Why Barack Obama should tap Hillary for VP–and why she should accept

The Pumas over at pumapac.org had a minor squabble today as some of them tried to make “Nobama” the official creed of the website.  In other words, they don’t want Hillary to accept the Vice Presidency and they won’t vote for Obama even if Hillary is on the ticket.

The Hillary supporters are understandably alienated from the Democratic party. Their candidate was attacked primarily for being female, not for any policy positions or leadership qualities she does or doesn’t have.  She “threw the kitchen sink” at Obama?  What’s that about?  Now the Obama campaign says McCain that he is throwing “everything” at Obama.  Why is the “kitchen” reference being dropped now?  And when Barack and Hillary met at Unity New Hampshire for their joint speech, all Obama could talk about was how she “could do it in heels” as if she were some sort of mysterious monster who didn’t have feet like the rest of us.  I don’t remember seeing her in heels, quite frankly.  And she looks shorter up close than on stage. If she had heels on she would probably look a bit taller.

Even now the party regulars are talking about Hillary’s “historical candidacy”, not her capable candidacy and whether or not she actually got a majority of the popular vote.  While the differences between male and female in the political arena are not obvious to me, at every turn, the Obama campaign pulled out something about her that was distinctly female, not global that everyone could relate to, as if to say, see?… she’s not like us.  If you would turn that around and start making constant racial references about, say, shining shoes or eating watermelon or fried chicken or even just easier suntanning, I bet there would be a very quick public recognition of unfairness, but using female stereotyping doesn’t seem to register on the public psyche.

The gender war extended to informal talking points as well.  The whisper campaign in Chicago was “a candidate needs to be strong”.  Even now the street people lurch around downtown muttering about politics, apparently unaware that the primary season is over, and saying “men are stronger than women”, therefore you have to vote for the man.  Of course, when a woman does appear to be strong or comes right out and says “I am a fighter”, then she is not seen as a proper female, and she starts to lose the educated white males, who don’t think women or anyone else should turn to fighting instead of diplomacy.

Okay, you get the idea.  Everything thrown at Hillary was gender based.  Not just the B-word in the songs played at official functions and worse all over the Obama official website.  Not just the crude anatomical remarks in the blogs.  But also the organized talking points and twists of phrasing and emotionally loaded content worked into comments and campaign speeches. And as for Hillary’s supporters, well, they don’t have valid interests, like the mortgage crisis or health care or social security or anything, they’re just having emotional storms.   It’s all about stuff like catharsis.  Silly hysterical women.  How quickly the DNC accepts that type of argument.

So what are the choices that Hillary’s supporters now have?

1. Keep trying to get Hillary the nomination.  After all, the convention is not over, the vote was close, and neither Hillary nor Barack has enough votes to win without the superdelegates.  I say go for it.  The process was put in place for a reason.  They should follow it.

We already have one president who doesn’t think he should follow the rules in everything from reporting for military service to writing “signing statements” about which parts of every new law he doesn’t intend to follow. We don’t need another president who ignores the law and ends up with approval ratings in the dungeon.

If Hillary had not dropped out of the race when she did, she would have been able to continue to collect contributions through August, and pay down considerably more of her campaign debt.   She did drop out, and for the benefit of the Democratic party, not for her own benefit. The party has not helped her and has marginalized those who supported her, whose interests she represented. You see the talking points all over the blogs: “you lost, get over it”.  The Democratic leadership considers Hillary’s supporter to be losers, not voters. The message the DNC gives them is not “your interests are important and will be represented by us in some way” but “you are not important.”  When that happens, voters go looking for someone who says they are important and who will represent their interests.

In the likely event that Hillary does not get the nomination, the followers will then have new choices.

1) Hold their noses and vote for Obama.

2) Write in Hillary’s name, possibly invalidating their ballots.

3) Vote for McCain.

4) Vote for a third party candidate, like Nader, Barr, or McKinney, thus helping McCain win but in way that shows dissatisfaction with the Democrats rather than satisfaction with the Republicans.

5)  Forget about the presidential race and work to elect candidates to the congress who will stop voting with Bush and who will bring back peace and prosperity. Politics is local.

