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In the last chapter, I suggested a presidential ticket that could decimate the Trump coalition, by offering a progressive vision, uniting Clinton and Sanders supporters, and project economic populism, public service, and self-sacrifice to peel away reluctant Trump voters. And that ticket was Elizabeth Warren and William McRaven.

elizabeth-warren.jpgwilliam mcraven

Of course, there is far more that goes in to an administration than who is on the presidential ticket. I explored this in greater depth in my series on ranking the presidents, but the best administrations sought out diverse points of view, hired competent and public service-minded individuals, and steered away from group-think. That is the kind of atmosphere I wanted to cultivate in selecting what a great cabinet might look like for this imaginary administration. I didn’t want any loudmouths, self-aggrandizers, and ideologues. I wanted problem solvers of proven excellence, individuals of deep learning and keen observation, and people who lived out an ethos of public service in their respective fields. So I picked out a cabinet from various walks of life- some worthy veterans of their respective departments, some businesspersons, the odd community activist, and a few public office-holders. I tried to avoid trend where people just list out a “fantasy cabinet” with a bunch of senators- like putting Bernie Sanders as Secretary of Treasury or Joe Biden as Secretary of State. Let’s instead consider the greater breadth and richness of American public life.

wendy sherman

Photo/Reba Saldanha Rapport Center distinguished lecturer and former Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Wendy Sherman speaks at Boston College Law School Monday November 9, 2015.

Secretary of State: There is a tendency here to choose a sexy, high-profile pick for Secretary of State to generate buzz and make the cabinet more prestigious via some household name. A lot of names I bandied about would have fit that profile- Caroline Kennedy, Russ Feingold, and yes, Joe Biden. But I ultimately landed on Wendy Sherman. One of the elements of the Obama presidency that intrigued me most was his ability to turn longtime pariah countries into the path of slowly, watchfully, becoming integrated back into the community of nations. She turned the probable failure of Iran negotiations into a qualified success, and is a committed policy wonk with a resolve of steel.

richard cordraySecretary of Treasury: My pick for this spot goes to Richard Cordray of Ohio. As the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Cordray has a huge target on his back, and may very well be dismissed by President Trump by the time all is said and done. But so far in his tenure, Cordray has used the agency’s independence in suitably populist ways, going after predatory lenders and holding Wells Fargo accountable after it opened numerous fraudulent accounts, ultimately fining it $100 million.

Secretary of Defense: While Michele Flournoy is often seen as the presumptive nominee jack reedfor this spot in the next Democratic administration, I’m going to go against the grain. Looking at the number of think tank gurus and military figures in charge of what is ostensibly an agency that is supposed to be led by civilians, I am pulling for Jack Reed, the senator from Rhode Island. As I wrote in an earlier entry, I expect Reed to retire from the Senate in 2020, and once he does, he might reconsider his long reluctance to serve in a presidential cabinet. Given the disaster of think-tankers in the Bush years, and the problematic elements of having so many career military men in the Trump administration, I think it important to return leadership of the Pentagon to civilian- indeed, congressional- oversight. With Reed, you get a 20+ year veteran of the Senate, a former West Point cadet and West Point instructor, and someone who voted against the Iraq War. That’s a pretty amazing meeting of competence, experience, and good judgment.

brian sandovalAttorney General: There was the old Sesame Street jingle, “one of these things just doesn’t belong,” and the Department of Justice is the odd man out in the cabinet. Unlike the other departments, it needs to confront- and if necessary, defy- the president. One critique, common in the last twenty-five years regardless of who was in power, was of collusion between the attorney general’s office and the West Wing. I don’t think that’s an unfair concern. For that reason, I have an unconventional choice. Most incoming cabinets (Mr. Trump excepted) have at least one member of the opposition party- and here’s mine. I suggest Nevada governor Brian Sandoval. Sandoval is by far the best of the Republican governors- and possibly the best governor in any state regardless of party. Almost alone of the GOP governors, he resisted the bandwagon to reject incoming refugees from Syria, he wasn’t opposed to a modest tax increase, and he has experience as a judge and state attorney general that lends itself well to serving as the head of the Justice Department. You can trust this guy to strong, prescient, and fair-minded.

christy goldfussInterior: Christy Goldfuss isn’t the most well-known name on this list, but she’d be a fine choice to head one of the most important of all departments, concerned as it is with preserving our country’s natural resources and beautiful landscape.  In an age suspicious of Washington insiders, Goldfuss effuses a Leslie Knope-like love of public service, and she’s incredibly skilled at communicating in small events and in social media. She’s served as Obama’s Deputy Director of National Parks, and chaired the Council on Environmental Quality. There is a tendency to appoint a random western governor or congressman to this position; I seriously considered Brian Schweitzer or John Hickenlooper for this job. A native of Connecticut, Goldfuss- as far as I can tell- would be the first east-coaster in decades to hold this position, but I don’t think that’s in any sense a disqualification.

Agriculture: Similarly, there is a tendency to default to a congressman or governor from david beckmannthe prairie states for the D.A. Instead, I remembered the Eisenhower administration, and how he brought on talent from church-related organizations who could thrive in a government that shouldn’t play favorites among religions. Dulles, you might remember, was heavily involved in the National Council of Churches before becoming Secretary of State. In this vein, I’d love for Rev. David Beckmann to serve as Secretary of Agriculture. For the last 25 years, Beckmann has served as president of Bread for the World, raising awareness, producing scholarship, and coordinating interfaith efforts to combat global and domestic hunger. A Lutheran pastor who is also a trained economist, Beckmann understands the nuances of the Agriculture Department’s most fundamental charge: make sure hungry people get enough to eat. Part lobby, part charity, Beckmann has been at the forefront of successful efforts to get Congress to increase its spending on development assistance. In terms of getting food to people who need it, Beckmann is one of the sharpest, most effective thinkers and administrators one can imagine. We’ll need him after the massive cuts to domestic and international humanitarian programs under the Trump budget.

ursula burnsCommerce: Look, as a general rule, we’re not going to revive American manufacturing to its 1950s pinnacle. We need a head of the Commerce Department who understands that, and can serve as an effective liaison to the business world. I’d love for them to be partners rather than antagonists in an effort to create a more socially just America. I considered former Pennsylvania governor Mark Schweiker, civic leader and plastics magnate Noel Ginsburg, and real estate guy R. Donahue Peebles. But I ultimately landed on Xerox CEO Ursula Burns. She’s the embodiment of the American Dream, having worked her way up in Xerox from a lowly intern to become the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company. She turned the company around from ruin, going from machine manufacturing to information and document processing. Burns is direct, tough, and realistic- a good fit for Commerce.

Jobs with Justice National Conference

Jobs with Justice National Conference, Day 2 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Aug. 6, 2011 © Rick Reinhard 2011

Labor: Ai-Jen Poo would be amazing in this job. For years, she has mobilized domestic workers and caregivers, most recently serving as leader of Domestic Workers United. (Many domestic workers are exempt from state and federal labor laws, allowing them to overworked, underpaid, and vulnerable to harassment.) She has been a consistent voice for humane immigration policies, workers’ rights, and just as importantly, making sure workers have the tools and resources they need to make a positive change. She knows, better than most, that part of the labor movement is the ability to make good on your own vocation.

fullsizeoutput_2cHealth and Human Services: Karen DeSalvo would be the only resident of the South in the cabinet. She served as the New Orleans Health Commissioner, where she took a strong grassroots approach to health services, taking less of a “reactionary” approach and more of a network of resources the community could draw on. Fit NOLA ended up being a wildly successful effort that drew links between the business world, community leaders, and the government. Her efforts got her an award as a Governing magazine public official of the year, and subsequent served as an Assistant Secretary in HHS during the closing years of the Obama administration. She has the executive experience and federal background to improve Obamacare- hopefully with a public option this time around.

aaron bartleyHousing and Urban Development: One element I wanted in this cabinet was a proper grassroots activist. They don’t always work out in government: ultimately, not everyone can make the transition from the streets to working within the system they hoped to change. But I’ve got a good feeling about my fellow Buffalonian Aaron Bartley. His PUSH organization (that’s People United for Sustainable Housing) has brought new life into the dilapidated West Side of the Nickel City. It’s influx of refugees and immigrants have contributed to PUSH’s job training, urban agriculture, and green-powered affordable housing.

r.t. rybakTransportation: I’m a big fan of the state of Minnesota- it’s proven that progressive leadership can produce results. For Transportation, I pick R.T. Rybak, the former mayor of St. Paul. Rybak unexpectedly became the face of coping with America’s crumbling infrastructure when I-35W bridge collapsed. His response- which included not just quick fixes but planning for the future, including light rail- was widely praised, and even earned him a nomination for the World Mayor Award. He even leads a public bicycle-sharing program.

shirley jacksonEnergy: This is another cabinet spot whose importance cannot be understated- it’s key to have strong, steady, knowledgeable leadership in an agency that is responsible for the nuclear weapons program and safe disposal of energy sources. Shirley Jackson would be 74 by the time she got the job, but there’s no reason to think she wouldn’t excel at it. Jackson served as chair of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board, chaired the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under Bill Clinton, served as president of RPI (about an hour from where I grew up in upstate New York), and- oh yes- was the first black woman to get a Ph.D. from MIT.

joseph garciaEducation: To rehabilitate our public education system after the Betsy DeVos onslaught, we need someone with the heart of an educator, and the skills of a politician. Joseph Garcia is the man for that. He’s served as President of Colorado State-Pueblo, spent five years on the Colorado Commission for Higher Education, and was twice the Community College President of the Year. After all that, he served a short tenure as lieutenant governor of Colorado doing double duty as the Executive Director of Higher Education. He’s got the chops and the track record to oversee the federal government’s role in ensuring that everybody receives a quality education in America.

Mike MichaudVeterans’ Affairs: In 2014, Congressman Michael Michaud averred re-election to Maine’s rural 2nd district to run for Vacationland’s governor. That didn’t work out, and after some speculation about his future, took a job as an Assistant Secretary of Labor in a role that facilitates the training and hiring of veterans. Maine- especially the 2nd district- has an unusually large number of military veterans, and Michaud is no stranger to representing their interests. He was one of the first to identify the VA incompetence under Eric Shinseki and demand reform. Michaud also sponsored an act in Congress that would have given tax credits to businesses that hire veterans. As someone conversant in the fields of veterans’ affairs, health care, and labor, he’d be a slam dunk at the VA. Oh, and if confirmed, he’d be the first openly gay cabinet secretary.

