On June 7, Hillary Clinton clinched the requisite number of delegates to become the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party.  Obviously, this was a historic occasion, the first time that a major party has chosen a woman to be their standard-bearer.  In this capacity, Hillary Clinton’s next big task will be to select a running-mate. This is of no small importance; it’s a window into their decision-making ability and their judge of character. For the fourth and final time before the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I have ranked her ten most likely running mates. Realize, of course, that this list is far from comprehensive and it’s entirely possible that her veep pick isn’t on here.

Within the next two or three weeks, I hope to outline the most likely contenders for Donald Trump’s running mate. That, of course, is a much dicier prospect, given the erratic nature of his campaign, the fact that virtually anybody in the Republican Party could theoretically balance this ticket in some way, and the likelihood that top contenders may have asked not to be considered.

  1. Tim Kaine: Everything we know about Sec. Clinton suggests that her decision-making is careful, focus-tested, and anything but spontaneous. With this mindset, Tim Kaine might become the vice-presidential pick purely by virtue of checking off the most boxes: He’s been a governor, he’s presently a senator on both the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, he’s from a swing state, his replacement in the Senate would be picked by a Democratic governor, and he’s a devout Catholic who speaks fluent Spanish. More than that, he’s got the right temperament and is likely to be a good team player who makes few headaches for campaign management.
  2. Elizabeth Warren: An awful lot hinges on whether Bernie Sanders concedes graciously and how receptive his supporters are to a Hillary candidacy. If Team Bernie is reticent, Elizabeth Warren could be a potentially excellent olive branch to the progressive/social democrat wing of the party. She’s got a genius for explaining complicated economic ideas in laymen’s terms, and she’s a strong consumer advocate in ways that will connect with middle-class and suburban voters. Due to some unusual rules in Massachusetts, Republican Governor Charlie Baker will get to pick her initial successor, but there will be a special election not long after, in which Seth Moulton or Joseph Kennedy III would be prohibitive favorites. The question is: does she want it? Warren would lose a lot of independence as a vice-president when she could be a ringleader for congressional progressives and be re-elected to the Senate indefinitely.
  3. Jeff Merkley: Only one other sitting senator has endorsed Bernie Sanders’ campaign, and that’s Oregon senator Jeff Merkley. He’s a solid retail politician, a left libertarian skeptic of national security overreach, and would be replaced in the Senate by a Democratic governor’s selection. If Hillary wants to pick someone formally aligned with Sanders without having to pick Sanders himself, Merkley would be a fine choice.
  4. Sherrod Brown: Brown, the only person to appear in all four versions of this list, ought to be a slam-dunk: he’s an economic populist, a free-trade critic, and a scrappy stump-speaker. He’s endorsed Hillary but would easily appeal to a lot of Sanders people. And best of all, he’s from the all-important swing state of Ohio. It’s a dream ticket, except that Kasich is governor of Ohio and would get to appoint Brown’s replacement through the 2018 midterms. Given how narrow the control of the Senate might be, is that a risk Hillary will want to take? Another consideration is this Politico article which suggests that Bernie feels betrayed by Brown endorsing Clinton, and would not recommend him as a veep if Hillary asks for his input.
  5. Al Franken: To be honest, this is who I would pick. Franken is sharp, comfortable with the media from his long tenure on SNL, and his barbed rhetoric would give plenty of red meat to the base. Perhaps the most efficient way to defeat Trump is with humor and pointing out his absurdity, and this comedian can perform that function like no other. Franken is also a far better senator than anybody has suspected, and won re-election handily in 2014.
