It’s probably a bit presumptuous, seeing as how less than one percent of the total delegates have been tallied and, contrary to every single cable news station, “winning” Iowa is politically worthless, but before too long we’ll start seeing a slew of “running mate” stories. So, why not be among the first?
We’re only a few short months away from candidates rummaging through the slagheap of losers and also-rans, shopping for an ambitious-but-not-too-ambitious, connected-but-not-establishment, swing-state-dwelling second-tier yes-man (or yes-woman) to shore up their national position and complement their weaknesses.
On the Democrat side, a Hillary nomination (which, frankly, seems inevitable) would best be served by an olive branch veep offer to challenger Bernie Sanders. Thus far, Clinton and Sanders have remained mostly civil, especially compared to the toxic 2008 battle Clinton lost to Obama. An administration with Sanders in the number two slot would be the next best thing to get his youngish rabid base frothing from its collective snout. (I don’t actually think that will happen. More likely he’d be slotted as a cabinet member—Interior or Commerce both make sense.)
But what if Clinton somehow improbably snatches defeat from the jaws of victory? In that case, Sanders will have proven he does not need an insider like Clinton to win. In that case, things can become very interesting.
Choosing a VP is not an exact science. Each decision is a case study unto itself, bound by prisoner-of-the-moment considerations and defined as much by the other party’s candidate as your own. Steve Schmidt was onto something when he sought to pair candidate John McCain with a firebrand outsider—unfortunately that “something” turned out to be a batshit crazy Alaskan meme who eroded the candidate’s credibility in a year when Abraham Lincoln couldn’t have won for Republicans.
Still, what if instead of a strategic afterthought aimed at a narrow slew of electoral votes, a VP was that transformative game-changer Schmidt envisioned? But, like, in a less xenophobic, stridently ignorant way?
Enter 39-year-old Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). When Sinema ascended to the House of Representatives in 2013, her positions on immigration reform and her personal story—she comes from an impoverished family and has said she lived for years in an abandoned gas station in the Florida panhandle—made her a rising star in the party. If you want to know more about her, this Arizona Republic profile is a pretty comprehensive read.
The goal in choosing Sinema wouldn’t be to pick up Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. The last time Arizona went blue was 1996, and the last time before that was 1948. Instead, tapping Sinema would be a national effort to further energize the Bernie base. Her platform as a statesman, while not as aged as Sanders, nonetheless echoes his call for revolution. Rather than affecting social change through economic reform, she focuses on social reform to affect economic outcomes for lower class families she purports to identify with.
Sinema is a serious, measured voice on immigration. As an attorney, she represented Iraqis who had aided the U.S. military during wartime. She’s advocated for comprehensive reform, while also supporting the measure that would halt the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees until more thorough vetting could be done.
Agree or disagree with these positions, it shows she is clearly not an ideologue or a prisoner of her party; Sinema has demonstrated the ability to judge legislation on a case-by-case basis. Her voting record suggests an understanding that immigration, like most issues, is not black and white, but a series of grey shades.
Still not on board? How about this: Sinema voted against human paperweight Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as House speaker. Her choice? Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a civil rights hero.
In 2008, Sinema led the effort to defeat a gay marriage ban in Arizona, earning her the steam that fed her Congressional run.
Also, she did this, for what it’s worth:
Apart from her positions, accomplishments and swagger, Sinema also checks off some critical Q-rating boxes, which has apparently become more important than substance in this election cycle. She’s the first openly bisexual member of Congress—which might be a bit of lede-burying on my part. She would be the first woman VP ever, and she’s young. Very young. Like, just a few years away from millennial-young.
That’s not to say she comes without baggage. She’d need to be vetted, and while her academic background suggests her name doesn’t belong in the same sentence as Sarah Palin’s (she began her college career at 14, was co-valedictorian of her high school, going on to earn a Ph.D. and a law degree), she’s still never been quizzed on the inner workings of the Chinese Politburo or Iranian-Saudi Arabian relations. She embraces science, which can be a negative because half of this country is so awesomely smart. She was Mormon, and is now an unaffiliated believer who has been called an atheist, which is a huge problem almost everywhere in this country. She is divorced. She’s a triathlete, which could engender jealousy among millions of obese American voters. Like it does in me.
Because of her social positions, conservatives can paint her as left of Mao. The left wing can find fault in her voting record—most recently on Obama’s refugee bill—if they look hard enough. Sinema is something of a political Rorschach test—what you see when you look at her probably says more about you than her.
There have also been rumors that because of her reluctance to share details from her early life, Sinema may be embellishing her hardscrabble background. Responsible and diligent reporting done by outlets like the Republic suggests this isn’t the case. But still, she is media averse—especially for a politician who is generally “out there.”
After Sinema took office in 2013, I reached out to do a profile on her for Poder Magazine, which I was editing at the time. She e-mailed me back—surprising for even a freshman politician—and very politely declined, saying she needed to devote her full attention to legislating and learning her new job. This, apparently, has been a consistent theme during her first term. It’s hard to find any media where Sinema has been an active participant, beyond just confirming or denying facts by email.
A bisexual, godless, crusading liberal legislator in a deep red state with no family connections or political pedigree, taking up reasoned positions on unpopular causes while shunning the media? It’s almost a perfect story, if only she would comment on it.
On a personal note, let me just say that after a career spent journalisming, it’s refreshing and a little scary to outright vocalize my support for a political candidate.
Which is stupid, I realize, because so many members of the media today do exactly that implicitly, if not explicitly. But, I no longer have to adhere to the antiquated, preposterous tenets of journalism that calls for flesh and blood reporters to pretend they are the only people in the world who have no opinions on anything. That’s fucking dumb.
Also, I get to use “fuck” because it’s my blog and I’m not a journalist anymore.