Senator Tammy Baldwin (WI)Photo: Campaign photo
The Democratic presidential race is still in full swing, but the conventional wisdom is that by mid-March, Joe Biden is likely to have wrapped up the nomination – a huge difference from two weeks ago, when the conventional wisdom would have had Biden’s campaign six feet under.
Even at this early and far-from-settled stage, speculation is ramping up about who Biden would tap to be his running mate. The choice will get more than the usual attention for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Biden’s age.
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At 77, Biden would be the oldest president ever elected, and voters will need to be reassured that he has a successor who could step into the role if he is no longer be able serve.
There are other reasons as well – the Democrats will have just come through a bruising primary, with a record number of candidates. The progressive and moderate/liberal wings will likely continue to harbor ill will toward each other.
They will need to come together if they are to defeat Trump.
Biden will also need to demonstrate that his presidency isn’t an entire retread of the Obama era. That implies a VP pick that is groundbreaking. At a minimum, that means a woman.
There are lots of possibilities that fit. Biden certainly owes Amy Klobuchar a big debt of thanks for her endorsement just before Super Tuesday, which led Biden to unexpectedly win her home state of Minnesota.
A woman of color would also send a strong message. Kamala Harris generated a lot of attention with her presidential bid, and she showed that she’s far more dynamic on the stump than Biden is. Stacey Abrams, who unsuccessfully ran for governor in Georgia in 2018, is an up-and-comer in the party, despite her relatively limited experience.
But perhaps the most intriguing name being thrown about is Senator Tammy Baldwin. If chosen, Baldwin would become the first out LGBTQ person on the presidential ticket for a major party. She would bring a number of advantages to the ticket.
First and foremost, Baldwin’s from the battleground state of Wisconsin. She handily won re-election in 2018 in a state that Democrats hope to tilt back to their favor. She has more than two decades of experience in Washington serving on key committees, such as the House Committee on Appropriations.
Baldwin could also serve as a bridge to the more progressive elements of the party. She has made health care a signature issue, and that’s the issue that helped Democrats win the House back in 2018. More to the point, Baldwin has long advocated a Medicare-for-All system, the kind that Sanders promotes. She was also against the invasion of Iraq, which has become a kind of litmus test for progressives.
No wonder progressive magazine Jacobin pegged her as the perfect VP choice — but for Sanders. In that regard, Baldwin could do a lot to heal the inevitable rifts in the party if Biden is the nominee.
Then, of course, there is the fact that Baldwin is an out lesbian and has been for her entire political career. Her selection would cap a historic cycle for the Democrats, following on Pete Buttigieg’s candidacy.
The race still has a long way to go, but the fact that Baldwin’s name is already in play is a hopeful sign. The old barriers seem to have fallen permanently. We may not have a gay presidential nominee this time around, but perhaps we can have a lesbian vice presidential nominee.