Julliette KayeemHomeland Security: I’d expect that Vice President McRaven would come in handy in security policy, but the actual cabinet spot should go to Juliette Kayyem.  Some might clutch pearls at the idea of Homeland Security being led by a Lebanese woman, but Kayyem has more than earned her spot at the table. See, she has effortlessly combined deep policy knowledge, government experience, and public relations genius- something residually missing from previous secretaries of this department. She has already worked as an Assistant Secretary in this department, served as the Homeland Security secretary of Massachusetts, and published a well-received memoir called Security Mom. She also coordinated the White House response to the Deepwater Horizon spill, giving her solid crisis management chops.

jody williamsPeace: Wait a minute, you say- there isn’t a Department of Peace! I say that we create one. And it isn’t some nebulous hippy-dippy idea. It’s been proposed by serious politicians for decades, ranging from Republicans like Alexander Wiley to crusty West Virginia populists like Matthew Neeley, to Hoosier Vance Hartke, to modern-day politicos like Minnesota governor Mark Dayton and former congressman Dennis Kucinich. It would coordinate, support, and recruit for active peacemaking, heading Peace Corps and Americorps, rehabilitating prisoners and drug users into society, and monitor democracy abroad. It might even oversee the McGovern Institute, kind of a West Point for peacemaking. And I want Nobel Prize winner Jody Williams to be its first leader. Williams is a hard-nosed realist who despises ineffectual marches, coordinates UN, governmental, and humanitarian activities like a pro, and has been instrumental in the long campaign to defuse, remove, and disincentivized landmines. Rather than giving the Pentagon everything they ask and more, we should be using our nation’s resources for programs like these.

So- what do you think? I like this cabinet a lot for a Warren-McRaven administration. It represents the best of public service in America- and can encourage a new generation to take part in civic activity like the Kennedy administration did over fifty years earlier. It provides a number of different perspectives- the business world, government, academia, grassroots activism, the military- to collaborate on solving deep problems. 50% are women, and six are persons of color- and every one is imminently qualified by character, temperament, and experience.  Let me know your thoughts about this in the comments below. If there’s enough interest I might fill this out with a subsequent post on other positions like EPA, Chief of Staff, CIA director, UN Ambassador, and so on.

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Yikes…this series has already gone longer than I ever intended it to. And the end isn’t even in sight. This is the final post on retaking some House districts before we move to 2020 and its gubernatorial, senatorial, and especially presidential elections. For this post, I’ve construed the “West” broadly here, meaning obviously the Pacific coast, but also the Rocky Mountains and the “prairie states,” whose eastern halves often share more of a character with the Midwest. While the South and Midwest included many stretches and hail-Mary candidates, there are actually more likely pickups in this final section on the House. Take a look at California- fully 20% of all Democrats in the House come from this single state, but even then it has a number of very close, evenly matched districts with Republican incumbents. So without any further ado, let’s begin.

Alaska (at large): Don Young has represented this district since 1973, and since then, he’s become the crown prince of pork-barrel spending in a state with some of the wackiest politics in the union. Only in 2008 did he face credible opposition, winning by a scant 5 points; he might have lost if Sarah Palin wasn’t on the national ticket that year. Who was his challenger that year? Why that would be current Anchorage mayor Ethan Berkowitz. You’d never guess it but Alaska is technically one of the more urban states in the country; over 50% of its population lives in the Anchorage metro area, giving Berkowitz the base of support he needs to challenge this bearded barnacle of an incumbent.

Arizona- 02: Any foreseeable map for taking back the House has to make a play for this district, which is mostly urban and covers much of the Tucson area. Matt Heinz, who ran for this seat in 2016, deserves another shot. He’s a medical doctor pushing 40, worked for Health and Human Services in Washington, and is a strong supporter of using Arizona to develop solar energy. His ties to Obamacare will surely be less of a liability in 2018 as the G.O.P. struggles to articulate a replacement.

California- 10: This particular district is dead even on the Cook PVI, and contains almost equal numbers of white and Hispanic voters. To nudge this district over the edge, I suggest looking for a disaffected Republican who hails from this area: Ann Veneman, George W. Bush’s secretary of agriculture. Veneman is a strong supporter of UNICEF, same-sex marriage, international aid, of humanitarian relief, and women’s health.  In short, the modern Republican Party bears no resemblance to her views any longer. Like my suggestion with Christine Todd Whitman in New Jersey, perhaps someone can convince her to run as a Democrat-caucusing independent, with Democrats promising not to run someone of their own.

California- 21: Like the Dubuque district in Iowa and the Syracuse district in upstate New York, this one is listed as D+5 but still has a Republican congressman, David Valadao. The 21st went for Hillary by around 15 points, and is 70% Hispanic, which makes me think it is likely to fall if its candidate gets the right support. So even though Emilio Huerta lost the election in 2016, I think he should get another shot. (And yes, he’s Dolores’s son.) Huerta, who is a labor lawyer and a United Farm Workers veteran, has just the right profile for this district.

California- 25: The Simi Valley area is covered by this district, which is also listed as evenly matched in its partisan makeup. Hannah-Beth Jackson is an experienced hand who has represented this district for many years in California’s state assembly. She was the author of California’s nation-leading Fair Pay Act, and the Consumer Federation of California has named her its Legislator of the Year.

California- 39: This is a pretty crazy district, listed as R+5 although less than 40% of its population is white. It’s affluent, Republican-leaning, and could very well vote for someone like Ian Calderon. He’s a bit of a scion in California dynastic politics, but that at least means that he won’t have to worry about name recognition or fund-raising. He is a noteworthy advocate of childhood education and has recently jumped into the fray over immigration, making sure his constituents know their rights in the midst of intensified ICE raids. He’s not an ideal candidate, but his youth and brand name can help make this race competitive.

California- 45: Mimi Walters is a Republican who is high on any Democratic list of possible takeovers. Based in Orange County, the district has veered to the left in recent years, having gone from supporting Meg Whitman and Mitt Romney to supporting Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris. I would recommend Ferial Govashiri as the candidate. This young Iranian-American was also Barack Obama’s personal aide during his second term, and is as well-suited as any thirty-something I can think of to weigh in on issues of national significance.

California- 48: The 48th covers the coastal, and frankly more conservative, parts of Orange County. Democrats haven’t done well here historically, but Clinton beat out Trump and those trends should continue, given the district’s demographics. Deborah Cook was mayor of Huntingdon Beach and made the closest race of it in this district back in 2008; I think she would be the best candidate. Presently, she serves as a director of the Post-Carbon Institute, and fits in nicely with the environmentalism of coastal California.

California- 49: The closest congressional race in 2016 was right in this district. Darrell Issa’s countless, pointless, fruitless investigations of the Obama administration hurt his popularity here, but not enough to oust him. Doug Applegate remains a prohibitive favorite in 2018; the former Marine would be a good fit for a district that includes Camp Pendleton and his business background is in the general tenor of the San Diego suburbs.

Colorado- 06: Republican Mike Coffman is, on paper, a strong candidate for a district like this that is slightly more Democratic than the nation on average, which covers the city of Aurora and some of Denver’s eastern suburbs. Coffman was secretary of state for Colorado and a former Marine. Well, Coffman was a strong candidate…up until a week or two ago. Footage of him escaping a gathering with constituents in a library went viral, as angry voters accosted him about the hasty repeal of Obamacare. All things considered, this may be a career-immolating mistake. Advantage Morgan Carroll, a strong candidate who should have gotten greater support and traction when she ran for this seat last year. Her staunch environmentalism and penchant for legislation limiting the influence of lobbyists   will probably fit nicely with the issues that will illuminate 2018.

Kansas- 03: Covering the Kansas City metro area, this district still favors Republicans on a congressional level, but narrowly picked Clinton over Trump in the presidential race. But an anti-incumbent wind is probably going to sweep the prairie; Sam Brownback continues to be one of the nation’s most unpopular governors, and the historical Republican domination of Kansas might well be challenged. Kelly Kultala ran for lieutenant governor in 2010, serves on the local library board, and once represented this area in the Kansas state senate.

Montana- at large: With Ryan Zinke appointed to serve as secretary of the interior, whoever gets this seat will not have much incumbency on their side. Amanda Curtis is an anomaly- a thirty-something math teacher and state legislator with a nose ring. When Matt Walsh unexpectedly left the Senate race mid-campaign, Curtis stepped in. And while she lost- in a very Republican year and without the chance to prepare- she’d be a great candidate going forward. Most successful Montana Democrats are centrists, but Curtis isn’t. She supports gun control- her brother died at 16 playing Russian roulette- and was an ardent Bernie supporter. And yet- crazy works in Montana! It regularly elects iconoclastic, anti-corporate Democrats to congress.

Nebraska- 02: Only a handful of districts held by a Democratic incumbent fell to Republicans in 2016; it seems that if you could keep your district in 2014, you could keep it any year! Unfortunately, a solid congressman, Ben Ashford, lost his seat, which covers much of the Omaha metro area. Pete Festersen, the head of Omaha’s city council, would probably be the best opportunity to win back this seat- he’s young, likeable, and will benefit from the technically nonpartisan nature of the city council.

Nevada- 02: Every single district in the Silver State is competitive, although the 2nd leans decidedly to the right. Covering Reno and Carson City, though, its demographics may very well push it into the blue column, as Nevada as a whole has experienced over the last decade. Opportunity may be knocking for state assemblywoman and former Miss Nevada Teresa Benitez-Thompson of Reno.

South Dakota- at large: Maybe this seems unrealistic. And yet, South Dakota elected a Democratic congresswoman four times in the last 12 years- and at one point had an all-Democratic congressional delegation. Indeed, the party seems fluctuate between being competitive in the state and being a cipher. This seat will not have an incumbent running, as Kristi Noem intends to run for governor. As much as I try to avoid dynastic picks, the South Dakota Democratic Party is in terrible shape, but Brendan Johnson has what it takes to win. His own father’s political career in congress was cut short by a stroke that led him to pass up re-election in 2014. Brendan, meanwhile, has served ably as U.S. Attorney for South Dakota.

Utah- 04: During redistricting, Republicans took the surprisingly progressive Salt Lake City and divided it into two districts dominated by conservative Mormon-heavy suburbs. Of Utah’s four districts, the 4th is the most competitive on paper and is currently served by Mia Love, a black woman who is widely touted as an up-and-coming Republican. But this district has elected a Democrat before, and it might yet again. 42-year-old Ben McAdams is the Democrats’ best prospect in this deepest of red states. Mormon antipathy to Trump will probably only continue to mount- look at the trouble Jason Chaffetz, in an even more conservative district, ran into in his own town hall this week! As the mayor of Salt Lake County, he’s earned good reviews across the board, and has even advocated for workplace protections for gay and lesbian persons in Utah- an act of no small bravery.

