Throwback Thursday: On considering race and gender for political appointments

Trump Pence

In his piece about the advantages African-American candidates have in presidential primaries, Ben Smith suggested that “the Romney/ Ryan debacle did probably guarantee one thing: That the Republican Party will never again present a ticket with two white men on it.” That statement ended up being untrue.

Roger Clegg of the National Review was opposed to the emphasis on race, responding to criticisms of the lack of diversity with Obama’s top cabinet posts.

Obama is, for once, being virtuous in insisting on hiring the best-qualified candidates, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sex (they are not the people I’d choose, but that’s a different story).

What this episode shows is that no one really believes that you can select people with an eye on their color while also trying to pick the best people. It’s a good thing that the administration has unwittingly acknowledged that.

Years ago, I came up with a short list of potential Republican Vice-Presidential candidates for 2012, under the assumption that a white guy wouldn’t be appreciated on the ticket. In the end, Romney picked Paul Ryan. And it seemed two of his finalists were former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, as well as Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

2016 was slightly different. Senators who were in their second year in statewide office in 2012 were finishing their first terms. The Governors elected in 2010 were reelected. So any diversity picks would have more experience, including New Mexico Governor Susanna Martinez, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte. A few more were elected to Statewide office, including Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska, and Senator Tim Scott will probably be in his fourth year in the Senate.

It may seem inherently unfair to consider race and gender as qualifications. But it’s no less arbitrary than considering swing states or age. One of the benefits of Paul Ryan was that he was a young guy who came from Wisconsin. Rob Portman was from Ohio. Tim Pawlenty was from Minnesota, and could have been able to help in the Midwestern swing states.

The winning 2016 ticket was two white guys, albeit from different backgrounds. Trump was a millionaire’s billionaire son and had never served in public office. Pence had made two runs for Congress before he was thirty, and later combined legislative and executive experience, a Midwestern Governor who has risen to #4 in the US House. He was a guy who knew Washington but was outside of it, and that’s what mattered most.

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
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