  6. Xavier Becerra: Julian Castro, according to rumor, is not quite in the running any longer. Too eager for the job, not enough hard experience. While organizing candidates by racial background is problematic in some ways, Becerra in many respects took Castro’s place on pundits’ lists. Becerra is a solid, policy-wonk congressman from the L.A. area, and was on the “Supercommittee” that tried to resolve the debt impasse. He’s disciplined, workmanlike, and – noticing a pattern here- unlikely to embarrass Clinton. Few would be better prepared to counter Trump on immigration: Becerra represents one of the most immigrant-heavy districts in the nation; and what better way to show the human consequences of Trump’s demagoguery by having an actual son of immigrants on the ticket? And he’s every bit as qualified to be vice-president as another key congressional wheel, Paul Ryan, was four years ago- which makes the inevitable charges from the GOP that this is a “pandering pick” all the more ridiculous.
  7. Tom Perez: There has been a great deal of beltway buzz about Perez, who would be an unconventional choice. He’s never won an elected office before, but his tenure as Secretary of Labor has won high praise from policy wonks. Perez has signaled sympathy and support for Black Lives Matter and other identity-fused accountability movements, and his background gives him a chance to be a good voice for working families.  According to this Politico article, “my strong guess,” one White House aide said, “is that if you took a straw poll of staffers here about who they’d pick for the ticket, Tom would do very well.” As one of the most important voices in President Obama’s second-term domestic agenda, Perez would be a compelling choice to win over voters struggling in a plutocratic job market. Both Perez and Becarra have the added benefit of not being senators, and therefore not having to worry about a seat falling- in the short or long term- to the opposition party.
  8. John Hickenlooper:My blog’s single most faithful follower, Jared, is in Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper’s corner. History, however, is not. Democrats almost never choose governors as vice-presidential nominees. Ed Muskie was the last, in 1968, and he hadn’t been a governor in ten years at the time! In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to 1924 to find the last time the Democrats picked a sitting governor for the vice-presidential spot: William Jennings Bryan’s justly forgotten brother (and Nebraska guv) Charles Bryan. Hickenlooper is fun, roundly successful, and has a quirky past running a brewery before becoming mayor of Denver. But he’s generally considered more of a free-trade guy- a big no-no for Bernie Bros. And his recently released autobiography was refreshingly candid but full of damning vignettes, including youthful drug use and going to see Deep Throat with his mother in the Seventies (!)
  9. Cory Booker: Booker is in the same position as Warren in the sense that a Republican would get to pick an immediate successor, but a special election- where Democrats are prohibitive favorites- would take place before the 115th Congress ended. Booker is also in the same position in the sense that another northeastern senator might not be the best balance. Booker is hard to pin down. He’s one of the more neoliberal members of the Senate, and even at one point argued that Democrats should tone down their criticism of Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital in 2012. Well-rounded, he’s on all the right committees and has a good balance of executive experience and an understanding of national issues. Yet, he’s a young face in a party whose great figures are getting old, great at using social media, and he is legendarily great at constituent services. As mayor of Newark, famously shoveled one elderly constituent’s walk after she sent him a tweet! If Hillary wants to groom a successor, Booker is a good choice. If she wants a pick that will make Bernie’s supporters swoon, she’d best look elsewhere.
  10. Amy Klobuchar: She’s a distant 10th and the most remote choice by far on this list. But I wonder if what this ticket needs is a dollop of Midwestern decency. I recently finished Klobuchar’s memoirs, and I was struck by her command of policy, her sense of humor, and a refreshing authenticity that didn’t require a media persona. She’s just a good, hardworking, fundamentally competent moderate progressive. Klobuchar has won two landslide elections in Minnesota, a blue-leaning swing state. If anybody but Hillary were on top of the ticket, Klobuchar would be the prohibitive favorite as running mate.

And there you have it! Are there any prospects that you believe I’ve left out? Would you have ranked them differently? Let me know in the comments below.


Over at Future Rock Legends, we’re working hard to rank the top 100 albums of all time, as well as the top 100 of each decade. Because if we don’t, who will?

