Hillary Clinton Should Not Pick A Female Vice President

For Democrats intrigued by the possibility of the first female president of the U.S., Hillary Clinton's campaign might have an additional surprise: the first all-female ticket.

Clinton herself may be wary of appearing to count her chickens before they hatch, given what happened in her 2008 primary match-up against then-Sen. Barack Obama, but her campaign is talking confidently as if Democratic rival Bernie Sanders is out of the race.

“We’ll start with a broad list [of vice presidential candidates] and then begin to narrow it," Clinton's campaign chairman John Podesta told the Boston Globe. "But there is no question that there will be women on that list. 

As The Atlantic's David A. Graham notes, Clinton couldn't effectively play the gender card in the 2008 presidential race, when her chief party rival was poised to become the first black president of the U.S. Fair or not, millions of voters viewed that prospect as more historic than the possibility of the first female president, possibly because other Western nations have already had their share of female heads of state.

But Clinton's free to do that in 2016, and she has. On the campaign trail, she's talked about being a mother and a grandmother; she's rallied the support of female politicians in state's she's campaigned in and in February she appeared with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and feminist icon Gloria Steinem.

In the latter appearance, there was lots of talk of shattering glass ceilings and women helping women, but it backfired disastrously thanks to Steinem verbalizing something she was thinking, but probably never should have said.

“We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it’s done,” Albright said, per The New York Times. “It’s not done. There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other!”

In one fell swoop, Clinton's campaign managed to alienate younger female voters, publicly shame them for considering other candidates, and open itself up to criticism that it's pitching gender as the primary reason people should vote for Clinton.

The truth is, most people would welcome a female president, but as Graham points out, "Clinton’s ability to capitalize on that is somewhat undercut by her own unpopularity."

"Voters might be interested in the idea of a woman president," Graham writes, "but they’re not necessarily excited about the idea of this particular woman president."

Thus, choosing a female running mate would allow Clinton to pitch her presidency as a victory for all women, not just one woman.

As good as the idea sounds on paper, an all-female ticket probably wouldn't work out for Clinton in the long run.

The most obvious problem is that the country's second-most well known female politician almost certainly isn't a Clintonite.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has become arguably the highest-profile female politician after Clinton, and part of the reason she's enjoyed so much success, and is admired by voters and colleagues on both sides of the political aisle, is because she's been an unabashed critic of Wall Street and the American financial system.

The former Harvard law professor and consumer advocate probably wouldn't be thrilled by the idea of joining a ticket fueled by Wall Street dollars, especially when so many of her past quotes about Wall Street could double as criticisms of the Clinton campaign.

Notably, Warren has not endorsed a candidate in the 2016 cycle, she resisted repeated calls to run for president and experts agree she's likely to turn down any overtures to run as a vice presidential candidate. Warren and Clinton aren't exactly ideological allies, and some of Warren's talking points have been used by Sanders to criticize Clinton's economic policies, The Washington Post notes.

Likewise, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is popular, but candidates generally try to choose running mates from different states to help deliver votes in regions where they might not otherwise run strong.

Beyond Warren and Gillibrand there's a second tier of potential female picks, but they don't enjoy the same name recognition, and it's not clear they could help Clinton strengthen her coalition.

Ultimately, however, it may come down to one important factor: who the GOP chooses as its nominee. If Texas Sen. Ted Cruz emerges from the Republican convention victorious, then the Democrats could push for someone who can challenge the Christian firebrand on his religious credentials and make a dent in his Evangelical support. If Donald Trump, who hasn't bothered to make any special appeal to religious voters, wins the nomination, then the Clinton camp would likely consider someone who can counter the real estate mogul's business acumen.

And if Ohio Gov. John Kasich pulls out a surprise victory, then the Clinton camp will suddenly have a lot more to fear from a candidate who consistently defeats her in polls of hypothetical head-to-head match-ups. In that case, the choice of VP would likely be a generalist who can help deliver as many votes as possible.

Ultimately, Clinton doesn't need to pander to a specific demographic, gender or religion. She just needs the best person for the job.

Click here for the opposing view on this topic.

Sources: The Atlantic, Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Washington Post / Photo credit: Nathaniel F/Flickr

Popular Video