Of the many aspects of Hillary Clinton's prospective Democratic presidential nomination that are often speculated about — Will her record on Benghazi cost her? What will a debate with current Republican frontrunner Donald Trump be like? — there is one that may prove especially controversial: Will Hillary Clinton pick a female running mate? Certainly, many Democrats would likely be anxious about their party's White House prospects with an all-female ticket. Clinton is trailing among white male voters. If she captures the nomination and wants to win white men in the general election, conventional wisdom goes, she'll need to balance the ticket. And she can't choose another woman because, as Rachel Maddow so memorably suggested, she'll probably need to pick "some Grizzly Adams mountain man" instead, "to comfort the people who would be so freaked out by the prospect of a woman president."
But if Americans are ready for one woman, couldn't they easily be ready for two? I certainly think that an all-female Democratic ticket is the right move — and I am not the only one.
Aimee Allison, Sr. Vice President of PowerPAC+ and author of She the People: The New Politics of Women of Color, which is to be published in September, says Clinton should select a woman — and specifically, a woman of color as her running mate. Allison tells Bustle, "It's time to desegregate the office of Vice President." According to Allison, given the rapidly changing demographics in our country, "It makes perfect sense to have a person of color," adding that women of color "have been behind progressive and Democratic victories without acknowledgment — and without the full embracing of women of color leadership and our issues. It is time for that to change."
So what about all those guys (and, let's face it, they're usually guys) who are convinced Clinton would lose with a two-woman ticket? "I actually think [choosing a woman] is not a risk at all, it's a necessity," says Allison.
"It's interesting that political pundits, a huge number of whom are white guys, are busy operating on false assumptions about our electorate, and are not giving African-American women their due." Allison says. "There is no way that Hillary Clinton, right now, would have the delegate lead that she has, and be as likely to win the nomination, without African-American women's votes. Black women are the reason that Hillary Clinton has a two million vote lead ... [to run a woman of color] is not a crazy idea, it's just good politics."
Allison's confidence inspires me. But I can't help worrying about the havoc a two-woman ticket could wreak on our media. Won't it break a lot of brains for two women to be out there seeking the highest offices in the land? That's two outfits to analyze! Two hairstyles to scrutinize! Two women for pundits like Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough and Bob Woodward to insultingly critique! How would they keep track?
Democratic political operative Abigail Collazo agrees with Allison. "Not only will [Clinton] consider a female vice presidential candidate; I think she must," Collazo tells Bustle. She adds:
We've had two men on the ticket for centuries ... it's time. The country is absolutely ready for two women on the ticket. Women are a huge voting bloc, we are coming out in droves to support both Hillary Clinton and Democratic nominees in general and the truth is that people like to see themselves represented in government.
But isn't there a difference between what we believe America should be ready for and what voters are actually willing to support? Isn't there a reason Sen. Dianne Feinstein told The New York Times that "it's certainly possible to have two women ... I am not sure it's wise" back in 2014?
Maybe that held in 2014, but the already rule breaking 2016 election definitely has some wiggle room for changing things up. "While I think conventional wisdom is that VPs should be used politically to balance the ticket, to make up for weaknesses of the presidential candidate, this is not a conventional year," James Campbell, professor of political science at the State University of New York at Buffalo, tells Bustle.
"If Clinton's opponent is Donald Trump, a candidate who does not do so well with women, [choosing] a younger woman as [her] running mate might make up for Clinton's weakness with younger voters and at the same time highlight Trump's weakness," Campbell says. "It would also undercut perceptions of Clinton as an all-too-safe, uninspiring candidate."
As a millennial woman who's been feeling the Bern, big-time, I must admit that Campbell's words struck a chord. If anything could get me fired up to vote for Clinton in the general election (and no, fear of Trump is not the same as excitement about Clinton) her choosing a progressive woman of color as her running mate — Kshama Sawant, anyone? A girl can dream! — just might do the trick.
Then again, maybe a two-woman ticket only seems viable to my socialist-leaning feminist friends and me.
According to Barry C. Burden, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "The gender gap in voting is likely to be larger than normal [this year], especially if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. This probably helps the Democrats' chances." Burden notes, "It's not clear that 'doubling down' by choosing a female running mate is especially advantageous. It would draw more attention to her gender ... and could be harmful ... some independents and Republicans might see an all-female ticket as a signal that she is devoting too much attention to issues that affect women."
New York State assemblywoman Linda B. Rosenthal doubts Clinton will choose a female running mate, "Sadly there is still far too much of an institutionalized, systemic aversion to the ascendancy of women for her to run on an all-female ticket," Rosenthal tells Bustle. "There are numerous women who would make exceptional vice presidential candidates, but America's yearning for the 'strong, stabilizing influence of men' will likely dictate her selection."
Kyle D. Kondik, managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball, a nonpartisan political newsletter published by the University of Virginia Center for Politics, agrees that Clinton is unlikely to tap a woman. However, he tells Bustle that given the likelihood that Clinton will be running against Trump (who, Kondik dryly notes, "has said many misogynistic things during his many years in public life") choosing a woman as a running mate "would provide an even starker contrast to Trump and could help Clinton do even better among women than Democrats typically do."
Clinton promised Maddow she would at least consider a female running mate. But, like Kondik, I'll be surprised if she actually does it, especially because Clinton is not a risk-taker by nature, and many people see a two-woman ticket as simply too big of a gamble.
However, executive director of the Wake County Democratic Party in North Carolina, Austen E. High, isn't one of them. She likes the idea of having two women on the ticket. "We watched women win big in primary races across North Carolina and it seems like the beginning of something good," she tells Bustle. "I can only imagine the possibilities for girls today if they get to watch two highly qualified women travel the nation to win the White House."
Image: Dawn Foster/Bustle