Talk from the Trail: A Woman VP?


It’s a popular question on the presidential campaign trail to ask the male Democratic candidates about choosing a woman as their running mate. Joe Biden says it would be “great” to have a woman on the ticket as his vice president. Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke have both suggested that they are committed to picking a woman as their vice president, if they win the nomination. John Hickenlooper said “of course” he would consider a woman, and so did Bernie Sanders. As The New York Times’ Lisa Lerer wrote, “The comments reflect a desire by male candidates to show that they are not taking female voters for granted, particularly as so many women mount bids of their own for the nomination.” On the Republican side, there’s even the suggestion that Donald Trump replace Mike Pence with Nikki Haley.

Some wonder if men should even be asked this question at this stage in the race. Anita Hill told The New York Times that she finds it “really, deeply troubling” that female 2020 candidates are being discussed as vice presidential material. Helaine Olen writes for The Washington Post:

So, goes the conventional wisdom, something needs to be done to keep the ladies happy. Surely a spot on the presidential ticket in second place is the right thing to make that happen.

But getting a woman on the ticket in this way is the equivalent of a pat on the head. In an attempt to boost female voters and pols, it instead trivializes them.

There have only been two women selected as major party nominees: Democrat Walter Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate in 1984, and, more than twenty years later, Republican John McCain chose Sarah Palin as his in 2008. If women were the vice presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle in 2020, that would be history-making. However, with many months to go until the first presidential primaries, talking about potential women running mates on the Democratic side feels premature, especially with six women vying for the top spot themselves. As Stacey Abrams put it when asked about joining a presidential ticket as a VP: “I think you don’t run for second place.”

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