Washington- 03: Southwest Washington state is represented by this district. Its current representative, Jaime Herrera Beutler, is one of the leading latina Republicans. A worthy opponent, though, may be found in Vancouver, Washington’s mayor, Timothy Leavitt.

Washington- 08: This looks like such an attractive target. It’s suburban Seattle- ergo fewer tech moguls, lots of 20-something evangelical pastors with hipster beards. Dave Reichert has represented this affluent, very Romney-ish district for years, and nobody has taken him out yet. But Washington as a whole is only getting bluer, and the right candidate can beat him.  For the last spot on my last post on congressmen, I’m going to give in to temptation and pick a celebrity. Seattle’s own- Ken Jennings. Sharp, politically aware, and a good citizen, he’d be great in congress. Wouldn’t this be amazing? The campaign ads write themselves. You could get Alex Trebek to ask, “This west coast-congressman voted with Donald Trump 80% of the time,” with an enthusiastic Jennings buzzing in with “Who is Dave Reichert?” I desperately want this to happen.

 

 

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If the 2016 election taught us anything, it was a hard lesson in not taking any demographic, any region for granted. Election Night unfolded in a way few foresaw, as Michigan and Wisconsin- two states that voted for Gore and Kerry- tipped Republican. In a way, there is a certain sense to it- these two states have been devastated by deindustrialization, kneecapped by the decline of labor unionism, and are case studies in white flight from city centers. They, of all places, would be vulnerable to economic nationalism, and vague promises of restoring America to greatness. These are areas that would see some corners of modern progressivism as smug and unconcerned with their livelihoods.

That- to employ Midwestern sentence structure- needs fixed. I’ve chosen thoughtful, uniquely midwestern candidates who can channel much of populism’s hopefulness and authenticity without it’s bleaker elements of nativism and insularity.

 

Illinois- 06: Chicago’s redoubtably Republican suburbs have shown signs of cracking- especially against populist nominees. For example, although Romney carried the district in 2012, it swung hard to Hillary, and suggests that it’s historic business-friendly conservatism may be fraying. (For reference, Dupage County, where part of this district is situated, was once called “the Orange County of the Midwest” was carried by Clinton.) All of this means that Peter Roskam might very well be in trouble. Wheaton College, the intellectual center of modern evangelicalism, is located within this district, and I believe that the successful candidate will need to be conversant in the suburban Christianity that is slowly, tentatively, recognizing the message of social justice inherent in the gospels. I therefore pick Karen McCormack as my choice to run, although she hasn’t made any overtures in that direction. As a Wheaton sociologist, she studies the effect of home foreclosure on families- a matter of no small importance to this district. Moreover, she helped start a Peace and Social Justice minor at Wheaton, and is an expert at persuading evangelical audiences on the necessity of peacemaking, economic fairness, and empathizing with those in need.

Illinois- 12: The 12th takes up much of southwest Illinois, hugging the Missouri border. While in earlier times, this district was heavily Democratic, it moved decisively to Donald Trump, favoring him by ten points over Hillary Clinton. Yet, it’s listed as dead even on the Cook PVI, and I believe that former lieutenant governor Sheila Simon can make this race competitive. Governor Rauner’s travails have made people forget Governor Quinn’s. Her reputation for getting things done and her deep connections to Illinois politics- she’s former senator Paul Simon’s daughter- give her an added advantage.

Illinois- 13: This is another theoretically dead-even district that is nonetheless historically Republican. As a strong proponent of getting more scientists to run for office, I support the unlikely candidacy of Leellen Solter, who is the director of the Illinois Natural History Survey at the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana.

Illinois- 14: The 14th consists of Chicago’s exurbs, up to the Wisconsin border. Steve Chirico, the new mayor of Naperville, would be my pick to represent this area. His success as a small business owner and his keen focus on teamwork and cooperation has the potential to translate into some crossover votes from this district’s Romney supporters.

Indiana- 02: For the last couple of years, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, has been touted as perhaps the nation’s premier up-and-coming Democrat. I’m going to save him for a later installment, and suggest that Jackie Walorski be challenged by Brendan Mullen. Mullen ran for this seat in 2012 and lost to Walorski by a percentage point and a half. This West Point vet has the potential to win this seat in a Democratic year and keep it Democratic. He’s a good fit for this working-class, post-industrial district. Like Senator Joe Donnelly, who once held this seat, he is cautiously pro-life and opposed to most forms of gun control.

Iowa- 01: Midwestern, rural, religious, and overwhelmingly white, Iowa took a sharp dive from being slightly more Democratic than the nation as a whole in the last two elections to  going for Donald Trump by nearly 10 points in 2016. Despite being rated D+5 by Cook’s PVI index, this district is held by a Republican, Rod Blum of Dubuque. More than any other state perhaps, Iowa needs to build a Democratic bench to challenge its Republican governor and two Republican senators in what is still by many metrics a swing state. She’s the same age as Taylor Swift, but state legislator Abby Finkenauer could have what it takes to win back this district. She’s wise beyond her years- focused, driven, a gifted orator, skilled at crafting a narrative, and learned on a few key issues, such as student debt.

Iowa- 03: I love that Iowa is one of the least gerrymandered states in the country. It makes all four of its districts compact and competitive. The 3rd covers Iowa’s southwest quadrant and is listed as dead even on the Cook PVI. My pick is former Iowa House member Ed Fallon. Fallon is a politician for people who don’t really like politicians. The Des Moines resident is a solid progressive, a multi-instrumentalist, and a former community organizer. He made a noble try at the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006, falling to the well-funded Chet Culver, whose dad had been a senator from Iowa in the 1970s. He has lately been active in climate change activism and was a strong supporter of Sanders during the Iowa caucuses.

Michigan- 03: Historically, this Grand Rapids-based district is about Republican as it gets. Gerald Ford was once the congressman from this area, as was one of my favorite Republicans of the 1980s, Paul Henry. Presently, the district is represented by a big wheel- the young Tea Party acolyte Justin Amash. How to win such an uphill battle near Battle Creek? I’d look to Rosalynn Bliss, the new mayor of Grand Rapids- and the first woman ever to serve in that office. She is technically non-partisan (which helps in a Republican district) but a lot of signals- her admiration for Debbie Stabenow, her background as a social worker- suggest a left-of-center orientation. Her record can also appeal to erstwhile social conservatives- she helped shut down a number of the region’s strip clubs.

Michigan- 06: Taking up southwest Michigan, this district leans ever so slightly Republican, and could be won with the right candidate. Enter Kalamazoo native Eric Fanning– a defense specialist who served as Obama’s final Secretary of the Army, the acting Secretary of the Air Force and as chief of staff to the Secretary of Defense.

Michigan- 07: Southeastern Michigan- as well as the capital of Lansing- are encompassed by the 7th district. This is prime Rust Belt territory- it went from supporting Obama by 6 points in 2008 to supporting Trump by 17 points in 2016, a remarkable change for only eight years. Nevertheless, where the lash is strongest, the backlash is greatest. Before losing his seat to Tim Walberg in 2010, Mark Schauer had a promising career ahead of him- and he’s probably chomping at the bit to resume that career. He made a good fight of his gubernatorial race against Rick Snyder in 2014, losing by only four points against an incumbent Republican governor in a heavily Republican year. He’s hitting all the right populist notes, and his opposition to right-to-work will serve him well in heretofore heavily-unionized Michigan.

Michigan- 08: The 8th covers much of Lansing and some of the Detroit exurbs.For a while, Suzanna Shkreli, a first-generation Albanian-American was making a race of it, before incumbent Mike Bishop pulled ahead in this very Trump-friendly district. As buyer’s remorse afflicts the upper midwest, Shkreli deserves a second chance to take this seat. At only 29- and already an assistant prosecutor of Macomb County- she’ll have a long career to look forward to.

Michigan- 11: The suburban parts of Wayne County are covered by this district- which has a notably high 8% Asian population. David Curson has what it takes to win the 11th- in fact, he’s done it before. When its previous representative, Thaddeus McCotter, left office, Curson won a special election before opting not to run for a full term in 2012. Although he’ll be 70 years old- a tough age for a freshman congressman- his work with United Auto Workers harkens closer a more wholesome idea of what made America great- full employment, workers’ rights, and a robust labor movement.

Minnesota- 02: Angie Craig made a good race of this in 2016, losing to Jason Lewis by only 1.8%. I would be inclined to look elsewhere next time, however. Why not Ally LaTourelle? Her work with BioEconomy Partners has helped make Minnesota a center for clean energy and economic development. Her message is one that would resonant in the suburban areas of the Twin Cities, where her district is located. Her credo that environmentalism and economic development can reinforce- rather than short-circuit- each other is a winning message.

Minnesota- 03: This district also covers the Twin City suburbs and a piece of St. Paul. While I’ve tried to include as few scions as possible (which is harder than it looks), I’m going to make a glad exception here. David Wellstone is the son of Paul Wellstone, the progressive icon who perished in a plane crash over a decade ago. The elder Wellstone remains an icon among the left today- his conscientious vote against the Iraq War, and his legendary grassroots campaigning remain models that can be used today. Paul is back in the game and starting to engage in politics again, most notably as a mental health advocate. And if he follows his father’s playbook, he can help spur the next chapter of the DFL’s good, solid work in Minnesota.

Ohio- 01: This is a forbidding congressional district by all outward signs. Steve Chabot has held it for 20 out of the last 22 years. He was beaten in 2008, though, and he can be beaten again- and hopefully stay beaten. And P.G. Sittenfield is the man to do it.  Only 32 years old, he serves on the Cincinnati City Council, founded the city’s Community Learning Center, and is a board member for a food bank. He’s popular, young, and is widely regarded as one of the most promising young Democrats in a key swing state.

Ohio- 10: Covering a chunk of southwest Ohio, the 10th is a mashup of Rust Belt and Appalachian tendencies. It’s challenging, but I’ll bet Dayton mayor Nan Whaley could win. Her work to revitalize the downtown and bring in business investment will impress independent voters, while her work to make the city more bicycle friendly will surely make  the city’s hipsters and Bernie Bros delighted. More importantly, she’s committed to a diverse, open, welcoming Dayton- and it has helped make the city an emblem of Rust Belt revival.

Ohio- 16: John Boccierei was elected to this district in 2008 and was voted out in 2010. But his opponent, Jim Renacci, is a bastion of free-market conservatism that is an increasingly difficult sell in this region. Boccierei’s work in the Ohio state legislature and his tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq still make him a candidate to beat.

