from a key swing state, for the excellent reason of practicality. Sanders’ popularity, however, particularly among the youth, could well extrapolate this to an even higher order of magnitude. Why limit yourself to one state when you have a man who may nationally mobilise thousands of voters who would otherwise stay well away from the polls to potentially run alongside you?
Hillary Clinton is the very definition of a pragmatic politician, somewhat too much of one for many people’s tastes, but it would be foolish to pass up such an easy way to gain a few thousand votes, and is the sort of opportunity you would expect her to take in a heartbeat.
Beyond the obvious benefits to voter turnout, there’s also that old chestnut of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. Clinton has very publicly battled with Senator Sanders in this primary season, and the two camps are not very fond of each other, to say the least. A VP nomination may be just enough to neutralize the threat posed by Sanders to her chance at a stable first four years in office.
To illustrate this point, let’s play a game. Two questions. First, name anything a Vice President has achieved that the President didn’t want to achieve while in office. Second, name any two Vice Presidents from before Al Gore. Not as easy a game as we would like to think, is it? Bernie as VP, then, could be an ideal outcome for Clinton; get Bernie’s voters and then put him in a corner office for four years and let him shout his ideas to nobody in particular, leaving her to get on with her dream job.
Why It Could Be Good For Sanders.
Of course, there’s always the chance that Sanders would not accept any invitation to run as Secretary Clinton’s VP , and there are a number of good reasons why he wouldn’t, principally the futility of the arrangement described above.
However, if he knows that going in, and prepares for it, then he can make demands before the campaign even starts, and with those guarantees be a much more effective VP, further forwarding the progressive agenda.
The main goal for Sanders would be to keep that agenda visible. Clinton is very much a flavor of the month politician, and with Sanders at her side, the economic inequality that forms the basis of his campaign and his support would burn much brighter and much longer than it might otherwise do. It is the perfect way to influence proceedings and make sure his campaign does not become a mere footnote to history.
There’s also the change that a Sanders vice-presidency might bring to the Democratic Party. If you succeeded at the second part of my challenge earlier, either you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of obscure politicos or, more likely, you picked a VP who ultimately went on to be President- a reasonably common outcome. Now, Bernie is probably too old for this outcome, especially if Clinton ended up as POTUS for a full eight years, but what it may do is open the door for someone in Sanders’ mold to run for president in 2024, and have a serious shot at winning.
This has to be Sanders’ aim. He has always been one to put the final goal, the ‘revolution’, before himself, and if he truly believes what he advocates is best for the country, then keeping it in the public eye at the expense of personal glory will be one of the major factors on his mind.
A cozy position as Clinton’s VP may well be the best way to do that.
What about the other candidates?
There are a number of other candidates for Vice President being bandied about, from Elizabeth Warren to Tom Perez to Julián Castro, and there are convincing arguments for all of them which I am sure my opponent in this debate will explore more thoroughly.
Frankly though, as much as Sanders’ supporters would have you believe that his election success is down to a love for progressive politics and a hatred of the establishment, the fact is that most of the enthusiasm is around the man himself- it’s basically a cult at this point. Warren makes sense in terms of her policies, as do a number of younger, minority candidates but, frankly, is it worth the risk?
This has been the most unpredictable election season in living memory, and it makes sense for all parties for Sanders and Clinton to be on the same ticket. With it, they have a good chance of beating Trump, without it, in a Trump/Clinton run-off, who knows?
Mrs Clinton must go with the candidate who has captured America’s imagination and desire for a hopeful message, something she herself has failed to achieve. And so, I say once more, if Hillary Clinton does win the Democratic nomination, her first choice of running mate simply must be Bernie Sanders.