Why Clinton will choose Deval Patrick as vice president

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2016/04/30/why-clinton-will-choose-deval-patrick-as-vice-president/

As “Bern Baby Bern” — like all good socialist-themed endeavors – slowly and inevitably finds itself reduced to a simmering ash heap out of a once flourishing flame, the Clinton campaign has now methodically and understandably begun the process of vetting vice presidential candidates for the Democratic ticket. Hillary Clinton will choose former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

This past Sunday The New York Times – which said the nomination fight is “still fluid” (for the Democrats, it isn’t) – reported that Clinton is considering between 15 and 20 potential running mates. In addition to Patrick, the Times suggests, wishfully, that Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is also among the contenders.

Former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, who possesses a metabolic inability to refrain from offering his acerbic opinions on just about everything, chimed in, after being out of office for over three years, telling the Times that he has “made some recommendations.”

Much has changed since the days when vice presidential candidates were formally selected by leaders of the nominating convention. The first presidential candidate to choose his own running mate was Franklin Roosevelt, in 1940. And the first presidential candidate to choose his running mate even before a convention convened was Ronald Reagan, in 1976.

In the modern era, with presidential nominees usually determined by a primary process well in advance of respective conventions, vice presidential candidates are also given earlier consideration (see Cruz and Fiorina). Today, picking a running-mate is seen as the first serious and solemn decision made by the presidential candidate.

Patrick would be a fascinating and logical choice.

In its analysis, The Times weighed the pros and cons of Patrick as a running mate. The pros are obvious: Patrick brings diversity to the ticket (he is the first African-American governor to be reelected), has close ties to the business community (he is a partner of Bain Capital, the investment firm), and invokes a heartwarming personal story (overcoming a childhood in poverty). The cons seem less problematic: Massachusetts is not a swing state (neither was Joe Biden’s Delaware for Barack Obama) and Patrick “could easily be tarred as another Massachusetts liberal.”

Patrick also brings executive level experience to this campaign and would be comfortable in the role of presiding over the contemplative Senate, where he would forge coalitions. And Patrick would deliver an elegant poetry – in speech and debate – to the proceedings, thereby elevating Clinton’s otherwise insipid prose on the campaign trail, in this dismal year of uninspiring political discourse.

Like anyone associated with the Clintons, however, Patrick’s relationship with them is, well, complex and enigmatic. As counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Patrick sued Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas, over that state’s alleged violation of the Voting Rights Act. In 1994, President Clinton appointed Patrick as an Assistant Attorney General, in charge of the civil right division. Just two years ago, in a radio appearance on WGBH, Patrick expressed concern over Hillary Clinton’s “inevitability” as the Democrat nominee, and said about her, “It’s not like we’re pals.”

But don’t let a little political jostling get in the way of political opportunism.

For Hillary Clinton, and, more importantly, for the vice presidential nominee – should they win in November– there is a complicated variable: How does this constitutionally elected person work within an administration that undoubtedly will be influenced by a powerful and popular former president who is also the spouse of the president? That might be the most important factor in deciding a Clinton running mate.

Patrick, of all the names being bandied about, is virtually the only person who might be able to handle this extra-vice presidential requirement. He understands the Clintons and seemingly has the temperament to counteract Clinton controversies. And critically, as a close friend of Barack Obama, he would quietly mind the Obama legacy, as he guides the Clinton legacies. That is no small task.

Of course, there is a cloddish hilarity in Hillary Clinton vetting another person for the second most powerful position on earth, that seems lost on all Democrats, let alone casual political observers. It is simply that Clinton herself, in a normal political cycle, would not stand close scrutiny in the vetting process, given her involvement with Whitewater, Benghazi, and email security, among other scandals.

Then again, these are not normal times.

James P. Freeman

James P. Freeman

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. Read his past columns here.