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The "Unity Ticket" Debate

Over at TNR's The Plank, a variety of people have been invited to debate about the advisability of an Obama-Clinton "unity ticket." As it happens, Alan Wolfe and yours truly were the first to send in submissions, both supporting the "unity ticket."

I tried to be sensitive to the various arguments against the "unity ticket," especially those of Obama supporters who view this possibility as a self-repudiation of Obama's message and the very rationale for his candidacy. I also made it clear there are plenty of practical obstacles to an Obama-Clinton collaboration, most notably the fact that we don't know if either principal is open to it at all.

But in the end, my own conclusion was that a unity ticket would most efficiently resolve the candidate-centered divisions in the Democratic Party that have grown ever more apparent as the primary contest has dragged on, allowing the party to briskly move on to a tough general election campaign. I'm sure other participants in the debate will argue otherwise, and as always in these extracurricular essays, I was speaking for myself, not TDS.

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Ed, besides the repudiation issue you mention, there are two more reasons for Obama not to want Clinton on the ticket. 1) Hillary's traditionally high negatives and the fact that she is sure to be a GOTV organinzing bonanza for the Right (since McCain is their nominee it is possible that, without Hillary on the ticket, many GOPers will stay home); and 2) Bill. If I were Obama I would not want him on the loose as even a tangential part of the Administration.

I see two issues: whether such a "unity"ticket would sell and whether it would work in an Administration.

There might be some plausibility that it would sell and help get Obama elected. I think a more interesting question would be who else would help deliver voter segments that Mrs. Clinton has some strength with and who could make inroads into segments that McCain has strengths.

When I heard Sam Nunn's name mentioned in this regard, my gut reaction was that would make a formidable team. And Mr. Nunn is a real statesman. Self-serving is not a term I would ever attribute to him. There are others.

Whether having Mrs Clinton as VP in an administration-- not to mention Bill with time on his hands-- would work, c'mon! That would be a situation that would have to be so highly managed. I think Sara Powers' remark that Hillary was a monster that would say anything was very revealing. It would be very surprising if Obama perceived Clinton as not bringing severe risk factors into his administration.

--Gregg

You may count me as one who would fall off the Obama wagon if HRC is his running mate. Whether I would then vote Republican is an open question I will reserve judgement about. With McCain running, given his age, I would see HIS VP selection as at least as important as Obama's.

The arguments against Hillary as VP are well stated above, and resonate with me. To me, his biggest vulnerability is that he is painted by the GOP as "just another pol", and choosing Hillary as a political ploy would give that theory real legs.

I probably represent the "swing voter" bloc pretty well, based on my history and views. I also have concluded, after 5 decades as a voter that that current Democratic Party has an uncanny penchant for shooting itself in the foot, for pulling defeat out of the hot fire of potential victory. This "dream ticket" (read: nightmare scenario) would be the proof positive of that view, in my opinion.

I could be wrong, I admit, but why risk it? If Obama is not strong enough to craft a winning campaign without a Clinton flavor, then he does not deserve the office of President.

Really? Perhaps you would like the Clintons and their Dem voters to sit silently behind a curtain, the way the women delegates were forced to do at the First Anti-Slavery Convention.
Of course, it would have to be an awfully big curtain, since the Clinton voters make up half the Dems.

While you're at it, maybe you can tell the Clintons and their voters; "You can vote for us and send money to us, but we don't want any input from you, much less sharing any power with you. After all, the Democratic Party has a long tradition of losing nobly, and the only Dem President who's won two terms is an awful embarrassment to us."

That way, you can be assured that the Dems lose again in 2008. That's what you want, right?

In discussions I've had about this, the usual comment is why would Obama want Hillary as VP? With Hillary comes Bill, and between them they would be constantly trying to take the spotlight off Obama.

But the VP is powerful only to the extent that the President yields power. Hillary in the Senate has her own power base, and we can expect her to have a leadership position there.

I can envision a situation like that in the late 1970s and 1980, when Ted Kennedy and Tip O'Neill joined forces to destroy the Carter Presidency [at least, that's how I saw it at the time]. In this scenario, Hillary has too much "integrity" to compromise on health care, or whatever, and noisily protests this and that until, finally, in 2012, she MUST run against Obama for the sake of the country.

Maybe keeping Hillary close at hand is the best course.

As someone who supported Obama during this primary campaign, I would have to say there were times when Hillary said things that were offensive to me, and seemed un-Democratic. These sorts of things happen in all campaigns, and will come back, as they always come back, to hurt Obama in the general campaign. But I am not a Hillary hater, and winning this election is too important to the future of our country to allow my personal pique to undermine my understanding of the big picture.

Thanks, folks, for the comments. I'd like to specifically address Gregg's, since his there-are-plenty-of-other-veep-options argument against the unity ticket is one you hear from a lot of people (viz., Mark Schmitt's post in the TNR colloquoy).

It's true there are a lot of good names floating around out there, but that's the problem: there are as many rationales for a particular choice as there are candidates. What kind of running-mate does Obama need? A woman? A "populist?" Someone with a strong national security background? Someone from a battleground state? There's probably no one choice who covers as much political ground as HRC.

Ed Kilgore

Interesting that the only post to get any response in a while is this one, showing, I think, how Democrats this time around are more interested in personalities and images rather than real policy issues. Pretty sad.

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