It was reported last week in the national media that Hillary Clinton would simply not accept another woman on the ticket as Barack Obama’s running mate. If she wasn’t the choice, then Obama would have to select a man.
I am not sure of the accuracy of this report, but the political dilemma is worth discussing. If Senator Clinton still dreams of being the first female president of the United States, it would not be in her interest to have a competitor. And even if Obama loses in November, his running mate would become, along with Senator Clinton, a strong contender for the 2012 election. That would set up a pleasant situation—two women heading the list of possible Democratic presidential candidates. Nothing wrong with that.
If (or should I say when) Obama wins in November we will have a different situation. The nation's first female vice-president would immediately become the heir apparent to President Obama--although 2016 is a long way off. Clearly however, Hillary Clinton’s chances of becoming president would decline precipitously.
But what will the Clinton supporters think of a different women being named Obama’s running mate? In my opinion, they would be unable to criticize this choice even if disappointed. Would they deny another female a spot on the ticket? Even if Clinton is not the choice, wouldn’t it still be remarkable to have an African-American/female team? Much of Clinton’s campaign would be validated to a great degree and her supporters would have to feel some amount of satisfaction.
Finally, could Clinton stop Obama from selecting a female? I suppose she could put enough pressure to do just that. But what if the word got out? It would simply reinforce an image of Hillary Clinton as a selfish and ruthless politician who cared only about her own self-interest—not the party, and not the feminist movement. No, she simply cannot make this demand. If discovered, her future role as a party leader would be diminished severely. Even her chances of running for president in the future would be damaged.
The fact is, this is the perfect time to select a female running mate. Hillary Clinton has opened the door for a woman to be selected immediately. Obama needs to take advantage of that opening. Yes, it would probably end Clinton’s presidential hopes—but her chances are slim anyway. The Clinton 18-million would have to be supportive. And finally, it would give an opportunity for a number of Democratic women (and Republican women also) to run for president in the next few election cycles.
History will give Hillary Clinton credit for making this situation possible now. This might not be what she had in mind--but it isn't a bad legacy. Now Barack Obama must make the next move.