It is interesting to me how a canon of greatness is created. Slowly over the last few decades, the great rock and roll albums were determined by a long process dominated by a devoted, but increasingly mainstream, rock and roll press. Think Rolling Stone. Think VH1. Think now-defunct standards like Creem and Crawdaddy. Think longtime critics like Robert Hilburn or Lester Bangs or Dave Marsh. We’ve had enough time for a sense of which albums were the best to percolate. By now, almost everybody regards, say, Sgt. Pepper, or Ziggy Stardust, or Led Zeppelin IV among the best rock and roll works that were ever created. Even if those albums aren’t your cup of tea, most people will acknowledge their eminence.

But our own list of personal favorites? That’s another enchilada entirely. I’ve made a list of my 100 favorite albums, or the 100 albums dearest to me in some way. While they mostly reside in the rock and roll galaxy, there are a few outliers, as you will see. #4, for instance, might surprise you. It’s by three Adirondack musicians who are collectively called the Jamcrackers, and include a great songwriter (Dan Berggren), the “first lady of the Adirondacks” (Peggy Lynn), and one of the best hammered dulcimer players on earth (Dan Duggan.) I urge you to check them out, if rustic folk from the north country is your thing.

My Personal 100 Favorite Albums:

1. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)
2. Elton John – Captain Fantastic and The Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975)
3. Paul McCartney- Flaming Pie (1997)
4. Dan Berggren, Peggy Lynn & Dan Duggan- Ten Miles to Saturday Night (1999)
5. Brandi Carlile- Bear Creek (2012)
6. Carole King – Tapestry (1971)
7. Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority (1969)
8. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady (2013)
9. Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
10. Crosby & Nash- Wind on the Water (1975)
11. The Zombies – Odessey And Oracle (1968)
12. Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like a Wheel (1974)
13. Cat Stevens – Tea For The Tillerman (1970)
14. Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music For Airports (1978)
15. Dan Fogelberg- The Innocent Age (1981)
16. The Beatles – Revolver [UK] (1966)
17. Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water (1970)
18. Joni Mitchell – Blue (1971)
19. Queen – A Night At The Opera (1975)
20. Elton John- Tumbleweed Connection (1971)
21. Chicago V (1972)
22. Mumford And Sons – Sigh No More (2009)
23. Original Broadway Cast- Avenue Q (2003)
24. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu (1970)
25. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
26. Various Artists – O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
27. Sting- If On a Winter’s Night (2009)
28. Billy Joel- Piano Man (1973)
29. Jars of Clay- Much Afraid (1997)
30. Kate Bush – The Kick Inside (1978)
31. Original Broadway Cast- RENT (1996)
32. David Crosby- If I Could Only Remember My Name (1971)
33. Fairport Convention – Liege and Lief (1969)
34. Tom Lehrer- An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer (1959)
35. Weird Al Yankovic- Bad Hair Day (1996)
36. The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)
37. Adele – 21 (2011)
38. Pink Floyd – The Wall (1979)
39. Great Big Sea- Play (1997)
40. Ray Charles – Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (1962)
41. Edgar Winter Group- They Only Come Out at Night (1972)
42. Indigo Girls- Indigo Girls (1989)
43. The Beatles – Rubber Soul [UK] (1965)
44. Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago (2007)
45. TLC – CrazySexyCool (1994)
46. The Eagles- The Eagles (1972)
47. Real McCoy- Another Night (1994)
48. The Band – Music From Big Pink (1968)
49. James Taylor – Sweet Baby James (1970)
50. Paul McCartney- Chaos and Creation in the Backyard (2005)
51. Drive-By Truckers: Southern Rock Opera (2001)
52. Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On (1971)
53. Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (1967)
54. Bruce Springsteen – The Rising (2002)
55. Crosby & Nash- Crosby & Nash (2004)
56. Dusty Springfield – Dusty in Memphis (1969)
57. Bob Dylan – The Times They Are a-Changin’ (1964)
58. Stephen Stills- Stephen Stills (1970)
59. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)
60. Brandi Carlile- The Firewatcher’s Daughter (2015)
61. Curtis Mayfield – Superfly (1972)
62. The Pogues – If I Should Fall From Grace With God (1988)
63. Dire Straits – Making Movies (1980)
64. The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (2002)
65. They Might Be Giants – Flood (1990)
66. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black (2006)
67. Death Cab for Cutie- Trasatlanticism (2003)
68. Aretha Franklin- Young, Gifted, and Black (1972)
69. Nickel Creek- Nickel Creek (2000)
70. The Left Banke: Walk Away Renee- Pretty Ballerina (1967)
71. Peter Gabriel – So (1986)
72. De La Soul – 3 Feet High and Rising (1989)
73. Ringo Starr and his All- Star Band: Ringo Starr & His All-Star Band (1989)
74. Harry Belafonte: Calypso (1956)
75. Parliament/Funkadelic – Mothership Connection (1975)
76. The Moody Blues – Days of Future Past (1967)
77. Warren Zevon- Excitable Boy (1978)
78. War – The World Is A Ghetto (1972)
79. The Beatles- A Hard Day’s Night (1964)
80. Jimmy Buffett- Changes in Latitude, Changes in Attitude (1977)
81. Bill Withers- Still Bill (1972)
82. The Who – Who’s Next (1971)
83. Louis Armstrong, David Brubeck, et. al- The Real Ambassadors (1962)
84. Original Broadway Cast- Hamilton (2015)
85. George Harrison- Cloud Nine (1987)
86. Blood Sweat & Tears- Blood Seat & Tears (1968)
87. Los Lobos- How Will the Wolf Survive? (1984)
88. The Rutles- The Rutles (1978)
89. Ravi Shankar – Chants of India (1997)
90. Gin Blossoms- Congratulations I’m Sorry (1996)
91. Jim Croce- I Got a Name (1973)
92. America- Holiday (1974)
93. Sufjan Stevens – Illinois (2005)
94. The Spinners- New and Improved (1974)
95. Emmylou Harris- Roses in the Snow (1980)
96. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band- Will the Circle Be Unbroken? (1972)
97. Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (1995)
98. Jamcrackers- Jamcrackers (2005)
99. Florence & the Machine- Ceremonials (2011)
100. Willie Nelson- The Red-Headed Stranger (1975)

