Clinton Should Double Down on Diversity, Not Choose a White Man
Tomorrow, Donald Trump is expected to announce his running mate, and if most predictions are to be believed, the list is down to three candidates: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in that order.
The finalists are similar in three ways: all are white men, all are mediocre, and all are unusually confident in their personal brands built on bigotry and bluster. In fact, so alike are they in confident white male mediocrity to the GOP’s presumptive nominee that it’s only fitting Trump is considering a less-flashier version of himself, someone similar enough to affirm his remarkably clueless worldview, yet desperate enough to reduce himself to a glorified valet with a Secret Service detail, playing Igor to Trump’s Dr. Frankenstein.
But that’s what the Republican Party has become: a seemingly endless echo chamber of rants on political correctness and safe spaces enabled by conspiracy theories, racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, profound male fragility, and, underlying it all, a pervasive and palpable sense of fear of anyone who does not defer to the experiences of straight white men.
The decades-long effort of the GOP to build a party base exploiting the very worst in Americans has spiraled out-of-control and come tumbling down, and out of the rubble has emerged their new party standard-bearer: a man so disgustingly bigoted and ignorant that he makes the comparatively tame and chameleonic Mitt Romney look like Malcolm X.
On the other side, Hillary Clinton will most likely announce a running mate the weekend before the Democratic National Convention, and the safe bet is currently on Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a reliably progressive white man who is loved by much of the Democratic Party, avoids the sticky problem of being replaced in the Senate that plagues other potential Veep candidates, and, it is assumed, will appeal to so-called “blue collar workers” (re: white men) who feel the Democratic Party has abandoned them.
This is a reasonable analysis, but it doesn’t make it a righteous one. Whereas talk of diversifying tickets to include women and people of color and LGBTQ folks is meant to attract voters in marginalized groups and speak to their specific obstacles, putting a white man on a ticket so that other white men will feel less threatened and emasculated by a woman nominee seems enabling of bigotry and counter to the values of true progressivism.
Hillary Clinton needs to double down on diversity in this election. She needs to make this about choosing between the sadly-familiar exclusionary culture of our country’s past and an ideal future in which everyone has a seat at the table. What better way to accomplish this than to assert that white men do not have to be at the center of attention at all times in our country’s affairs.
Yes, we’re coming off eight years of having a black man as president, but alongside that has been an extraordinary effort to allay the concerns of white men who feel threatened. I love Joe Biden, but he was chosen primarily to court white male voters. I admire the President for spending eight years attempting to reach across the aisle to racist Republicans, but that effort has largely failed because they’re racist.
Insecure white men in this country are that kid at birthday parties who has to have a present even when it’s not their birthday being celebrated. They’re that relative (and we all know them) who makes everything — weddings, funerals, deathbed conversations — about them. Their feelings and opinions must be known to all involved, and anything less is an attack on their dignity. The world is their therapist and cheerleader.
Surely, most of us, including millions of white men who also see this, are tired of living in a culture that is forced to placate “adults” who are better suited to the politics of kindergarten classrooms than the serious issues facing our country. We’re exhausted.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of great choices out there. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s selection would put financial reform front-and-center and reinforce the demand for gender equality. Tapping Secretary Julián Castro or Secretary Tom Perez or Congressman Xavier Becerra would provide an historic Latino representation for a growing population that is routinely ignored and slandered. Sen. Cory Booker would bring to the table much-needed ground experience in problems afflicting urban centers.
Gov. Kaine, Sen. Sherrod Brown, Sen. Al Franken, Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Admiral Stavridis are all fantastic leaders and have done a great deal of good for this country, but none would be providing a life experience that has not been prioritized ad nauseam over that of others.
The progressive movement, itself, is going through growing pains. We’re coming off a primary season that has seen jarring sexism and racism from white male “progressives” who took issue with any woman or person of color that claimed Sen. Bernie Sanders is less than perfect. Add to that the institutional centralization of white men in liberal circles, and we have another reason to make it clear that there are other experiences worth considering. The #WeAreTheLeft open letter published yesterday brilliantly articulates the need for cultural reform in the progressive movement.
Privilege is a hell of a drug, and our country needs detoxing. I hope Sec. Clinton will take another step toward that with her VP choice.
Charles Clymer is an Army Veteran and writer based out of Washington, D.C., where they live with their girlfriend and two cats. They have been published in several places and quoted by Time, Newsweek, The Guardian, and numerous other publications. You can follow them on Twitter here and on Facebook here.