Wisconsin- 06: There are suburbs aplenty in this district, which covers the outlying areas of Milwaukee, Madison, and Green Bay. Town politics and bread-and-butter issues play big here, creating an opportunity for Manitowoc mayor Justin Nickels. Nickels is a wunderkind- he was first elected mayor when he was 22 years old, and just turned 30 this month. Yet he is a serious policy wonk, and can get a message out effectively in an environment when Wisconsin’s suburbs are tilting strongly toward a Scott Walker-ish right.

Wisconsin- 07: This is a gigantic district, nearly taking up the northern half of the state. In times past, this was the domain of long-time congressman David Obey, who opted not to run in 2010. Since then, the district is represented by Sean Duffy, a model of the Tea Party-aligned, Grover Norquist-affiliated Republicanism. A pleasant alternative is provided by state assemblyman Nick Milroy of Superior, Wisconsin- who is also a biology professor and a fisherman of some renown.

Wisconsin- 08: There aren’t many Democratic state legislators who represent an area other than Madison or Milwaukee. But 34-year-old Amanda Stuck is one of them, representing Appleton and specializing in environmental and housing issues. In a theoretically competitive state assembly district, she didn’t even get a challenger in 2016 and was re-elected unopposed.

Wisconsin- 01: Hold on a minute; I’m not quite done yet. If we are really going to think seriously about winning the House of Representatives, we need to consider a challenge to Paul Ryan’s district, which might be thought of as Milwaukee’s suburbs and Chicago’s exurbs. On paper, this district is only slightly more Republican than the nation as a whole; in 2008, it voted for Obama and in 2012, it only went for Mitt Romney by about five points- despite Paul Ryan being on the ticket! And don’t think this is impossible- sitting Speakers have lost re-election campaigns before. Given the toxicity of Trump’s policies in well-educated and upwardly mobile suburbs, and given Paul Ryan’s heretofore ineffective attempts to rein the president in, Paul Ryan can and should face a serious, well-funded, conscientiously progressive challenge. I have two sterling candidates in mind. Wisconsin will rue re-electing Ron Johnson to the Senate in place of progressive superhero Russ Feingold. Feingold is a master of grassroots campaigning and a conscientious man- the only senator who voted against the PATRIOT Act. As a Jaynesville native, he could run a very credible challenge to Paul Ryan. My other idea might take you by surprise, but makes sense the more you think about it. And that’s Mark Ruffalo, who is also a native of this part of Wisconsin. Buffalo has rewritten the book on celebrity political activism, following a Bernie-ish model of social media engagement and forming The Solutions Project to move the U.S. toward a clean energy future. Wisconsin was the cradle of modern progressivism in America- and either one of these men can nudge the Badger State back to its destiny by nudging Paul Ryan out of a congressional seat he takes for granted.

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We now turn our attention to that most vexing of America’s regions, the South. It has gone from being dominated by Jim Crow-enabling Dixiecrats in the 1950s to being competitive in the 1970s and 1980s in terms of House and Senate elections, to becoming the bedrock of GOP support from the Newt Gingrich revolution of 1994 onward. Many districts in the South, even under the best of conceivable circumstances, are simply not in play. Yet not all is lost. Many parts of the South are trending toward Democrats, particularly in places with younger and more diverse populations. Suburbs in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida offer some of the most promising opportunities- at least on a national level. And remember, in 2016, Clinton-Kaine did better in Georgia than in Ohio, in Texas than Iowa, and in Virginia than Minnesota. So here are some of the most competitive districts in the South- along with my suggestions of some candidates that can win them.

Florida- 02: This is definitely a district favorable to Republicans; although it has a piece of Tallahassee, it also encompasses much of the state’s conservative panhandle. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum could make a race out of it, however. At only 37, he is one of the party’s brightest young talents. In his capacity as mayor, he has refurbished civic life in Tallahassee, sponsoring mentorship programs, championing early childhood education, and working to reduce criminal recidivism. Interestingly, Gillum may have his sights higher than a mere congress seat- he is being encouraged to run for governor, and was reportedly on Hillary Clinton’s original list of vice-presidential choices.

Florida- 15: This district is also friendly to the GOP, but I’d think that many Republican voters would give due consideration to United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, whose jurisdiction covers the middle section of Florida. He’s got bipartisan credentials- including pursuing corruption charges against a Democratic congresswoman.

Florida- 18: Pat Murphy was expected to win Florida’s Senate race last year, until Marco Rubio decided to seek re-election after all, and ended up winning handily. Murphy’s old congressional district was then won by a Republican. But in 2018, Murphy is poised to make another run for the 18th, which covers much of Palm Beach. At only 33 years of age, Murphy has a great career ahead of him if he gets a couple more lucky breaks.

Florida- 25: On paper, the 25th, 26th, and 27th districts look competitive. Yet each of them is currently controlled by Republican congressmen, and each is home to a large population of Cuban-Americans. While younger Cubans are questioning their parents’ historic alliance with the G.O.P., movement in this direction can be encouraged by some good candidates. Mario Diaz-Balart is a Miami institution, but in a big election, popular incumbents can fall. This is especially so if the Trump administration continues to alienate Hispanic voters. I have chosen a candidate who can mobilize an impressive grassroots army and reframe the conversation. Lucas Benitez helped found the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to end the exploitation of field workers in the region’s tomato farms. From there, he launched the Campaign for Fair Food, a massive grassroots campaign that successfully got several restaurant chains to agree to purchase tomatoes only from certified, approved growers who paid fair wages. He’s a Cesar Chavez for the 21st century.

Florida- 26: Key West, the Everglades, and south Miami are all covered by this district. I only have one Kennedy in my list of congressional prospects, and it’s this one. For years, Anthony Kennedy Shriver has been a bastion of Miami civic life. Like his mother Eunice, he is an activist for the mentally handicapped; he has chaired the Best Buddies organization, which helps the developmentally disabled win friends and make connections.

Florida- 27: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is another true Florida institution, but she might face a close race- especially if someone like Guillermo Fernandez challenges her. Fernandez was the head of the Latin Builders Association. He’s one of Miami’s most highly regarded businessmen and his construction industry ties are in the best entrepreneurial spirit.

Kentucky- 06: The Cook PVI rates this as Republican +9, but Kentucky is a weird state. It elected a Democratic governor twice- by landslides- in 2007 and 2011, and still has a greater percentage of registered Democrats than many blue states. In fact, this district was held by a Democrat, Ben Chandler, for a decade up to 2012. Former Kentucky secretary of state Allison Grimes would be a solid choice to take on incumbent Andy Barr. She lost a highly touted Senate race against Mitch McConnell back in 2014, but one should keep in mind that 1) she was up against the freaking Senate then-Minority Leader, and 2) it was a deeply Republican year in a deeply Republican state. When she isn’t required to distance herself from President Obama, she’d be a formidable candidate.

South Carolina- 07: This race may be another pipe dream, but the Palmetto State is slowly trending blue, and becoming better educated, more suburban, and more like legit swing states North Carolina and Virginia. This district itself is new, apportioned after the 2010 census, and so its incumbent, Tom Rice, hasn’t had the time to become a part of the furniture. Vincent Sheheen, a state legislator who made his two races against Nikki Haley far more competitive than they should have been, could have what it takes to win.

Texas- 23: Amazingly, this district’s population is two-thirds Hispanic and still has a Republican congressman. Encompassing part of San Antonio to part of El Paso, it’s a massive district- about the size of West Virginia- and should be part of any attempt to get progressives the House Majority. While I’ve tried to avoid picky gimmicky celebrities, I think the best choice would be San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson. If this seems kooky, hear me out: Robinson is one of the very best citizens and teammates in NBA history- a Naval Academy grad, always soft-spoken, polite, and thoughtful. Since he retired, he’s worked hard to set up a school for inner-city kids in San Antonio and has learned a lot about finance and administration along the way. There’s nobody in NBA history I’d be happier with as a neighbor, as a fellow citizen, as my representative, than David Robinson. I surely hope he’d consider a run.

Virginia- 02: Generally, we can divine a trend from the 2016 election: Donald Trump’s message played out very well in the Rust Belt, in Appalachia, and in already blood-red sections of the South. It was most heavily resisted in suburbs- including many suburbs that were friendly to Mitt Romney four years earlier, in places with growing minority populations, and in areas with high levels of college graduates and jobs that supported them. Into this mix, Virginia’s 2nd district, covering much of Virginia Beach, should be considered in play. It’s only slightly more Republican than the nation as a whole, I have the perfect candidate in mind. Given the strong naval presence in this area, Rear Admiral Gretchen Herbert would be a compelling candidate. Lately the head of Naval Cyber Forces, her postings on the Virginia shore and mastery of national defense issues would make her the candidate to beat. She’s also clearly not timid about getting into the political fray, having joined 94 other high-ranking military officials in endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Virginia- 05: Difficult to win even in good circumstances, this district runs like a thick vertical line through the middle of Virginia and was once held by Tom Perriello, who was my pick to become Virginia’s next governor. Presently, however, I think a strong case could be made for a man who went from obscurity into a figure of national stature during the DNC– Charlottesville resident Khzir Khan. (It speaks volumes that Khan lives in the same town as Monticello.) You may remember him as at the man who tragically lost his son in Iraq, challenged Donald Trump’s anti-Islamic rhetoric, and stood up for the Americanism of his country’s Muslim community.

Virginia- 07: This looks like an extremely Republican district- Cook’s PVI lists it as R+10. Keep in mind that it’s representative is David Bratt- the Tea Party enthusiast who successfully primaried Eric Cantor for not being conservative enough. This district is fairly well-to-do, highly educated, and unlikely to sustain this kind of foolishness for long. Kelly Thomassen could make a solid run in a tough race. She is presently the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and her long history of working with Terry McAullife and Mark Warner would give her the inside track.

Virginia- 10: Political junkies watch this district with great interest, it’s a rare dead even on the Cook PVI and it is often described as a swing district among swing districts. Republican Barbara Comstock won in a close race last year, and she might have her eyes on higher office, perhaps challenging Tim Kaine in 2018. Whether or not this is a fight for an open seat, Aneesh Chopra is well suited for this affluent, highly suburban congressional district. Chopra has served as the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, and is an expert on making government more responsive to innovation.

So…not as many competitive districts as some of the other regions we will explore. This is partly because some sections of the South are prohibitively bad for progressives. But moreover, two states that were competitive in last year’s the presidential election, North Carolina and Georgia, do not have any true swing districts due to both partisan gerrymandering and a certain amount of racial and political “self-gerrymandering.” If Roy Cooper is able to hold on in the 2020 election, his governorship can serve as an effective leverage to carve out some more fairly drawn districts in what may well become America’s premier swing state.