I’ll be the first to admit that there’s a lot of 1970s AM radio stuff for which I am well known. What are some of your favorites?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I only have enough time and money for one vice and one expensive hobby, and I’m sticking with scotch and visiting Disney World, respectively. For this reason, I’m not exactly a prolific concert-goer. But when I found out that The Zombies were on tour again and were headed to Niagara Falls, a mere hour and a half from my summer residence in Rochester, I had to buy tickets for my wife and I.

The venue was actually really cool. I am reluctant to see shows in casinos because they tend to lean on artists to shorten the set, in hopes that patrons will spend some time at the roulette wheel before bedtime. That happened when I saw Crosby & Nash and Three Dog Night at casino showrooms. (Geez…that last sentence made me sound rather elderly. Did I mention I’m only 32?) Happily, we got a full-length show in a venue called The Bear’s Den at the Seneca Niagara Casino that sat less than 500 souls and was meant for close encounters with great musicians.

This post isn’t quite intended as a concert review, but it needs to be said that The Zombies put on a great show. Their musicianship and craftsmanship was on display from the beginning, starting the show with a largely forgotten A-side, “I Love You.” I was impressed by Colin Blunstone’s stage presence: he was probably the most gentle and soft-spoken frontman I have ever seen, but he owned it and never seemed to want for energy. His voice lost a lot of the breathiness that made songs like “Time of the Season” so memorable, but Blunstone’s learned some tricks to keep his range and sustain in great shape. Rod Argent- what can I say? He’s probably my favorite keyboard player in the rock and roll pantheon, and I made sure we got seats near stage right so I could watch him play. So much of the dense, church organ sound that we associated with 60s psychedelia comes from Argent and his contemporaries, so it was great to see a master perform his trade. The rest of the band was very solid, including 75-year-old bassist Jim Rodford, who is not only Argent’s cousin but a longtime touring member of The Kinks.

