Bernie Sanders will be 79 when the next presidential term begins, so the question of his running mate will be especially important. If the guy who is currently usually polling in second place wins the nomination for a party that he’s technically not a part of, what’s his best bet for Veep? But it seems he’ll have a weirder time picking than most.
The Democratic party’s emphasis on diversity probably means that it couldn’t be a white guy. His age would mean that it should be someone ready to be President on Day One, so it should be someone with experience. He’d probably want someone who can unify the party without being so establishment that it hurts his brand (the counterargument is that Trump went with the most establishment pick possible with Pence, and that worked out fine for him.)
Speculation from his fans seems to be centered on people who aren’t politically realistic (granted, a self-declared Socialist is a strong contender for a major party nomination.) A medium post includes Tulsi Gabbard, Paul Jean Swearingen, Nina Turner, Elizabeth Warren. These selections seem unlikely. A Senator from Vermont probably won’t pick a running mate from New England. Gabbard has upset many Democrats with perceived friendliness towards dictators at a time when the party sees this as a shortcoming of the Trump administration. Swearingen is an activist who lost a Senate primary. Nina Turner is a favorite of Bernie supporters, as a woman of color who advocates for his positions, but a former state senator who lost her one race for statewide office (secretary of state) by a two to one margin isn’t going to be on a presidential ticket. Other names I’ve seen include Stacey Abrams, a former state legislator likely running for Senate, and Ayanna Pressley, a first term Congresswoman from Boston.
If Tallahasee mayor Andrew Gillum had performed half a point better in the Florida gubernatorial election, he’d be the obvious running mate for Sanders: a younger black man from a different part of the country with a campaign-friendly family and relevant experience outside of Washington, who had gotten broad support from the primary, including from Sanders’ Our Revolution PAC.
I’ve come up with six potential running mates for Bernie Sanders.
Former HUD Secretary/ San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: His run seems primed to elevate him as a potential running mate for the other white candidates. He adds youth and geographic diversity, and has Washington connections from his stint in the Obama administration, while he has also been able to avoid controversial congressional votes. He has disavowed PAC money in his presidential bid, which allows him to avoid controversies in that category.
Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois: She adds diversity, military credibility and midwestern appeal, with an inspirational story about joining the Obama administration and Congress after being the first American female double amputee from the Iraq war. She considers herself unaffiliated/ deist, so she may not be the best choice for the running mate of a Jewish presidential candidate in a majority Christian country.
Senator Kamala Harris of California: She is likely to be a top-tier presidential candidate, so there is potential for a unity ticket. Her background as a major prosecutor can be helpful in an administration promising to go after the real bad guys, and as a Senator who ran for President, she’ll have high name recognition and be familiar with national issues. This is a dicey point, but Harris just recently got married, and doesn’t have any kids of her own, so it might hurt her as a potential running mate for Sanders, whose only child was born out of wedlock.
Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota: If she’s able to avoid damaging her reputation in the presidential bid, Kloubchar is a strong potential running mate for Sanders and other potential presidential nominees. She has her own record as a prosecutor, and has won three terms by impressive numbers in a swing state in a politically important region. The staff stories are the biggest problem.
Congresswoman Lucy McBath of Georgia: She just got elected to Congress by defeating Karen Handel. She’s a gun control advocate whose teenage son was murdered in a gas station altercation. This is a powerful story. Perceived inexperience will be a major problem, but there is also the possibility that Trump and other Republicans will be baited into saying something very stupid.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan: She comes from a big swing state, has a biography that gives her a different political understanding (state legislator turned Governor) and doesn’t have any Washington baggage. The big questions are how she does as Governor in the next year, and whether she’ll be familiar enough with national issues to be an effective campaign surrogate.
This may all be a moot point if Sanders fizzles in the primary, but it is an unusual potential situation that it is worth speculating.