Gender is not a qualification for political office, but substantive qualifications don't matter
Neoconservative columnist and member of the "Resistance" against President Donald Trump Jennifer Rubin writes that Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders should "commit to a female running mate" since they are the last two candidates remaining who could win the Democratic Party nomination for president.
I'm a firm believer that a person's gender is not a qualifier, or disqualifier, for anything. Political office is no different. The most important attribute someone should look for in a running mate in a presidential campaign is whether or not that person brings additional support to the campaign. Will you get more votes than you otherwise would if you choose this person? That's a bit too cynical, in reality, but it's the main consideration. Gender, in and of itself, doesn't even make the list.
That said, in 2020, the gender of your running mate could absolutely get you more votes, especially if you're an older, white male in the Democratic Party like Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Though, it should be said that Bernie himself could potentially make history as the first Jewish President of the United States. Rubin says:
There are several strategic reasons for Democrats to put a woman on the ticket. First, maximizing the women’s vote, especially in the suburbs, will be key to winning the electoral college, just as it was key to winning the House majority in 2018. Second, a woman on the ticket will be a constant thorn in President Trump’s side, a reminder that “nasty” women — that is, women who ridicule and criticize him — will not be silenced or intimidated; they will hold him account for his rhetoric, his personal and public conduct and his policies (e.g., separating migrant children from their parents). Third, the nominee, whether Sanders or Biden, will be an old white man and a lifelong politician. That screams “status quo!”
It's hard to argue with her, as potential Democratic and swing voters, women or otherwise, believe this completely.
For Joe Biden, I think the obviously best choice for running mate is now Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren comes from the more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but without being Bernie Sanders and with a willingness to play ball with the establishment. Biden representing the establishment and Warren bringing in the progressive grassroots of the Democratic Party would be a formidable ticket, at least on paper, and would be somewhat of an inverse of the Obama-Biden ticket in 2008 where Obama brought in more of the progressive, grassroots enthusiasm and Biden kept the moderate establishment in line.
I think it's harder to choose who would make the best running mate for a potential Sanders run in the general election, but that seems far more unlikely after Super Tuesday anyway. Warren would not make as much sense for Bernie as she would for Biden, in my opinion, but maybe there's an argument for her being close enough to Bernie ideologically with her ability to cater to the establishment that I'm not giving enough credence to. Regardless, I think a Sanders-Warren ticket is highly unlikely given her attack on Sanders as misogynist before the Iowa caucuses, and the fact that her staying in the race through Super Tuesday definitely hurt Sanders in states like Massachusetts.
Tulsi Gabbard, whom Jennifer Rubin is definitely not endorsing for anybody's running mate, to be clear, might be an obvious choice for a running mate for Bernie based on their similar ideologies, and the fact that she resigned from the DNC in 2016 to strongly endorse him against Hillary Clinton. That said, while I think establishment Democrats would probably hold their noses for him against Trump, Bernie has enough trouble with moderate Democratic voters by himself, and Tulsi just brings more trouble on that front. Ironically, it's her endorsement of Bernie in 2016, and subsequent resignation from the DNC, which made Tulsi persona non grata with Democratic Party leadership who went from touting her as the future of the party to an agent of Vladimir Putin and who did everything in their power to undermine her campaign for president in 2020. Regardless of what you think of her, and she's my favorite Democrat running for president, she would not be a good choice for running mate from a political perspective.
It's also harder to see Bernie picking a more establishment figure to be his running mate than it is to see Biden picking a more progressive figure to be his. Kamala Harris would be an option, but Bernie's base might abandon him if he picked someone who laughed about throwing people in prison for non-violent drug offenses or single-moms whose children were truant from school. Amy Klobuchar has similar problems to Harris's as another former prosecutor. Rubin's correct that there would be plenty of female options, but I just can't figure out who would make the best running mate for Bernie. He's more difficult than Biden because he can more easily turn off moderate Democrats or his own more progressive base if he makes the wrong pick.
Rubin does make some comments that I take issue with, however.
I believe Warren when she says Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told her he did not think a woman could be elected president. Not only would she have no reason to make this up, but such a belief has been and is still widespread in the party. Too risky. Too important an election.
Whether or not you believe Warren's claims of what Bernie said, or Bernie's denial, is, frankly, irrelevant. None of us can possibly know what was said in a closed-door, private conversation between two people who give two different accounts of the conversation. I've said previously that I believe Bernie over Warren, but, again, I can't possibly know. I wasn't there anymore than Rubin was. But the idea that Warren would have "no reason to make this up" is ridiculous. Warren had every incentive to make up such a story about Bernie.
Bernie had just begun to lead in the polls in Iowa and, with less than a month to go before the Iowa caucuses, Warren obviously planted this story at the most opportune moment to harm Bernie's candidacy. The fact that she would wait months to make this accusation against Bernie certainly begs some questions about the honesty of the claim, and obviously shows that Rubin's claim that this election is too important for such games is transparently false.
The frame of “electability” needs to be smashed; the notion that the public cannot envision or accept a woman as commander in chief must be dispelled... It may take a woman a heartbeat away from the presidency to convince Americans that a female president would be perfectly acceptable and entirely normal in a country in which women serve in virtually every other political capacity.
This frame of "Americans don't believe a woman could be elected president" is what needs to be smashed. The Democratic Party nearly nominated Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee in 2008, and did nominate her to be their nominee in 2016. Granted, they had to rig the election against Bernie Sanders to guarantee her the nomination, but they nominated her nonetheless. Not only that, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote against Donald Trump in the general election. In other words, the female candidate got more votes than the male candidate. That doesn't win you presidencies, but it should dispel the myth of a misogynist society that doesn't believe a woman could be Commander-in-Chief.
One day there will be a female Vice President, just as there will someday be a female President, and that day is probably closer than we think. One day there will even be a female President and Vice President at the same time. I don't think it's strictly necessary for Biden or Bernie to pick a female to run against Trump and Pence, as they could also satisfy the desires of the identity politics crowd by choosing a black or gay man, but it certainly couldn't hurt their chances.