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Welcome to the third installment of our series on rebuilding the strength of the Democratic Party in preparation for 2018. In our first post in the series, we explored several optimal chances to win governorships in competitive states. In the second, we looked at far more difficult prospects- keeping a batch of seats that are already overwhelmingly Democratic in progressive hands.

For this installment, we turn to the House of Representatives, which has been under Republican control since the 2010 midterm elections. Here, progressives are playing the game on a board designed by the opposition: Republicans controlled many of the state legislatures that drew the congressional districts after the 2010 census. For that reason, very few truly competitive “swing” districts exist, so taking back the House will require strong candidates, peerless fundraising, listening to constituents, and most importantly of all, fervent grassroots activity. We need to make phone calls, knock on doors, donate, drive people to the polls, and do the sorts of things that can swing elections. To win the House, we need to keep the seats we have, and win 25 additional seats. That is a very challenging objective, but here is my roadmap for accomplishing this task.

To help this process along, I’m making some endorsements for House candidates. In all, I have identified 74 pick-up opportunities. Since that would make for a very long and unwieldy post, I’m dividing it into four posts, looking at one segment of the country in particular: the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, and finally the Prairie and West Coast. Today, we explore the Northeast. In doing my research for this, I was surprised at how many Republicans held fairly neutral congressional districts, especially in what I regard as safe “blue” states: New York and New Jersey. But it’s a good example of how Trumpism has made its greatest inroads in Rust Belt areas with lots of discouraged, frustrated, and anxious blue-collar workers.

So without further ado, here are the Northeastern districts that I believe are winnable- and the candidates that can help win them.

Maine 2: It might surprise you to know that one of the most rural congressional districts in the nation isn’t on the prairies or the mountain states- it’s right in the northeast. Maine’s 2nd covers most of the state outside of the Portland metro area and its “Vacationland” south coast. For years, Michael Michaud held onto this district easily, but when he ran for governor in 2014, Bruce Poliquin ran for the empty seat and won it. In fact, it’s the only congressional district in New England held by a Republican. To make matters worse, Donald Trump won the 2nd congressional district and it’s accompanying electoral vote, since Maine apportions theirs by congressional district. There has recently been a movement to encourage scientists to run for office, and in such a rural and environmentally-conscious district, I think that’s a wise choice. My pick is Jacquelyn Gill, a professor of biology and ecology at University of Maine, Orono. As an expert on climate change, she’s in a great position to become a strong public voice from one of the most naturally beautiful congressional districts in the country.

New York- 1: The eastern half of Trumpy Long Island leans slightly Republican, but if the public sours against him, this can be a prime pickup opportunity. As a former state senator, Brian X. Foley has succeeded in winning in historically Republican territory and is a devoted advocate for victims of domestic violence.

New York- 11: This downstate district is also slightly Republican as per the Cook PVI index, and comprises Staten Island and parts of a couple other boroughs. My endorsement goes to Matthew Titone. As a lawyer and state assemblyman, adoption and LGBT issues are his stock and trade, and would work well in a fiscally-conservative/socially liberal area such as this.

New York- 19: I am all for giving worthy candidates a second chance. The fightin’ 19th winds down much of the Hudson river valley, and I’d love to see a rematch between professor and campaign finance reform activist Zephyr Teachout and incumbent John Faso.

New York-21: I grew up in this district, which covers much of the Adirondack Mountains as  well as my home town of Gloversville. After a few terms of a Democratic congressman, this seat fell to Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She’s a Paul Ryan protege and a very tough candidate to beat, even in a district that is theoretically evenly matched between Republicans and Democrats. I pick former congressman Scott Murphy, who is still young, sharp, and a conscientious venture capitalist who knows more about creating jobs than Stefanik ever will.

New York- 22: This district is on many peoples’ watch list of pickup opportunities, and incumbent Claudia Tenney is looking shaky and may not win in a year favorable to Democrats. In such a situation, I would be inclined to give a second chance to Kim Myers, who ran a close race in 2016.

New York- 23: Tom Reed is slowly losing steam and not listening to constituents. In fact, a professor at my old college, Houghton, has been trying to get a hold of him for months now to no avail, as she documents in her very thoughtful blog, “May I Call You Tom?.” I’d love for this professor to run for office, but if she doesn’t, I’d like to suggest an out-of-the-box pick for this district, which winds through the affluent Rochester suburbs down to the poverty-stricken Southern Tier.  Svante Myrick would be a terrific candidate who could attract loads of positive publicity. His tenure as mayor of Ithaca has been nothing short of incredible, and he was even a finalist for the World Mayor Award. The only question is- can he connect to rural voters?

New York- 24: This is a slightly Democratic-leaning district which nonetheless has a Republican incumbent. Since it contains most of the Syracause metro area, I don’t see how one could go wrong with Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner as a challenger. She is a dynamic speaker, as you can see from her talk to the women’s march in Seneca Falls last month. She’s made no bones about opposing Trump’s policies on refugees, and would be a feisty, dynamic, and conscientious candidate.

New York- 27: The 27th serves many of Buffalo’s north suburbs as well as Niagara County. Its congressman, Chris Collins, was one of the first to endorse Donald Trump’s candidacy in the primaries, and his fortunes are, for better or worse, now yoked to his. It’s a tough district for Democrats- Jack Kemp covered much of the same territory for many years, as Barry Goldwater’s running mate William Miller did before him. So we need to bring out the big guns. There aren’t many Buffalonians who were more revered than the late journalist Tim Russert, and we need to bring his young son Luke– a solid journalist in his own right- to harness Buffalo’s blizzard-like rage against economic injustice.

Pennsylvania- 06: This bizarre, gerrymandered monstrosity of  a district meanders across the exurbs and smaller cities orbiting around Philadelphia. Judy Schwank could be a compelling candidate that could make inroads into its agricultural areas; she’s a professor whose scholarship focuses on agricultural and responsible land use. She also sits in the Pennsylvania State Senate, and has been elected to office from competitive Berks County.

Pennsylvania- 07: The 7th also leans- ever so slightly- Republican, and could easily be won under good conditions. Like the 6th, it is heavily gerrymandered and barely contiguous. Katie McGinty, who lost in a squeaker of an election to Pat Toomey in last year’s Senate race, would be a terrific candidate who should be able to generate the money and the interest to take out incumbent Pat Meehan.

Pennsylvania- 08: Covering much of suburban Bucks County, this is yet another district designed to give the Republicans a slight advantage. Patrick Murphy held this seat for a while, then lost in 2010, but he’s an even stronger candidate today. He served as Undersecretary for the Army, developing a close rapport with soldiers and becoming a champion on veterans’ issues.

Pennsylvania- 15: Lehigh Valley is nestled in this congressional district, one of the areas most hostile to environmentalism, and heavily dependent on fracking and coal. It’s representative, Charlie Dent, is one of the most sensible Republicans in Congress, but he still needs a challenger. (With apologies to my friend Chris, who once worked at one of his offices.) Jennifer Mann. She has represented the city for 14 years in the Pennsylvania House, and has recently moved into the private sector with a consulting company.

Pennsylvania- 16: I also feel bad about suggesting a challenger to this seat– I went to college with the nephew of its new congressman, Lloyd Smucker. Nevertheless, enter Ephrata native Lindsay Holst, who has covered digital strategy for the White House the last several years, and was recently named one of the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill.

Pennsylvania- 18: According to the Cook PVI index, Republicans enjoy a six-point advantage in this district, all other things being equal. It’s rural, it’s 96% white, it borders West Virginia, and its congressman, Tim Murphy, has rarely faced a serious challenger. In such a scenario, I would pick Rick Fernandez. Never heard of him? He’s the director of the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. And he would be perfectly poised to bring Mister Rogers’s values of neighborliness, kindness, peace, and social justice to Washington. Especially in an era where PBS is in danger of encroaching privitization.

New Jersey- 02: The second district of the Garden State hugs much of Atlantic City and south Jersey. Frank Lobiondo has represented this seat since the Gingrich Revolution way back in 1994. He might meet his match in Bob Andrzejczak, who is only 30 years old, a Purple Heart recipient who unfortunately lost his leg in Iraq, and a promising young member of the New Jersey General Assembly.

New Jersey- 03: One recent article called this district a carpetbagger’s paradise, unable to attract candidates- from either party- with substantive ties to the area. Although it is heavily urban and covers much of south-central Jersey, it experienced a wild swing– it went from giving 52% of its vote to Obama in 2012 to giving 54% to Trump in 2016. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has worked hard to cut down on wasteful bureaucracy and make local government more manageable. She would have a message that would really deliver in this region, which the PVI index lists as tilting +1 Republican.

New Jersey- 07: Although this district is rated Republican +6, its suburban and affluent character makes it a prime takeover opportunity; it voted for Clinton over Trump while re-electing a Republican congressman, Leonard Lance. Seeing as how this is the case, maybe a smart move would be to run…a rogue Republican. Christine Todd Whitman has served as governor of New Jersey and as George W. Bush’s first EPA administrator. But in the intervening years, she has slowly become disillusioned with her party. She wrote a book, It’s My Party Too about the marginalization of moderates such as herself, still supports environmental activism strongly, and hates Donald Trump so much that she bit her lip and endorsed Hillary for president in the general election. Now 70 years old, she might very well make the last act of her political life a conscientious run for Congress as a Democrat-caucusing independent or however she wants to fancy herself.

New Jersey- 11: Since the dawn of the republic, the Frelinghuysen family has loomed large in New Jersey politics. Various members of this dynasty fought in the American Revolution, served as secretary of state, ran as Henry Clay’s running mate, and perennially controlled a seat in Congress. Such is the case with Rodney Frelinghuysen, whose district includes, like the 7th, some of the most affluent areas in the country. My pick to challenge him is another solid educator, Helen Streubert. As the newly minted president of St. Elizabeth College, she oversaw the college’s transition to lay leadership and a co-education model. (It had been the last all-women’s college in New Jersey.) She’s a redoubtable Pope Francis Catholic who could really make waves in New Jersey politics.

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Let’s imagine this scenario for a moment. It is a brisk, rainy, mucky June evening as I walk through the leafy, mildly bohemian section of Rochester I call home. As I zip up my jacket and turn up my collar up against the wind, a limo pulls up alongside of me. It’s the Clinton team! They’ve tracked me down to ask for some advice on who should be in the cabinet for a possible Hillary Clinton administration.