Their setlist was also top-notch; they played their three big hits that everybody knows, of course. But they also ventured into some lesser known singles, some deep tracks from their magnum opus Odessey and Oracle, a couple wisely chosen covers, a few tracks from Argent and Blunstone’s solo careers, and the requisite tracks songs off their new album. I appreciated that, unlike many artists from their era, they never resorted to cliche. None of that “I can’t hear you” schtick with the audience. None of that “they told us Niagara Falls really knows how to rock” nonsense. Instead, they told us of the stories behind their songs. And they told us why they matter.

In essence, The Zombies concert was an articulate, and ultimately persuasive, plea for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. This was evident at the start when they were introduced as “Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees, The Zombies!” Now, my wife saw Chic in Singapore last November. They sure as hell weren’t introduced as “ten time Rock Hall nominees– Chic!” And most of Argent’s and Blunstone’s stories were keen to name-drop, pointing out people who had covered their material, or credited them as an influence, or who opined a favorable view of their music. During the show, they referenced Tom Petty, Dave Grohl, KISS, The Jam, Paul McCartney, Patti Labelle, and countless others. And they even stressed  how many indie artists credited them as an influence- and this is to an audience whose median age was probably in the early 60s, and whose demographics are not very indie-friendly. (I hasten to add that there were lots of under-40s there too, suggesting how well The Zombies have aged. Many of them were quite evidently admiring musicians.)

Essentially, The Zombies are one of the only artists from the 60s not in the Hall of Fame who really deserve to be there. They are on the Rock Hall’s radar, too. The band was nominated for the Class of 2014, perhaps partly on the back of an open letter they had written about how much they enjoyed their visit to the Rock Hall. Unfortunately, they didn’t get in– they were up against the most competitive ballot any of have seen for a long time, including Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Yes, NWA, Linda Ronstadt, and KISS, among others. And I’m on record as a big fan and advocate of theirs: they were among my higher ranking Rock Hall Prospects when I explored worthy future additions to the Rock Hall.

This is all the more remarkable, given the band’s fairly limited output during their heyday. In their 60s’ prime, they only recorded one true studio album- their swansong, Odessey and Oracle. (Their other album, Begin Here, was essentially a compendium of singles and EP material, the Zombies equivalent of A Collection of Beatles Oldies.) That album happened to be one of the greats, one of Rolling Stone‘s 100 greatest albums actually. But their ticket was punched, historically, by the sheer volume of artists who were influenced by them. That, I think, is what elevates The Zombies beyond most of their British Invasion contemporaries like The Hollies or Herman’s Hermits or Gerry & the Pacemakers. Remember, The Zombies recorded the moody “She’s Not There” on the cusp of age 20, in 1964–when The Beatles were still recorded pop bonbons like “Eight Days A Week” and “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Instead, The Zombies experimented with minor keys, unusual modulations, and eventually psychedelic dreamscapes.

