After campaigning for eighteen odd months, garnering almost the same number of votes in the Democratic Primary as Obama himself and proving her political durability against tremendous odds, the question arises as to why Hillary has not been named Obama’s Vice Presidential nominee.
Given the demographics within the United States there is a powerful argument that a minority candidate like Obama has little choice but to choose a white man as his running mate. A black man and a woman together is probably too radical an option for an electorate which is fundamentally conservative, particularly as Obama himself is touted by his enemies as the most liberal member of the Senate, true or otherwise. In the political culture of the United States that is a tough label to wear and to prosper.
But aside from being a woman what is the trouble with Hillary?
Clearly there was a lot of bad feeling between the two candidates during the primary campaign which was long and fairly evenly split, making it difficult for the them to kiss and make up afterwards.
Another reason might have been that both Obama and Clinton are Senators and both from northern states; the last time two senators won was in 1964 when Lyndon Baines Johnson won with Hubert H Humphery. But Johnson was from the South. Still Obama has now chosen Senator Joe Biden, another northern senator, so that theory doesn’t hold. Personally I would have chosen Governor Bill Richardson, of New Mexico, who seems like a white male but is actually Hispanic, a constituency Obama needs to harvest. Richardson also has credible political experience in Washington, and is particularly effective on television, even on far right media like Fox News.
Perhaps another issue is that when you get Hillary, you probably can’t not get Bill. They seem to be married in every sense, except possibly when it comes to sex that is! With powerful political gravity and an unwillingness to go quietly, Bill Clinton has the ability to bend political time and space, which could be profoundly damaging for an Obama Presidential campaign and then for an Obama Presidency. Even Hillary herself was unable to deflect the effect within her primary campaign. Former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher did something similar to her successor, John Major after her party deposed her in 1990.
Also, having either of the Clintons right behind you in a political sense would require extraordinary self confidence and profound depths of political capital. As powerful national figures both Bill and Hillary are used to running their own race and are usually strongly attuned to their own political interests. Neither is really a number two kind of person. A Hillary Vice President could have make Obama’s time as President more challenging than the positives it would have undoubtedly brought.
Many commentators have argued (quite convincingly) that Hillary Clinton also brings with her a lot of baggage, mostly from the period of her husband’s Presidency. That baggage has divided the country with people either loving or hating her. In this sense she is viewed as a divisive figure. This public persona does not sit well with Obama’s mantra of “change we can believe in”.
Yet Hillary would also have brought great strengths to the Obama campaign for President. She is one tough lady who displayed her strength of character throughout her own campaign. Perhaps what she could have bought to the Obama campaign was her shock troops, her rapid response team who ruthlessly pursue any opposition. I have no doubt the far right extremists who control the Republican Party will give Obama cause to wish he had access to her resources at some point as his campaign plays out.