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Al Franken For Vice President

A case for why he should be on top of Hillary’s list

Image Via CC (credit: AFL-CIO)

Now that Hillary Clinton has secured the necessary combination of delegates to secure her party’s presidential nomination, much of the attention will quickly turn to who she should select as her running mate.

There are plenty of great options available but the best one might just be the two-term U.S. Senator from Minnesota, former Saturday Night Live writer and best-selling author. First, all due credit to Bill Scher, who first floated this idea last month in a Politico column.

First, Clinton needs a few things from her VP pick:

  • A strong surrogate who can bring the fight to Trump and his eventual running mate.
  • Someone that is effective but won’t overshadow her own presence on the trail.
  • Someone who could potentially tip a state and its electoral votes into her column.

His pick could also bring a few other potential bonus opportunities to the table, including helping to appoint the first Muslim U.S. Senator in American history.

1. Many of you might be too young to remember, but Franken was way out ahead of this whole notion of bringing the fight to Republicans. His 1996 best-seller “Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Idiot” is basically a blueprint for bringing someone like Trump down to size: Rather than pivoting from a position of weakness, highlight the frankly silly nature of your opponent with intelligence and humor. This is the same approach President Obama took when he utterly destroyed Trump during the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner. Those jokes were so effective they reportedly were the spark that ignited Trump’s rage to seek the presidency in the first place.

2. Franken seems totally comfortable as a potential supporting member of Clinton’s cast. He did the same thing on SNL - putting together great jokes for the show’s stars, and making his own impact in memorable sketches without stealing the cast’s thunder. He’s played a similar role in the Senate, bringing attention to serious issues without being a bore. This is important to highlight for those who want to see someone like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren get the pick. Sanders has incredible enthusiasm from his base, but that’s so largely framed around his own agenda and personality, it’s hard to see him really being an effective advocate for the person he and his supporters so passionately rallied against. Besides, who knows if he’d even want the job? And after Clinton’s dominating performance in California and other states near the end of hte primary campaign, the notion that she somehow needs Sanders to win is somewhat diminished. As for Elizabeth Warren? She’d be great but she comes from a state with a Republican governor who would certainly appoint a Republican to the Senate in her absence. There’s a possible route to avoid this outcome but there’s still the argument that Warren is best equipped in her role as a senator and someone who can act more freely rather than within the constraints as Hillary’s virtual cheerleader.

3. Minnesota is a swing state that leans Democratic. Having Franken as the Democrat’s nominee would almost certainly help tilt the state to Clinton and negate some of Trump’s strengths with independent and working class voters that have rallied around his anti-establishment candidacy. Despite having lived in New York for several years before his first Senate run, Franken is distinctly Middle America - he knows how to talk the talk without being condescending or pandering. Vermont and Massachusetts are already going to Clinton, further reducing the need for Sanders or Warren to step up to the VP plate.

Wildcard: Keith Ellison. If Franken gets the VP pick, Gov. Mark Dayton will have a few options to replace him. One newsworthy and historic option would be promoting Rep. Keith Ellison to the distinguished body, making him the Senate’s only Muslim senator. That selection would certainly serve as a strong contrast to Trump’s perceived anti-Muslim stance and would give a Clinton/Franken ticket another strong, positive angle to run on.

Tony Webster

Clinton has plenty of other good choices - with a number of Washington, DC insiders looking to Labor Secretary Tom Perez (he’s funny, reliably progressive and, yes, Hispanic). But if she really wants to make a splash, she should really consider Franken - he’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it … you get it.

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