Why you should care
Because Hillary Clinton needs to make a bold move to electrify her base, and this would do it.
In the battle of Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders, it’s all over but the shouting, as they used to say. Sure, Sanders pulled out recent primary wins and will have some nice victories in Oregon, South Dakota and Montana. But runners-up often have a nice, though futile, final stretch, including Ted Kennedy in 1980 (who won six of the final eight contests against eventual nominee Jimmy Carter) and Gary Hart in 1984 (who won nine of the final 14 against nominee Walter Mondale).
So if it is over, and OZY predicts it is in this particular contest, the discussion is understandably going to move to everyone’s favorite political parlor game: Whom should the former secretary of state choose to be her running mate?
There will be lots of fun choices — Virginia Sen. Mark Warner feels like a fresh name, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker is likely in the mix and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez is joining fellow Cabinet member (and OZY favorite) HUD Secretary Julián Castro as another possibility.
Does Clinton have some Al Davis in her?
The Clinton team is even inviting speculation about putting another woman on the ticket and creating the first all-female ticket. It would be a bold move, doubling down on something historic (even if picking a running mate of the same gender is certainly nothing new). And it would be similar in some ways to Bill Clinton’s decision to defy conventional wisdom in 1992 when, instead of choosing a complementary candidate (say, a Northerner like Mario Cuomo), he doubled down on his own image and chose another Southern white male and baby boomer moderate, Tennessee Sen. Al Gore. It worked. To this day, I am sure John McCain wonders if he too should have doubled down on choosing someone like himself in 2008. If he had chosen independent Sen. Joe Lieberman or Pennsylvania moderate Tom Ridge, would that have made the difference? Who knows.
So what should Hillary do?
Well, if she were asking me — and she is decidedly not — I would tell her to conjure up the spirit of Al Davis, the longtime renegade owner of the Oakland Raiders. With his funny clothes and unusual sideburns, Davis not only wanted to “just win, baby,” he loved to take chances and throw it deep. Clinton should do the same. How deep? Not Elizabeth Warren. Deeper. Not Bernie. Even deeper. Not Kasich, although that is clever. Not even Michelle Obama, my favorite idea shared by a reader recently. Sadly, I am not sure the first lady is ready or even desirous of this kind of extended tour of duty or combat.
No, I think the unequivocal “catch them when they’re not looking and knock them out Jon Jones MMA–style” move would be for Hillary to choose the daughter of an Indian immigrant who’s also the sister of a senior policy adviser to the Clinton campaign. I am talking about California’s attorney general, and likely future senator, Kamala Harris. Born in Oakland, home of Davis’ great Raiders teams, the telegenic 51-year-old former San Francisco district attorney is a fresh face who would ignite women, young people and people of color across the country.
She’s from a blue state, you say. Doesn’t matter. Her appeal would be electric, and her selection would create an excitement around Clinton’s campaign that they probably cannot fathom. A young half-black, half-Indian woman with a tough and innovative record on crime as a DA and attorney general? Man, oh woman, would Clinton score. The enthusiasm would be the most powerful campaign jolt we have seen since the GOP swooned over Sarah Palin. Unlike Palin in 2008, the substance and experience that Harris brings to the table would likely sustain such enthusiasm deep into the campaign.
What would happen to the Senate seat that Harris is running for? According to recent polling, it seems likely that another Democrat, U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, will finish next to Harris in the California primary in June. The top two finishers move on to the general election under California’s “open primary” system, so the Democrats would likely be just fine in that state if Harris had to withdraw and cede the Senate election to Sanchez.
Will Clinton take such a bold risk, choosing a state (and not federal) official, and one from a safe blue state instead of a battleground one? Well, as venture investor Chris Sacca said to me at TED recently, so many people are constantly searching for the formula for success — do this and get another Uber, do that and get another Snapchat. But the truth is that most of these successes follow truly original paths. And that can be scary to do, especially if you are Clinton and you have been preparing for this historic run for a lifetime.
So let’s watch and see. Does Clinton have some Davis in her? How deep is she willing to throw it to just win, baby?