COMMENTARY: Biden should pick Haley or Rice
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COMMENTARY: Biden should pick Haley or Rice

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James Huffman

James Huffman

Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden says he wants to unite our divided country. Here’s an idea on how to do it. Select a Republican to be his running mate. Ridiculous you say? Here me out.

Several months ago Biden declared that he would choose a woman to be his running mate. That’s a popular idea with many people of both parties. There has never been a female vice president and only two women (Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin) have been vice-presidential nominees. Some have argued he should further restrict his choice to a woman of color. That, too, is a popular idea with many voters.

Putting aside that a man who has stood for equality his entire career has excluded half the population from consideration for the second highest office in the country, and putting aside the strange custom in our democracy of deferring the selection of the vice-presidential nominee to the nominee for president, the choice Biden makes has important implications for the country.

It’s not just that Biden would be the oldest president at the time of inauguration in our long history, or that a Biden victory would give us our first female vice president. What makes it of unusual importance is that our country has never been more divided, and all indications are that things will get only worse without a radical disruption of the continuing party warfare. Biden has an opportunity to be a true national leader and not merely the leader of the Democratic Party.

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Many Democrats would be outraged and would suffer remorse for not having selected Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. Biden would be called a DINO (Democrat in Name Only) and his Republican running mate would be labeled a RINO (Republican in Name Only).

Delegates to the Democratic National Convention would probably wonder why the party ever agreed to defer this important decision to their presidential nominee. But that’s exactly the kind of disruption this country needs. If Biden is really interested in uniting the country, he needs to reach outside the barricades of the Democratic Party.

Commentary on the various unofficial candidates for vice president focuses entirely on what choice will unite the various factions of the party. Elizabeth Warren could bring in the disappointed Sanders supporters. Amy Klobuchar could mollify the party moderates. Kamala Harris or Stacey Abrams could lock in the so-called black vote.

But what about the millions of independents and Republicans who are fed up with President Donald Trump and are willing to believe, despite his recent left-wing rhetoric, that Biden is still the moderate, pragmatic politician he was in the Senate? Uniting the country is a far more important objective than uniting the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, almost everyone in Washington has lost sight of the people’s interest in this age of majoritarian supremacy — the era of we won, you lost, get over it.

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Nikki Haley or Condoleezza Rice would be my preferences. Both are moderate women with more executive experience than any of those on the long list of Democratic suggestions. And both happen to be women of color. The only strike against them is that they are Republicans. If Haley or Rice are not to Biden’s liking, there are many other Republican or independent women of demonstrated ability and moderate inclinations. Hard-core Democrats will grumble, but they are not going to vote for Trump.

If Joe Biden thinks the divisiveness of our politics is a problem, he is right. If he truly aspires to bring the country together, good for him. But he will not do it by thinking only about consolidating the Democratic vote.

So do something radical, Joe, choose Nikki Haley or Condoleezza Rice as your running mate. As Chief Justice John Roberts might say, the way to end the partisanship is to end the partisanship.

James Huffman is dean emeritus at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore. He wrote this for



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