In the process, their inventiveness in the studio and jazzy psychedelia inspired their contemporaries, but eventually they became something of a grandfather to indie music. (Odessey and Oracle sold so poorly at first that it became the ultimate “I had this album before it was cool” record.) Charles Crossley, Jr., a Rock Hall watcher given to exhaustive research and record-keeping, lists the following artists as those who were inspired by The Zombies, or covered their songs, or collaborated with them in some way: Argent and Colin Blunstone, of course, as well as the Ventures, Love, Santana, the Bee Gees, Genesis, Electric Light Orchestra, Badfinger, Dinosaur Jr., Todd Rundgren, XTC, Matthew Sweet, Crowded House, the Beau Brummels, Procol Harum, Alan Parsons Project, Yo La Tengo, Eminem, the Monkees, the Modern Lovers, Dave Matthews Band, Sonny & Cher, Jonathan Richman, the Smithereens, the Left Banke, Aimee Mann, America, Dwight Twilley, DJ Shadow, the Shadows Of Knight, Belle & Sebastian, 10cc, the Posies, Gentle Giant, Vanilla Fudge, Supertramp, Family, Let’s Active, Boo Radleys, My Morning Jacket, the Youngbloods, Elliott Smith, the New Pornographers, the Beautiful South, the Shins, Ron Sexsmith, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, Emitt Rhodes, Television Personalities, the Electric Prunes, Foo Fighters, 3rd Bass, Super Furry Animals, Eric Matthews, People, Game Theory, Smith, People, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Apples In Stereo, Neutral Milk Hotel, Juice Newton, the Young Fresh Fellows, Kid Frost, Miguel, the Nylons, Superdrag, Neko Case and Nick Cave (duet), OK Go, Os Mutantes, Joe Byrd & The Field Hippies, Jellyfish, the Sea And Cake, Deerhoof, Olivia Tremor Control, Beulah, the Fastbacks, the La’s, Blue Ash, the Clean, Michael Penn, Malcolm McLaren, the Explorers Club, Kurt Elling, Roy Wood of the Move, Robyn Hitchcock of the Soft Boys, Susannah Hoffs of the Bangles, Sneakers, Brent Bourgeois of Burgeois-Tagg, Blake Lewis and Girl Talk, among many others.

That’s quite the legacy, isn’t it? Again- note the indie angle between Yo La Tengo, New Pornographers, Belle & Sebastian, Elliott Smith, Neutral Milk Hotel, and many more. Yet, they also inspired rockers as diverse as Todd Rundgren to Santana. The Zombies, in their brief run, showed us all the possibilities when you marry atmosphere to melodicism. Their songs’ jazzy timing and unconventional keys made a group of musicians initially dismissed as stiff mods deserving of a second look. And a third look. Until they became a rare creature, indeed: a band the wider public is aware of, but whose work is well loved and a shared common currency among musicians. In the end, The Zombies punched above their weight, and mattered in the long run more than most of their contemporaries. With any luck the Rock Hall will grant this St. Albans band their wish, and let them into their halls. This will be their year. Took a long time to come.

Greetings, Northumbrians! It has been a good long while since I blogged about Rock Hall matters- in fact, I’ve been radio-silent on this topic since I finished up my Top 100 Rock Hall prospects series almost two months ago.

In that time, we’ve certainly seen some fascinating developments in the world of Rock Hall news, much of it around the Class of 2016. We had a possible Chicago reunion with Peter Cetera implode at the eleventh hour over an apparent disagreement over the key in which “25 Or 6 To 4” ought to be played. N.W.A. suddenly revealed that they weren’t going to perform at the ceremony within the last 72 hours. Deep Purple just couldn’t resolve decades-long feuds with multiple band members. And Steve Miller, belying his easygoing psychedelic blues rock, stopped being polite and started getting real, dismissing his handlers and “going rogue” about his bad experiences with the Rock Hall. In my judgment, this was justifiably so. The rest of his band wasn’t honored, he was inducted by The Black Keys who he hadn’t even met prior to the rehearsals for the show, and he felt slighted by being given only 2 tickets for the ceremony. If his kids wanted to attend, Miller would have to fork out hundreds of dollars to get them a spot at his stage-side table. Miller aired his grievances even further by decrying the lack of women in the Rock Hall. While he’s right, The Black Keys were quick to point out that Miller had 40 years to put a woman in his eponymous band and failed to do so. Cheap Trick was the only inductee that didn’t screw it up, both reuniting and performing ably to close out the show.