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This cabinet reflects the advice I would give, although there are no doubt plenty of experts with greater policy experience and more extensive rolodexes than I. Now that Secretary Clinton generally won the 26 April primaries in the Mid-Atlantic and the nomination is statistically about as secure as it can get, it’s never too early to think about the transition to governing. Broadly, I think the key is to avoid filling the cabinet wholly with people with whom she is already comfortable. Historically, the problem with the first Clinton administration was trusting things to a tiny cabal of family loyalists. This is surely a recipe for failure.  The very best administrations in American history- Washington’s, Lincoln’s, FDR’s, Monroe’s, Kennedy’s- had divergent points of view, free access to the president, and the right mix of autonomy and accountability. The following sketch tries to balance old Clinton people with worthy Obama folks, some people outside of the rough and tumble of politics, and even a Republican or two.  If there’s a bias anywhere, it’s that I did pick a number of people committed to ending poverty and hunger- both in the U.S. and abroad. More fundamentally, I wanted a cabinet of people who were ethically clean, undeniably competent, and could enact just and fair reform within the system. This isn’t a cabinet full of hash-tagging revolutionaries. These are mostly people with governing and managerial skill who can get shit done. I’ve listed here both the formal cabinet departments as well as offices that are considered “cabinet-level” but whose occupants aren’t considered “secretaries” and who are removed from the presidential line of succession.

Secretary of State: Jon Huntsman, Jr. He’s a classic tax-cutting conservative in domestic economic policy, but he won’t be handling the domestic economy in this office. Huntsman instead embodies the best of three worlds, with business experience, governing experience from his 8 years in Utah, and foreign policy experience from his time as ambassador to both China and Singapore. I strongly believe that a smart, productive pivot to Asia is the best foreign policy, and Huntsman embodies that to the tee. As a Republican, his commission would signal that politics stops at the water’s edge, and he got along well with Clinton when they were both in the State Department. Conspicuously, he has been silent on an issue many Republicans have roundly denounced, the recent nuclear agreement with Iran. And as far as this goes, silence probably signifies agreement. Or ambition.

Secretary of the Treasury: Jeffrey Sachs. I was blown away when I heard him speak in South Dakota back in 2006. Sachs would be an unconventional choice: someone who hasn’t worked in the banking industry and is instead considered one of the foremost economists alive today. In the aftermath of the Cold War, Sachs helped multiple countries adjust their economies to a market system, and in recent years has been heavily invested in ending the cycle of poverty that plagues the developing world. His relationship with 90s Clinton administration mainstay Larry Summers is none too cozy, but Summers’s moment has passed, and a more conscientious philanthropist-economist model is what today’s economy calls for. He’s respected by the economic establishment but is able to make pointed critiques and challenges to their authority: he once called the IMF “the Typhoid Mary of developing economies.”  Sachs is smart- he was a tenure-track professor at Harvard before he turned 30- but he has a good heart alongside one of the sharpest and most responsive minds in the world of markets.

Secretary of DefenseMichele Flournoy. Perhaps the biggest mystery of this list is why Flournoy isn’t already Secretary of Defense. James Carafano, a defense expert at the Heritage Foundation., noted that “she’s already mastered the Pentagon bureaucracy and shown herself to be in lockstep with President Obama as a team player who is easy to work with.” In the past, she’s served as under-secretary of Defense for Policy, and led the Obama administration’s Defense Department’s transition team. In the interim, she’s started a think tank called the Center for the New American Security.  I considered UN ambassador Samantha Power (she did, though, call Hillary a “monster” in the heat of the 2008 primaries), and Rhode Island senator Jack Reed (he’s allegedly been offered the job multiple times and has refused). But Flournoy will do nicely. She would be the first woman to serve as Secretary of Defense.

Attorney General: Lori Swanson.  Unless you live in Minnesota, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of Lori Swanson. She’s served as attorney general of the Land of 10,000 Lakes since 2007, and has been a big part of the DFL’s recent success in what had been considered a swing state ten years earlier. She’s been roundly acclaimed for her work in consumer protection, cracking down on fraud and fleecers. As one watchdog group writes, “Attorney General Swanson has been a tireless champion for consumers in America, whether leading the charge against predatory mortgage lending, protecting seniors from marketing abuses, or defending our basic American right to have credit card disputes resolved impartially and not through a stacked deck.”  In an age of Trump University, she’s also taken on for-profit colleges that were little more than disreputable degree mills. The only problem is that she might want to run for Governor of Minnesota in 2018 when Mark Dayton retires. Other options I weighed were Deval Patrick (he’s retired to the private sector and seems done with politics) and Carmen Ortiz (talented, but often over-prosecutes for minor offenses).

Secretary of the Interior: Christy Goldfuss.  With responsibility over the vast swath of national parks, wildlife refuges, and other federal lands, this department couldn’t be more important. Goldfuss would be ready to hit the ground running. Sharp and well-connected, she has held a variety of positions. She’s worked as a reporter, and a staffer on the House Committee for Natural Resources, and the National Park Service, before becoming made manager of the Council on Environmental Quality by President Obama last year. Goldfuss is genuinely skilled at media interaction and public engagement. Moreover, her work at the liberal think tank Center for American Progress makes her a natural fit with my Chief of Staff selection.  At 39 (this is an estimate based on when she graduated college), she’d be the youngest cabinet member in this administration.  A native of Connecticut, she’d also be only the second east-coaster to hold this job since 1900. I wanted to put Mark Udall in this spot; his father is still considered the best Secretary of the Interior ever, but there were already enough scions on this list.  My other instinct was to put a environmentalist Bernie supporter here, like Michael McGinn or Rocky Anderson, but each has a reputation for being ornery and a bit self-righteous. This position, frankly, changed hands more than any other: other names I thought about were another CEQ head Nancy Sutley and environmental lawyer Carolyn Raffensberger.

Secretary of Agriculture: David Beckmann. For this job, I considered former Arkansas senator Blanche Lambert Lincoln and Marshall Matz, who was George McGovern’s right hand man on the Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs. But I remembered how the Eisenhower administration ran, when Ike selected a Secretary of State known in large part for his active lay churchmanship, John Foster Dulles. This inspired me to look for someone from a religious organization doing good social justice work- a choice resonant with Clinton’s sincere, but often unacknowledged, Methodism. For the last 25 years, Beckmann has served as president of Bread for the World, raising awareness, producing scholarship, and coordinating interfaith efforts to combat global and domestic hunger. A Lutheran pastor who is also a trained economist, Beckmann understands the nuances of the Agriculture Department’s most fundamental charge: make sure hungry people get enough to eat. Part lobby, part charity, Beckmann has been at the forefront of successful efforts to get Congress to increase its spending on development assistance. In terms of getting food to people who need it, Beckmann is one of the sharpest, most effective thinkers and administrators one can imagine.

Secretary of Commerce: Indra Nooyi. For over a decade, Nooyi has served as CEO of Pepsico. In that capacity, she’s made Pepsi not just successful but socially responsible as well. She’s removed potentially harmful substances like aspartame from their beverages. As it turned out, the right thing to do was also the profitable thing to do. Pepsico is more vibrant than ever, and has successfully positioned its offerings as “fun for you” (potato chips and regular soda), “better for you” (diet soda or baked potato chips), and “good for you” healthy treats. Moreover, Nooyi has an inspirational life story, a good corporate citizen, and regularly appears on annual lists of the Most Powerful Women in the World.  Others on my list included Ashifi Gogo, Ursula Burns, and Andrea Jung.

Secretary of Labor: Tom Perez. If beltway buzz is to be believed, Perez may find himself at Number One Observatory Circle as vice-president, rather than the Department of Labor. But tradition holds that one cabinet member from the previous administration who is doing good work be kept on board. George W. Bush kept on Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta, and Barack Obama asked that Robert Gates stay on as head of the Department of Defense. Perez may choose to run for Governor of Maryland, or for Ben Cardin’s seat in 2018 if he retires, but for now, he’s a terrific fit for the Department of Labor. He’s been, frankly, brilliant at framing the issues of working people in terms of social justice when there’s often a disconnect between the lunchpail and the activist wings of the Democratic Party.

Secretary of Health and Human Services: Audrey Haynes. One of the clearest Obamacare success stories in its early years was its state exchange in Kentucky. Although a redoubtable red state in presidential elections, under Democratic Governor Steve Beshear and Health and Family Services secretary Haynes, the efficient Kynect system came into being.  While the Obamacare website rollout was wracked with bugs, Kynect worked smoothly from the start.  Over 400,000 Kentuckians signed up, and the state’s uninsured rate was cut in half with smooth public relations and easy coordination with Medicaid, private insurance companies, and national Obamacare policies. Haynes will have little difficulty transitioning from provincial Kentucky to the White House: she was once Tipper Gore’s chief of staff. I also considered Steve Beshear himself, Illinois congresswoman Cheri Bustos, and United Therapeutic executive Martine Rothblatt.

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development: Andre Carson. Carson represents much of Indianapolis, a city with very high foreclosure rates. During his time in the House, he’s worked on the Financial Services Committee to make sure fraudulent housing loans are more widely known to the public. And as a former policeman, Carson has a sense of how urban neighborhoods work in a way that escapes many seasoned politicians. Janette Sadik-Khan might also work in this capacity.

Secretary of Transportation: Gabe Klein. Klein was once described as a “guerrilla bureaucrat,” a policy wonk with a cult following and a record of getting stuff done. He’s been the transportation commissioner in Chicago and DC, where he’s faced the challenge of urban sprawl with private-public partnerships and finding innovative solutions such as bikeshare programs and his work at Zipcar. In short, he’s left the cities he’s worked for as more walker-friendly and better able to handle the oppressive traffic tantamount living in cities today. For years, “transportation” meant cars, but now it means pedestrians and cyclists. Klein might do the impossible and make the U.S. Department of Transportation sexy. The other contender for this spot was former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, but two Minnesotans seemed a little…much.

Secretary of Energy: Susan Eisenhower. For years, Eisenhower- Ike’s granddaughter- has been a key advocate, advisor, and consultant on energy issues. Her chief area of expertise is nuclear proliferation, particularly with regards to Russia. She’s sat on the Nuclear Threat Initiative Board and has worked as a blue-ribbon panel member for Department of Energy commissions more than once in the past. Ideally, my Secretary of Energy would be more of a climate change guru like Dan Reicher, but with Russia’s menacing maneuvers, and the nuclear capabilities of Iran and North Korea of no small importance, a “national security” kind of Secretary of Energy might be wiser in the short term.

