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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Friedman’s Idea: Gimmicky or Good?

In his irresistibly-titled New York Times column, “Dems, You Can Defeat Trump in a Landslide,” Thomas L. Friedman argues that “Democrats have to do something extraordinary — forge a national unity ticket the likes of which they have never forged before. And that’s true even if Democrats nominate someone other than Bernie Sanders.”

Many left Dems will see Friedman’s column as a reflection of the panic of moderate Democrats, and indeed there is a fair amount of nail-biting about Sanders momentum out there, as Paul Waldman notes in “Democrats, stop freaking out about Bernie Sanders” at The Washington Post. Their concerns may be justified, as indicated by the available polling data, which has been well-analyzed by Ruy Teixeira and others at TDS and elsewhere. Should a moderate somehow win the Democratic nomination, the fallout could be equally-divisive, particularly if Sanders wins a plurality of the delegates, but not a majority.

Trump has screwed up once-predictable politics so bad that nobody really knows what is going to happen. Friedman notes that “Veteran political analyst E.J. Dionne, in his valuable new book, “Code Red: How Progressives and Moderates Can Unite to Save Our Country,” got this exactly right: We have no responsible Republican Party anymore. It is a deformed Trump personality cult.” Anyway, here’s the gist of Friedman’s idea:

“I want people to know that if I am the Democratic nominee these will be my cabinet choices — my team of rivals. I want Amy Klobuchar as my vice president. Her decency, experience and moderation will be greatly appreciated across America and particularly in the Midwest. I want Mike Bloomberg (or Bernie Sanders) as my secretary of the Treasury. Our plans for addressing income inequality are actually not that far apart, and if we can blend them together it will be great for the country and reassure markets. I want Joe Biden as my secretary of state. No one in our party knows the world better or has more credibility with our allies than Joe. I will ask Elizabeth Warren to serve as health and human services secretary. No one could bring more energy and intellect to the task of expanding health care for more Americans than Senator Warren.

“I want Kamala Harris for attorney general. She has the toughness and integrity needed to clean up the corrupt mess Donald Trump has created in our Justice Department. I would like Mayor Pete as homeland security secretary; his intelligence and military background would make him a quick study in that job. I would like Tom Steyer to head a new cabinet position: secretary of national infrastructure. We’re going to rebuild America, not just build a wall on the border with Mexico. And I am asking Cory Booker, the former mayor of Newark, to become secretary of housing and urban development. Who would bring more passion to the task of revitalizing our inner cities than Cory?

Friedman goes on to suggest Admiral Andrew McRaven at the Pentagon, Sen. Romney for Commerce Secretary and Andrew Yang at Energy, with Ocasio-Cortez as our United Nations Ambassador. Also “I want Senator Michael Bennet, the former superintendent of the Denver Public Schools, to be my secretary of education. No one understands education reform better than he does. Silicon Valley Congressman Ro Khanna would be an ideal secretary of labor, balancing robots and workers to create “new collar” jobs.”

With a few tweaks, including more women in the cabinet, it’s a plausible enough ‘unity ticket’ and cabinet. Republicans will attack the idea as desperate. But it is certainly possible that polarization-weary voters might welcome such an approach. The specifics would be endlessly debatable. But the ‘Team of Rivals’ idea that Obama leveraged quite effectively could also help unify the party and impress some swing voters.

There’s lots to like in Friendman’s proposal. Quibble about the details, but what now seems inarguable is Friedman’s point that “if progressives think they can win without the moderates — or the moderates without the progressives — they are crazy.”

One comment on “Friedman’s Idea: Gimmicky or Good?

  1. Candace on

    “what now seems inarguable is Friedman’s point that “if progressives think they can win without the moderates — or the moderates without the progressives — they are crazy.”

    Too true. I like Biden/Warren for a unity ticket


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