Enlarging the Ticket: A Democratic Strategy

By Merrill Ring and Andy Winnick

A bold proposal to help defeat the Presidential disaster we now have: it even names names.

The election presents a major problem for Democrats.  On the one hand, the Republican nominee will be the current President, Donald Trump.  Trump, however, is the worst president the country has ever had, an American disaster similar to Pearl Harbor and 9/11. For the good of the country (and the world) he must be defeated, the Democratic nominee must win.   On the other hand, Joe Biden will be that nominee, a person with no deep support in most segments of the electorate, someone who is the party’s choice because the Democratic establishment and electorate believe that he is the person best suited to doing what must be done, namely defeating the sitting president.  How does the party accomplish its aim with that particular candidate?

It will require the confluence of several pieces of strategy.  There is one possibility to be included among those items that has not been proposed for this election. While the ideas of announcing some Cabinet appointments ahead of a Presidential election and of having Cabinet members have a significant independent public standing have both been floated in the past, it is now time to put those suggestions into practice.

It is one of the consequences of our electoral system that we do not have, as they have in Britain, a shadow cabinet.  The leader of the party out of power there is known and has appointed people to occupy cabinet positions well prior to an election.  Here, the party out of power has no official head for years following an election with a new leader being chosen only months before the next election. Moreover, that nominee for the presidency is sent out to do battle in single combat – choosing later a Vice-Presidential candidate but not naming a cabinet until after the election.

The Democratic Party could break with that tradition and to some extent emulate the British system by, in advance, publicly choosing not just the V-P candidate but at least the central part of her or his administration.  The Presidential campaign could then be conducted not as a more or less mano-a-mano battle but as a future administration against the current administration.

Moreover, if the Democrats would do that for the November election, given the need to defeat a national disaster with a candidate who has no deep and enthusiastic support, the candidates named to the shadow cabinet would need to be major figures within the party.  We have in mind the Lincoln cabinet, called by Doris Kearns Goodwin a team of rivals.  What needs to be chosen in advance is not a bunch of managerial types but the very best public figures that the Democrats have to offer.  One of the outcomes of the extended and well-populated Democratic debates during the primary season was the recognition that the party has a very deep bench, many very capable figures. 

Consequently, we propose that Biden make the following prospective appointments, that they be announced in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention (whatever form that takes) and that the campaign be run, not as Biden v Trump, but as a campaign of this set of Democrats (headed by Biden) v Trump. 

Vice President - Elizabeth Warren
Chief of Staff - Andrew Yang
Senior Advisor to the President - Bernie Sanders
Ambassador to the UN - Barack Obama

Secretary of State - Colin Powell
Secretary of Defense - Kirsten Gillibrand
Secretary of Education - Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez
Secretary of Energy - Jay Inslee
Secretary of Health and Human Services- Michelle Lujan Grisham
Secretary of Homeland Security- Susan Rice
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development - Deval Patrick
Secretary of the Interior - Deb Haaland 
Secretary of Labor - Robert Reich
Secretary of Transportation - Julian Castro
Secretary of the Treasury - Joseph Stiglitz
Secretary of the Veterans Administration-Pete Buttigieg
Attorney General - Kamala Harris
Administrator, EPA - Tom Steyer

Chair, Council of Economic Advisors - Emmanuel Saez
Department of Immigration - Pramila Jayapal
ICE - Stacey Abrams
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - Richard Cordray

Making, and announcing, those appointments would show that the Democrats are united in their deep opposition to Trump, in the absolute requirement that he not harm the country beyond a single term.  Moreover, those names on that list would give the American people a preview of what a Biden administration would be – and that would be contrasted with Trump’s weak appointees who have no claim to independent political standing.

Of course, Joe Biden must buy into this departure from standard American practice.  He is being cast as primus inter pares, first among equals, and not as a stand-alone figure.  It is to be hoped that the Democratic Party as a whole can convince him that this is what needs to be done in order to ensure the rock-bottom need to defeat Trump is met.

Lastly, not all those possible choices will accept the role we have given them – some will more than likely want to remain in their present posts.  Biden and the party will no doubt need to twist some arms – the biggest twist would be reminding them that they need to ask what they can do for their country given the Presidential crisis we are in.