After a successful ceremony for 2014 (highlighted by Hervana) and 2015 (which pulled off a quasi-Beatles reunion), 2016 was the Franklin Pierce of Rock Hall induction ceremonies: a certifiable near-failure. In the end, the 2016 ceremony was a set of lost opportunities that exposed a number of cracks in the Rock Hall’s facade. It seemed everybody came out of the experience unhappy. Artists like Miller felt slighted. Critics- myself included- were shocked by the sausage-fest the ceremony became. Having an all-male class might be an accident, but having all-male presenters too was pure mismanagement. Classic rock purists, who should have been gratified by 4 artists tailor-made for their tastes, still complained about NWA’s induction. Even the induction of Bert Burns under the Musical Excellence banner seemed sketchy because Little Stevie was bankrolling a musical about his life. It’s a small wonder that even  Jann Werner didn’t bother showing up. To get you up to speed, let me refer you to some people who have gotten the right idea: E-rockcracy nailed the issues at stake while Philip at Rock Hall Monitors diagnoses the problem and advocates some ideas to fix the Rock Hall.

The problem is that I don’t see a way to go forward. If the Rock Hall can be accused of elitism and aloofness, it’s not like the wider public is any better. To the contrary, their tastes are worse. This year’s vote showed, if nothing else, that if you put a 70s classic rocker on the ballot, they will get in, no matter how dubious their qualifications. (This, by the way, is why I generally oppose inducting backing groups and ancillary members in most circumstances. The last thing we need is more random Belmonts, Wings, Silver Bullets, or 80s touring members of Chicago or Deep Purple further compromising the quality control on the Voting Committee. They’ll just stack the deck even further in favor of Classic Rock.) Indeed, the classic rock-voting robots even manipulated the online vote this year.

Worse, I don’t really have any good solutions. We are stuck in an era of transition for rock and roll, between a popular medium and a high art. I’m reminded of a book I read for my doctoral exams: Highbrow/Lowbrow: the Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America.  Originally, something like Shakespeare was written and originally performed as “low art”- culturally accessible and consumed by ordinary individuals. But over the course of time, it became a scholarly province, as reading Shakespeare became incorporated into middle-class ideals of “the good life,” and became classic literature. In the process, Shakespeare was immortalized, but forever lost some of its coarseness and crudeness from when shabby groundlings took over the cheap seats and heckled performers. It’s a bit like that: rock and roll was a popular medium, and it’s a common critique to say that a Hall of Fame belies its very purpose. But without anybody really intending it to, it became a fine art, one analyzed by cultural critics and academics, and one for whom the passage of time negates its original crudeness and earthy texture. Elvis and Little Richard are hardly risqué by today’s standards.

As a result, for all the criticism lobbed at the Rock Hall, I’m sympathetic to its plight, to a certain extent. Like it or not, rock and roll overachieved into a cultural force, and with that evolution comes the need for a canon, and a swarm of experts to determine what is or is not “classic” or “great” about it. It riles everyday fans who were present at the creation, who got stoned in their Chevy and then went to a Grand Funk Railroad concert in ’73, to see artists they love picked apart and sometimes dismissed. And it irks the critic and the scholar to see schlubs with terrible taste complain about Styx not being in the Hall when innovators and conscientious musicians like Chic and Kraftwerk and Nine Inch Nails are still on the outside looking in. The critic is horrified that this year had zero female inductees, and nobody from the soul or R&B family. The classic rocker insists that this is mere affirmative action, PC run amok. A truly revolutionary group- NWA- is honored and wants to perform a song called “F— Tha Police” but the ceremony is in a massive arena that probably requires a police security presence. We’re at an impasse between expert and everyman, insider and outsider, and this year’s ceremony revealed that tug of war better than most.