Secretary of Education: Eduardo Padron.  Time named him one of the ten best college presidents in America. That’s an accomplishment, because Padron isn’t a president of an Ivy League school; quite to the contrary, he’s president of Miami Dade College, the nation’s largest community college. Obama has been a vocal advocate of transforming the role of the community college in America in a more affordable, academically rigorous and career-friendly way, and Padron has spent years making these goals a reality. Padron, an economist born in Cuba, is a tireless advocate for helping members of poor, underserved communities get the education they need to escape the poverty cycle. He boasts, not without cause, “In Miami, almost everybody you talk to is a graduate of this college, everybody in leadership positions, from our people in Congress, our people in the state legislature, our mayors, our commissioners, the state attorney, the public defender, the chief of police, the fire chief. I could go on and on and on, but it’s even more impressive in the private sector. … Right now, we have about 17 bank presidents who are Miami Dade graduates.”

Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs: Mike Michaud.  In 2014, Congressman Michaud averred re-election to Maine’s rural 2nd district to run for Vacationland’s governor. That didn’t work out, and after some speculation about his future, took a job as an Assistant Secretary of Labor in a role that facilitates the training and hiring of veterans. Maine- especially the 2nd district- has an unusually large number of military veterans, and Michaud is no stranger to representing their interests. He was one of the first to identify the VA incompetence under Eric Shinseki and demand reform. Michaud also sponsored an act in Congress that would have given tax credits to businesses that hire veterans. As someone conversant in the fields of veterans’ affairs, health care, and labor, he’d be a slam dunk at the VA.

Secretary of Homeland Security: William McRaven. McRaven will bring compelling leadership and a determined problem-solving mindset to this crucial office. He is, of course, best known for leading Operation Neptune Spear, the mission to take out Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout. In the meantime, he’s had time to readjust to civilian life as the president of UT Austin. The Washington Post calls him “an one of the most experienced terrorist hunters in U.S. government” who would often accompany teams even as a three-star admiral.  A Politico longform article called him “the last four-star hero…a transformational leader in a tumultuous time.” McRaven is seemingly the perfect candidate- lots of character, widely described as “humble,” not even the barest whisper of scandal, an ability to inspire subordinates, and a striking amount of courage. According to the Politico article, he confronted SEAL legend Dick Marcinko when he ordered McRaven to perform a risky and highly illegal and unethical operation. McRaven would have no trouble making tough choices and using clear insight for the bevy of challenges faced by Homeland Security.

Chief of Staff: John Podesta. I’m putting him on here no matter how badly my auto-correct wants him to be John Pedestal. He’s the only true Clintonista on this list, the only one who played a large role in the 90s Clinton administration. In the last 40 years, the role of Chief of Staff has become one of no small importance, a gatekeeper who is responsible for coordinating access to the president, the person who has to serve as the bad cop to the POTUS’s good cop. Podesta has served in this capacity before, as Bill Clinton’s second chief of staff. He’s the current chairman of Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign, and was a key part of the Obama-Biden transition team, making him an important bridge between Clinton Democrats and Obama Democrats, if such a distinction even makes sense any more. Although clearly part of an “establishment,” he’s also been one of liberalism’s staunchest defenders from the 90s going forward, and founded the seminal think tank, the Center for American Progress. In terms of connections, administrative ability, and standing up for a set of principals while working towards feasible solutions, Podesta’s by far the best choice.

Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors: Joseph Stiglitz. This is not a glamorous position- most Americans have no idea it exists- but it is an important one for setting the tone for economic policy. This one is a major sop to Bernie Sanders and his supporters, as Stiglitz has been an important advisor to his campaign. His work, which is cited more than almost any other economist at work today, is deeply critical of unchecked free market boosterism. In recent years, he’s been at the forefront of resolving Greece’s debt problem without resorting to austerity. Like Podesta, Stiglitz is returning to a job he held in the 90s under Bill Clinton.

OMB Director: Jeffrey Zients. Zients has the job now, and I’d say let’s keep him where he is. He’s a known problem solver, who’s finest moment was supervising the overhaul of the buggy healthcare.gov website during its problematic rollout. One colleague has expressed amazement at Zients’s ability to “solve seemingly intractable problems” and dedicate his life to public service after a lucrative career in the private sector that made him a millionaire many times over. He and his South African-born wife formed the Urban Alliance Foundation, which helps provide job training and mentorship for underprivileged inner-city youth. As a fun point of trivia, Nelson Mandela even attended his wedding!

Trade Representative: Jennifer Granholm. Trade policy has unexpectedly become a sexy topic, and free trade fever that’s dominated the last 30 years of public policy has been called into question by grassroots groups across the political spectrum. They even successfully pushed Hillary to reconsider her position on TPP. International trade is inevitable, and rightly so, but who better to protect U.S. interests than someone who was Governor of Michigan for eight years? As the governor who weathered the automotive crisis, she’s been a sharp-elbowed advocate for policies that favor U.S. industrial development while maintaining strong internationalism- working with Sweden in recent years to support a green energy economy.

EPA director: Marc Edwards. There weren’t many heroes that came out of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, but Edwards was one of them. When one Flint mother brought water from the beleaguered city to be tested, Edwards found that the amount of lead in the water supply was hundreds of times higher than safe levels. As Scientific American put it, “Edwards’s team uncovered the widespread use of lead testing practices that deviated from EPA protocol” and blew the whistle on their findings. Steven Chu’s work as Secretary of Energy has shown that a professor can serve effectively in a cabinet department, and in that tradition, putting Marc Edwards in charge of the EPA would send a powerful message. I might have considered former New Mexico senator Jeff Bingaman, but this job may be too small for a guy who was in the Senate for 30 years.

UN Ambassador: Ertharin Cousin. Cousin has a long history in the United Nations already. For the last four years, she’s worked as the Director of the UN Food Program that works out of Rome. Her efforts have ensured that millions throughout the world get enough to food to survive in precarious situations. In the process, she is, like others on this list, a regular on Forbes and Time lists of powerful and influential women in the world. She’s in charge of what the Telegraph calls “the world’s largest humanitarian organization,” and has worked hard to mix providing immediate aid in disaster and famine conditions with sustainable development. “So often, we’d come in and say, ‘We have the answers.’ But now we’re allowing governments or communities to lead, and then we’ll come in with long-term strategies. That’s what will ensure that we’re moving towards the solutions that will end hunger.” As UN Ambassador, Cousin is uniquely qualified to advocate for these causes on an even greater stage.

Small Business Administration: Hala Moddelmog. As head of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Moddelmog has personified a strong civic-minded business model. She’s worked as CEO of Arby’s and Susan G. Komen for the Cure. When the Georgia state legislature tried to follow North Carolina’s lead and pass a “religious freedom” bill that would in practice limit LGBT persons ability to be hired or buy goods or services from, a wide array of businesses. Moddelmog led the business community in opposing the law, and ultimately Governor Deal pledged to veto the bill. Atlanta has long prided itself as the city that was “too busy too hate,” prioritizing economic innovation and growth over petty prejudice. Moddelmog is a nice continuation of that tradition. A second choice might be a one-time small-business owner, former New Mexico Lt. Governor, Diane Denish.

So that’s who I would advise if I were asked. It’s a tentative list, and necessarily so. Elements like personal chemistry can also factor into the decision, and I’m simply not privy to this kind of information in regards to who would work in a President Hillary administration and who wouldn’t. Still- it works. And without really trying to, this cabinet achieves some important milestones. Of the 22 positions, 9 are held by women- not parity, but an all-time high. We’ve also got our first Muslim cabinet member (Carson) and our first two Hindus (Nooyi and, surprisingly, Klein.) Nooyi would also become the first person of Indian descent to hold a cabinet office (I think), and Michaud would be the first openly gay cabinet secretary (although others have held cabinet-rank offices). In a xenophobic chapter in our history, three (Padron, Granholm, and Nooyi again) are immigrants.  When President Obama formed his cabinet, he was criticized for having no CEOs and no Southerners. Well, there are plenty of CEOs and company presidents (Huntsman, Moddelmog, Nooyi, and Zients). And there’s no shortage of Southerners either, between McRaven (Texas), Padron (Florida), Moddelmog (Georgia), and Haynes (Kentucky). There’s a good mix of policy wonks like Klein and Eisenhower, effective governors like Huntsman and Granholm, and congress-folk like Carson and Michaud.  Add in some academics (Sachs, Edwards, Stiglitz), humanitarians (Beckmann), military men (McRaven), old cabinet hands (Podesta, Perez) and people who have worked effectively at the state level (Haynes, Swanson), and you’ve got an effective breadth of experience.

Any problems? Well, for one, I wish I had some more relatively young people on this list. Only 4 of the 22 will be under 50 on Inauguration Day, 2017 (Carson, Goldfuss, Zients, and Klein). And there’s far too many people on the list who are 60 years old, plus/minus a few years (a shockingly high 8 cabinet members fall in that age range.) That’s not a knock, necessarily, on older people. It’s just that different generations, I’ve found, have very different problem solving styles, and more Gen X’ers, and even an odd millennial, might have added some more flavor to a cabinet stocked with people on the younger end of the Baby Boom. I also wish I could have added another Republican (I wrestled with Sachs vs. Sheila Bair as Secretary of the Treasury). I also do not have any senators- past or present- on my list, which is astonishing because I love studying the history of the Senate. But when I see people predict a cabinet, there’s a tendency to lazily pick out senators rather than casting a wider net (through obvious choices like Elizabeth Warren on Treasury, or Jack Reed on Defense, Michael Bennet on Education, and so on.)

I’d love some feedback, if anyone cares to provide some. Who would you pick for the next cabinet?

 

 

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Twice before, I’ve posted my ten top candidates for Hillary Clinton’s running mate, on the not-unreasonable assumption that she will be the Democrats’ nominee.   And here is my third, and probably penultimate, installment (I’ll try to write one last edition in June or July when the convention nears and when we’ve seen more trial balloons floated that could telegraph her thought process.)

Sanders has had a very good run, but I don’t believe he will win the nomination. Generally, he’s had his best luck in states with caucuses (not too many left, and they tend to be small states) and states with extremely white populations (which doesn’t help in larger, more diverse, delegate-rich states like California, New York, or Illinois.) But he’s inspired a great many people to engage in politics. I hope Sanders supporters will stay in the game and continue to be a force in the Democratic Party and national politics more generally in the years to come. I’m hopeful that a strong speech by Sanders in Philadelphia this summer will convince them to campaign for Hillary just as hard as they would have for him. Moreover, Sanders has fulfilled his destiny, in the sense that while his candidacy was always far-fetched, he succeeded in pushing Clinton to the left. And what’s more, he’s done it in ways that make it undesirable to shift toward the center in the general election. As it currently stands, Hillary’s come out against the TPP and it’s more likely than not that her running-mate will be an olive branch to the Bernie Bros.

