I do wish the Dems had a primary contest this election cycle. Sure, I’m no fan of Obama and would have liked a challenger to step up. But another reason is I’m tired of – and a bit bored already – with the GOP race. It would be fun to muse on some breathless news breaking on the Democratic side. There is none. The GOP is the show for now.
So to find some news in this race I fall back on 2011′s safest assumption: Romney will be the GOP nominee – so the game becomes who will be his running mate? There a delicious piece of propaganda from the Right pushing Condi Rice here. The article openly announces its intention: To make Rice a contender for the VEEP slot. Romney/Rice has an alliterative appeal. It’s not I Like Ike but it does have a dandy bounce to it. Past that though, what’s the appeal?
A woman on the ticket is not a must in 2012 but it’s close to being one. And I’ll go ahead and be just crass enough to say it : That Professor Rice is also black doesn’t hurt. It won’t matter to the black Democratic base but it blunts far-flung racism charges that would not have played much in 2012 anyway – but they would have been made nonetheless. Ironically, the race card is all about white votes now. In a close race if racism can even be tangentially attached to Romney just enough white suburban votes might swing back to Obama. (The race card will be attached at the hip to Mormonism, if it’s played at all.)
But on the ground what’s far more important than race is the gender gap. I truly believe women everywhere on the political spectrum crossed a threshold after 2008. Actual representation is now on the agenda. Many women want to see women in power. Men who are “good on womens’ issues” is no longer enough. On some level McCain anticipated this and reached for Palin in 2008. But it was not to be. 2008 was just not the year for a Republican to win no matter who he picked.
And let’s be crystal clear: Rice is no Palin. Rice is cool under fire, ridiculously accomplished – on paper she’s over qualified for the job of vice president and probably even President if the last 2 are the new standard – and she adds a gravitas on foreign policy that only Hillary Clinton could counter.
Did I mention her grandparents were sharecroppers? That’s a narrative that will come in mighty handy when the Bain Capital ads start flying. Obama’s hook into the national guilt about the black experience is essentially skin deep. Rice’s would be, well, based on experience. Black girl from the South becomes Secretary of State, a Stanford professor and a concert pianist? There’s not enough white liberal guilt on earth to dismiss that story. I can already hear VP candidate Rice on NPR….making inroads, soothing the nerves of creative class types who need a reason, any reason, to walk out on Obama. Even if she doesn’t change minds there will not vulgar photos of Rice in a bikini holding an assault rifle on MSNBC…there will be no effigies on Rice hung in West Hollywood next Halloween. There will be no easy, glib objectification of Rice. It will happen, of course, but it will be shunned by the vast majority, and not become fodder for late night talk show hosts.
Would Rice be able to withstand the media assault? Does she even want to? I do not know. I do know it would come. Why isn’t she married? That will be the question floated in the outskirts to get the ball rolling. Then “A Mormon and a black woman!?!” would bubble up. Obnoxious? Yes. Bigoted? Yes. But it’s the kind of unspoken emotional pause button that still matters in American life, and no one in the MSM will run interference on it as they did for Obama.
If Rice is willing to suffer through it, and does it with skill and grace…well, Obama’s in trouble. The answer is simple enough: Obama/Clinton 2012. Forget any denials about replacing Biden. Getting Hillary Clinton on the ticket is the nuclear option for Obama – if she’s game. If Obama’s numbers are essentially unchanged or worse by Summer, and Romney continues his steady as he goes campaign then Team Obama will have to reach. Even I, who finds so much about Barack Obama repellant on so many levels, would be hard pressed to NOT vote for Mrs. Clinton for Vice President. I’d want to be a part of the story when a woman is finally a heartbeat away.
There are millions of women now who have had it with the lack of women at or near the top. Sure many say “I’ll never vote for Obama after 2008″. Many say it here. But if the choice is Obama/Clinton versus Romney/Christie….? Let’s be honest. Obama wins the gender gap in a rout. Conversely, I wouldn’t vote for Romney/Rice. But I would understand any woman who did for even the shallowest of reasons. It’s becoming odd and glaring that we haven’t had a female chief executive or even a 2nd in command when so many other nations have.
Anyone who still thinks Obama did not get millions of white votes just because of his conjured narrative and his skin color is being belligerently delusional. From Pasadena to the Hamptons Obama scored big for no other reason than he was “articulate” and black – and white voters wanted to prove a point – about themselves mostly. Anyone who asked one follow-up question about their vote knows there was no deep thought involved. There was a feeling. It felt good to vote for Obama. Is feeling a reason to re-install a member of the George W Bush administration? No. Not at all. But unlike Obama, Rice is actually qualified for the job she’d be seeking. If she got votes just because of her gender at least it wouldn’t be in spite of a lack of experience. Like her politics of not, she is more than capable.
Both Obama and Romney ought to mind this new normal if either expects to win. A woman chosen just because she’s a woman is not enough, of course. And there is no reason 2 women shouldn’t contest the Presidency. But for now VEEP is where we are. Clinton and Rice are both game changers. Either woman on a national ticket changes the dynamic..forever. Ferraro is deservedly etched in history but she was a Hail Mary pass from Mondale, who was never, ever going to win. Another woman on a national ticket barely rated a mention until 2008. Rice or Clinton would represent an acknowledgement that women in power are here to stay.
Keeping an eye on Rice this year will be intriguing. Does she want it? Is Romney willing? Will the prospect of someone like Rice scare Team Obama, forcing Biden out before Rice is even a sure bet? The Democratic Convention is first, a fact that helps Romney in this sweepstakes. Does Rice have skeletons? Could she stomach 3 months of degrading hell?
These questions are more fun right now than the tiresome GOP demolition derby.