Where does the Rock Hall go from here, then? If I had to impose one suggestion on the chaos, it’s to resolve the problem of age. Frankly, the 1980s and 1990s are hard done by, and the quorum of 70+ year old white men on the Nom Com and the voting committee is partly to blame. Get younger voices. Get more minority voices. Get female voices. Get underground voices. Get Jessica Harper on the Nom Com. Or Steven Hyden. Or an academic like Princeton’s Daphne Brooks, who understands what’s at stake. Rock and roll is big, and beautiful, and broad– a tree with many roots and many branches. The group that puts the ballot together- and the people who vote on the ballot- should reflect this.

And I think, in the pit of Joel Peresman, Dave Marsh, and Jann Werner’s stomachs, they know this is true. For this reason, I think that for the Class of 2017, they will probably go in a very different direction, even if they don’t make any real changes on the nominating committee or the voting committee. In fact, I don’t think there will even be a single act that fits the narrowest definition of 70s classic rock, since they had their chance to shine this year. It’s going to look an awful lot like the ballot for the Class of 2015.

So, while I’m far from making my official predictions for the Oct. 2016 ballot for the Class of 2017, I think it might look something like this: Pearl Jam. Tupac. Nine Inch Nails. The Smiths. Chaka Khan. The Commodores. A Tribe Called Quest. Kraftwerk. Sting. Willie Nelson. Nina Simone. Eurythmics. Chic. Johnny Winter. The Shangri-Las. Two first-year eligibles, six returning nominees, and seven snubs. That’s a stretch. Few ballots have had as many new faces. But there’s never been a better time to untie some knots, open the windows to fresh air, and challenge insider and outsider alike to wonder: what is great rock and roll music?

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.


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?



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.

I wrote this poem, quite literally, the evening before the Iowa caucus. In all the craziness over the Rock Hall talk, I forgot to post it here. I hope it is enjoyed.


Twas the night before caucus, as I sat and I groused,

at the rank office seekers from the Senate and House
The yard signs were set on our front lawns well known
In hopes that the canvassers leave us alone
As the candidates uttered policies Darwinian
And professed the whole ballgame, like 2 Corinthians
Since ma loved no Clinton and I felt no Bern
We rested our brains like some unpaid intern

When out on the driveway arose such a noise
That I’m sure it was heard from Dubuque to Des Moines
Quickly I sprung, wond’ring what the hell happened
Was it some neer-do-well or a drunk precinct captain?
Then what to my wondering eyes did I scan
But a stretch limo pulled by some eight also-rans
“Make America Great!” said it’s motto, remodeled
I knew in a moment it must be the Donald
More rapid than vetos his posse they came
In a Long Island accent, he called their out their names:
Now Carson! Now, Rand Paul! Now Kasich and Christie!
On, Marco! On, Jeb! Bush!, On Huckster and Carly!

And the limo sped off, ’twas no smooth apparatus
It was shaky and doubtful as Ted’s legal status
“Divide all the Moderates! Build a Mexican wall!
Or else you’re fired, you’re fired, you’re fired, all!”
As the limo sped off, I could see it was true
With a sack full of red hats, there stood Mr. Trump too

Uninvited he walked through the door, no true hurdle
It was open to access like Hill’s email server
As he tried to win over castoff Perot voters
He promised to stop Muslim migrants and quotas
With his pockets outstretched from two wives’ alimony
He sneered when he laughed with a cadence so phony
He then offered a deal in this late evening hour
If I gave him a pledge, I could stay in Trump Towers!
I wished I could help him, but I couldn’t do so
I was white and in debt as the next Bernie Bro.

His eyes how they glowered, his hair, orange as Boehner,
And his stage makeup dolled on just like Megan Trainor
His hairpiece immaculate, set like a swan
Like Bill Shatner’s between TOS and Wrath of Khan

And laying his finger inside of his nose
His toupee sprouted wings, through the chimney he rose
He sprang to his limo, with his whip, gave a crack
And they vanished like a bioweapon left in Iraq
But I heard him shout out, as he lurched to the Right,
Happy Caucus to all, 9 months til ‘Lection Night!