One change is that I have not one but three (well, two and a half) potential female running mates lined up for Secretary Clinton.  Every once in a while, I hear someone say that our country “isn’t ready” for that kind of thing. Why is it that an angry, racist billionaire with no political experience becoming president is plausible, and a ticket with two qualified women is not? Let me put it this way- since women earned the right to vote nationwide starting in the 1920 election, there have been 24 presidential elections. With two major parties, and two spots on each ticket, that’s a total of 96 “spots” on a presidential ticket since then. Of those 96 spots, only two were held by women: Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 and Sarah Palin in 2008- and both were in the less prestigious vice-presidential spots. Or to put it differently, 46 out of those 48 tickets were all male. Why is one all-female ticket so ridiculous? With 20 female senators, a large handful of female governors, and no shortage of female cabinet members and congresswomen, there’s never been a more qualified batch of female vice-presidential prospects for a presidential candidate to choose from.

In past installments, I set out a number of rules that increasingly don’t make sense any longer: no New Englanders, no women, nobody over 60. The last few months have tossed out the rulebook of conventional wisdom, and the Trump candidacy made a monkey out of almost every political pundit both famous and obscure. So now- these requirements are no longer on the table. Oldsters, Yankees, and other women could very well provide the right temperamental and ideological qualities to the ticket.

  1. John Hickenlooper: Hickenlooper was suggested by longtime Northumbrian reader Jared. And for a long time, I didn’t take his prospects seriously, largely for superficial reasons (I didn’t think two white candidates both north of 60 would work.) But the more I look at Hickenlooper, the more I like him. As the Sanders candidacy has shown, one doesn’t have to be young to resonate with younger voters. And Hickenlooper won in Colorado in 2010 and 2014- two disastrous years for Democrats- suggesting that he could help Clinton’s shaky prospects in the Centennial State. Under Hickenlooper, Colorado voters legalized marijuana use, and the governor also signed important gun control bills into law. He also ran a brewery in his earlier days, giving him both small-business experience that independents love while paradoxically burnishing his hipster credentials. In terms of exuding competence, bringing a swing state into play, and generating appeal to Sanders supporters, Hickenlooper is the complete package.
  2. Sherrod Brown: Brown has made a career for himself as a scrappy populist with disheveled hair, traits that should recommend himself to Bernie fans.  Although Brown recently endorsed Hillary, picking him telegraphs to the Bernie Bro that their concerns have been heeded, and views such as theirs will have a voice in a Clinton pt. II administration.  As a known opponent of monied interests and having a strong blue-collar background, he has the anti-establishment chops that Hillary may need to generate extra enthusiasm.  Running for re-election in 2012, Brown ran significantly ahead of Obama in Ohio, which may very well recommend him as a avenue to win the mother of all swing states.  The only real drawback is that John Kasich (who himself may factor into the Republican ticket- especially if there is a contested convention) would get to pick his successor.
  3. Elizabeth Warren: At times, I am tempted to see streaks of misogyny among Sanders supporters’ treatment of Sec. Clinton. Sometimes that actually does happen, and lots of Bernie Bros that I know personally have deep problems with female authority or toxic relationships with their ex-wives or ex-girlfriends that they tend to project onto Hillary. And yet, many of them love Elizabeth Warren for her no-nonsense approach to breaking up big banks and rewriting the special privileges the rich and well-established enjoy in our tax code.  Warren has become a darling, a heroine, to those who see deep inequalities in our political and economic system that stack the deck against working families. If Clinton wants a game-changer, a Warren vice-presidential pick would certainly accomplish that.  Massachusetts currently has a Republican governor, but state rules mandate a special election to determine who will ultimately fill the remainder of the term.
  4. Julian Castro:  If you want a new face that can change the political calculus, this one is it.  He was mayor of San Antonio, he gave the keynote address at the 2012 convention, and is currently getting some federal experience as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  He has youth, he has charisma to burn, and now has both executive and federal experience.  Moreover, he could be a long-term investment on making Texas and Arizona, with large numbers of Hispanic youths, purple states down the line, although this may not happen in the 2016 election.  The only problem- and his reason for dropping since the last ranking- is my realization that the San Antonio mayoralty is somewhat symbolic, and involves relatively little day-to-day governing.  In other words, Castro’s readiness to serve as president may come into question–but we’ll see how he does at HUD.
  5. Gary Locke:  Also returning to this list is Gary Locke, a man with a splendid resume who accentuates competence.  He won’t take any swing states off the map for Hillary, but has proven himself capable many times over as governor of Washington, Secretary of Commerce, and most recently as Ambassador to China.  His apparent dutifulness and even dullness show sparks of life, such as when he allowed Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng to seek refuge at the American embassy in Beijing, and flying economy class on his flights.  He would also make history as the first Asian-American on a major party ticket.
  6. Amy Klobuchar: She’s won two commanding victories in Minnesota, a state Republicans want to win badly.  She consistently receives stellar approval ratings in an age of widespread dislike of government.  And she now has a book out, The Senator Next Door, that has been very well received, and is viewed in some quarters as a clarion call for humbler, more responsive government officials.  She’s made remarkably few enemies and is part of the refreshing culture of teamwork that thrives among women in the Senate.  And senators from Minnesota have made some great vice presidents in the past, as evinced by Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.   Ironically, if a man was the presidential candidate, Klobuchar would be a no-brainer to join the ticket, but she won’t get the nod if Clinton dismisses out of hand the idea of a female running mate.
  7. Mark Warner: Warner’s stock has fallen considerably, going from an odds-on favorite to a more remote possibility. Essentially, the decline in his fortunes is due not to any missteps on his part, but a change in the calculus of a Clinton victory. Right now, Hillary’s problem isn’t being seen as “too liberal,” but “too neo-liberal” if that makes sense- the sense that she is too tied to vested interests, and too tied to foreign trade deals that hurt domestic blue-collar workers.  One of the more moderate Democrats in the Senate, Warner strikes all the wrong notes, as someone who became a millionaire in the cellular phone industry. He also demonstrated a surprising glass jaw, winning re-election in 2014 by a shockingly low margin against a hack of an opponent. Still, as an otherwise popular governor and senator from an important swing state, Warner is too good on paper to ignore.
  8. Al Franken: Humor is the best way to take down Trump, and watching Franken read  mean tweets about his endorsement of Hillary shows his razor-sharp wit.  While he has cast his lot with Clinton, he has the same anti-establishment tenor that has bolstered the Sanders campaign. He won re-election in 2014 by a wide margin in a bad year for Democrats. And while he could have been a joke candidate, his already-keen political analysis has become greater from his eight years in the U.S. Senate, making him a viable vice-presidential candidate.  Especially with Trump as the most likely nominee at this point, why not pick another- for lack of a better word- entertainer- except one with actual experience in governing?  This is one SNL veteran who is most definitely ready for prime time.  Like Klobuchar, Franken would be replaced in the short term by Minnesota’s DFL governor, Mark Dayton.
  9. Jack Reed: Another guy who violates my rules: he is relatively old (almost 70) and is from New England.  What makes Reed different is his military service: the man was a West Point cadet, and has reportedly been asked to serve as Secretary of Defense for the last two vacancies and may have been on Obama’s shortlist for the vice-presidency at one point.  Reed is a no-nonsense, constituency-oriented man who would make mincemeat out of a careless Republican opponent in the vice-presidential debate.
  10. Republican Surprise: This final pick isn’t so much in favor of a particular person so much as a general strategy.  If someone truly dangerous gets the GOP nomination, it’s not hard to see a number of more moderate, good-governance Republicans peeling off from their party and supporting Clinton, no matter how painful it may be for them. This option is out if Rubio or Kasich somehow pulls off the nomination.  But if a demagogue like Trump or an unlikable jackass like Cruz gets it, this becomes a real possibility. I’d peg Susan Collins or possibly Brian Sandoval as two candidates. Sandoval, of course, was floated as a trial balloon for the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court; he is a very effective and often quite moderate governor of Nevada. And Hillary would probably kill to have a moderate, pro-choice, Medicare-expanding Hispanic Republican governor of a key swing state on a ticket with her.  Collins is also an option. It’s another all-female ticket, but Collins is probably the most moderate Republican in the Senate, is disgusted with the Tea Party, and is on good terms with Clinton. (Hillary actually threw her a bridal party when she got married a couple years ago.)  Moreover, Collins is a respected voice on foreign policy, and if Clinton wants to accentuate the dangers of putting foreign policy novices in the White House, a Collins nomination could do wonders.  The optics aren’t ideal- two Northeastern, senior-citizen women who voted for the Iraq War- but politics isn’t about working in ideal situations. The only question is- would the Maine senator even consider it?

So, if you have kept track, we have four new additions to the list (Hickenlooper, Warren, Franken, and Republican Surprise). That means four individuals from my previous list are out.  I dropped the following from the list:

Ron Kind: An implausible pick to begin with, I wasn’t happy with his vote to keep Syrian refugees out of the country.  At any rate, he would be a better candidate for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 to take down Scott Walker on his quest for a third term. He’s proven he knows how to get votes in the Badger State outside of Madison and Milwaukee, a trick few Democrats in that state have mastered.

Tammy Baldwin: It’s just too risky to let Wisconsin governor Scott Walker appoint her successor. But it would be groundbreaking to have the first openly LGBT person on a major party ticket, to say nothing of another all-female ticket possibility.

Michael Bennet: He was a tempting possibility, for sure.  He’s a 51-year-old senator from a key swing state (Colorado), and his emphasis on education would appeal greatly to the demographic Bill Clinton’s ’96 campaign targeted successfully: soccer moms. But Bennet will probably face a competitive race for his Senate seat in 2016, and it could create problems if he had to run for both offices at once. (You can get away with it if your seat is very safe, like Biden’s in ’08, but not when you are running in a hotly contested swing state.)  Moreover, his pedigree is a little too professional, from the Ivy League background to the fact that his brother runs The Atlantic.  In an environment where Ted Cruz’s eligibility is questioned, the fact that Bennet was also born outside the U.S. may be an issue Hillary just doesn’t want to deal with.

Evan Bayh: A moderate’s moderate, Bayh is exactly the sort of professional, central-casting candidate the 2016 electorate is rebelling against on both sides of the aisle.  A scion of a political family with a lobbyist wife, it’s hard to see the upside to Bayh at this stage, even if Indiana was a winnable state.

What do you think? Anybody I left off? Do you think my reasoning is sound? Let me know in the comments below.

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