When he introduced Christian conservative Mike Pence as his running-mate on Saturday, Donald Trump made a point of acknowledging that “party unity” was a reason for his choice. Pence, who’d endorsed Trump’s main rival, “Lyin’ Ted Cruz,” is beloved by the Republican Party’s loyal base of religious and free-market fundamentalists – which includes many Republican voters and activists still wary of Trump.
Trump’s choice will make the GOP convention less contentious. And it’s a smart electoral strategy to galvanize the activist base of the party; Trump wants these people to not only vote for him in November, but to actively work for the Trump-Pence ticket over the next several months.
Now let’s turn to Hillary Clinton’s VP strategy.
According to press accounts, Clinton is leaning toward the opposite strategy – ignoring her party’s progressive base. If she does so, she may open the door to a Trump presidency.
Bernie Sanders received 13 million votes (far more than Cruz received on the other side). Millions of those progressive voters – which include thousands of talented and Internet-savvy activists – are wary of Clinton and prepared to stay home or cast a Green Party vote, even in the dozen swing states that will determine who inhabits the White House in January.
The best way for Hillary Clinton to give momentum to “Bernie or Bust” activists would be to choose from her reportedly short list of corporate Democratic politicians.
On the other hand, one way Clinton could build an energized center-left alliance able to overwhelm Trump in November would be to choose a running-mate from the Democrat’s progressive wing – someone like Elizabeth Warren or Keith Ellison or perhaps Sherrod Brown. Such a choice would also assure a less unruly Democratic convention in Philadelphia.
Unfortunately, it looks like Clinton – a Democratic centrist with close ties to corporate America – is ready to disregard the party’s activist base.