Quite frankly , I think there is room under the Puma umbrella for all of the above positions. But I don’t think the Pumas should write off the idea of Hillary as vice president until the moment  Obama actually names someone else, if he does.

Usually the arguments for Hillary as Vice President are advanced along lines of winning the general election.  Swing states. Electoral votes.  Hillary won these states, they say, and Obama can win them with Hillary on the ticket.  Okay that’s important, but I want to go beyond the math.

What would an Obama/Clinton ticket be able to accomplish for the country?  What would the next four years look like?  First of all, whether you are a true believer Koolaid drinker or an empty suiter Clintonista, you have to admit that Obama can deliver a speech. Imagine the next four years with stunning rhetoric and even more stunning delivery.  And vision.  Not to mention hope, change, and audacity.

Now, everyone pretty much admits that Hillary is a tireless policy wonk.  3AM and all that. Also that she knows how to meet endlessly with foreign leaders and people who can help her legislative agenda.  She’s hardly a noob with either domestic or foreign policy. Now, imagine Hillary explaining things to Obama’s speechwriters.  Oooh! I like this more and more. Obama can be like Ronald Reagan and sit in the oval office like teflon while Hillary and the minions keep everything running smoothly.

But here is the real reason Hillary should be VP.  It’s no secret that Hillary wanted Obama as her VP when she was the frontrunner.  She could have run an attack machine like McCain is running now, but she pulled her punches.   She said he didn’t have “experience”.  Now you can’t get over having an evil character, but you can get over not having experience, just by getting some experience–as a VP under an experienced president.  So Obama could have gotten his experience under her, if indeed he is capable of working under any woman, and that would have moved his career along.

Instead, Obama (and Axelrod) mounted a campaign that tore apart the Democratic party, painted the Clintons as racists, when I believe they are not, and possibly damaged Hillary’s career.  Even more important is the gender based attack they used.  This type of attack invalidates the career and character of every woman in America.  It cannot be allowed to stand.  It cannot be allowed to win.  Many women would rather see McCain win that see a malicious and evilly misogynist campaign like this succeed.  It must fail.

Either that, or Obama and Axelrod must build the party back up with Hillary–and the voters she represents–as part of the process.  It’s the pottery barn argument. Obama and Axelrod have set back women’s issues in this country considerably but not irrevokably.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if David Axelrod could use his considerable public relations skill to restore the Clinton presidency to the place in history it deserves, and reverse the damage the Obama campaign has done to Hillary, to the Democratic party, and to American women everywhere?

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3 Responses to “Why Barack Obama should tap Hillary for VP–and why she should accept”

  1. elo Says:

    Nice piece.
    Back in May, Dr. Tantillo (‘the marketing doctor’), who has a blog on branding, did a post arguing against the idea of an Obama-Clinton ticket–positing that from a branding perspective, it makes no sense, and actually wouldn’t be a good move for Clinton’s brand, either.

    “Because of the length of this primary fight, brand identity and loyalty to brand have become central. What this means is that a kind of brand mutual exclusivity has set in.”

Not sure if I agree or if this idea still holds at this point, but it is a compelling argument – (and one that I at least think goes a long way toward explaining Obama’s hesitation to choose Clinton as his running mate–even if it would go a long way toward building party unity and seemingly clench the general election for Obama.)

    Link to the full post

  2. AJH Says:

    Great article! FINALLY someone gets it AND articulates it as well as Hillary herself could. Thank you.

  3. Nijma Says:

    Thanks, AJH. Hillary is pretty articulate herself, not to mention her speechwriters, so that’s quite a compliment.

    elo, I’m afraid you might be right, but it’s awfully depressing to think the voters choose the president of the United States the same way they choose ketchup.

    I keep hearing Michelle Obama made the decision not to tap Hillary out of personal animosity. I have also heard she made the decision to go for the nomination this year and not wait for another election cycle. I wonder if that’s true. Michelle’s stump speech was full of “and then they raised the bar on us” as a kind of mantra of their dealings with the Democratic leadership.

    Most politicians expect to run a token race and lose in a primary somewhere just for name recognition before making a serious bid. I mean, even Chicago’s Mayor Daley ran once and lost. Obama would have had a better chance as VP or other nationally visible spot first. Then the ObamaNation crowd wouldn’t have been able to define him for the public.


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