Val or Tammy

I used to work in political communications; I was a volunteer. I wrote articles, campaigns, press releases, even an MP’s Maiden Speech. I took a step back from that in recent years, but nevertheless, I am still keenly interested in it. I have stood for the Labour Party as a candidate; by and large, I support the Democrats in America. The frustration both parties have given me is similar to watching a beloved relative consistently having accidents because they weren’t watching where they were going.

I was frustrated with the Labour campaign in 2019, because there were too many policy pronouncements for the voters to absorb. It contrasted poorly with the simplicity of the Tory message of “Get Brexit Done”. The Tory message was a lie, of course, but it was memorable. The Tories tapped into the country’s boredom and frustration with the Brexit process. It worked. Certainly, reality has proven to be far more messy, but that’s a worry that the Conservatives can postpone until 2024.

From afar, I see the Democrats standing on the end of the proverbial rake in the yard and getting whacked in the face by the handle. The ads from the Democrats so far are far less effective than those put out by never-Trump Republicans like those at the Lincoln Project. The Lincoln Project has been scoring direct hits, showing Trump’s alignment to symbols of the racist Confederacy, and how far he is from the ideal President. Some ads contrast Trump to Lincoln and General Mattis: Trump looks like a self-involved, incoherent psychopath in comparison. I fully expect the Lincoln Project to keep drawing blood. But where are the Democrats?

I suggest that Biden needs to be more the President than the President is. There have been some signs of this: the serious speeches, the calls for unity, even standing at a podium with American flags, all suggest that he is a return to respectability and sanity. However, he will need to step this up; in my opinion, he should assemble a “Shadow Cabinet”, appoint people who will be ready to take charge from the moment he becomes President. These appointments could become an opportunity for him to contrast positively to the inept advisors around Trump.

There is one choice that Biden must make soon: he has to pick a running mate. Indications presently are that he will pick Senator Kamala Harris of California. I believe this could be an unforced error.

I will begin by stating that I like Senator Harris. I think she has a highly engaging personality and has strong credentials. However, she is from California; this is a state that Biden has in his column anyway. Furthermore, “California” is likely to be a millstone hung around the neck of any candidate who is going to the Midwest. With Pence in tow, Trump has someone from that area to counter.

Given this, I believe that Biden has two potential choices: Rep. Val Demings of Florida and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.

Senator Duckworth was in the Army Reserve; she served as a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War. She had two of her legs blown off when her helicopter was hit by a rocket propelled grenade fired by Iraqi insurgents. When she retired from the Illinois National Guard in 2014, she had the rank of lieutenant colonel. Her education credentials are impressive: she has a PhD in Human Services from Capella University which she earned in 2015. Among other things, she was honoured by the Daughters of the American Revolution; her father’s lineage goes all the way back to that time.

It would be incredibly difficult for Trump and Pence to take the line of “duty, honour, country” with Lt. Col. Duckworth as the VP. Pence would look like a shadow of a patriot compared to Duckworth’s sacrifice, he doesn’t nearly have her credentials. It’s highly likely she would make mincemeat out of him on the debate stage. It would be a move to wrap the Democratic ticket in the Star Spangled Banner. One of the few institutions that inspires any trust any longer is the military; Duckworth has served, Trump and Pence did not. Who knows what it is like to sacrifice for the country? Furthermore, Duckworth is Midwestern and thus the “coastal elite” label in her case makes no sense.

An alternative candidate, who apparently is already being vetted, is Rep. Val Demings of Florida. Rep. Demings has not been in Congress for long: she only began there in 2017. Prior to this, she was the Police Chief of Orlando, Florida. She has served in the police for 27 years. It is this service which may very well be suited to our present day. If there is someone whom Biden could tap immediately to oversee police reform, it would be her. She could put forward detailed policy proposals; these would be far more informed by practical experience than anything Trump and Pence have to offer. Again, I believe she would make mincemeat of Pence, particularly when discussing the current issues that trouble the nation. Furthermore, Demings is from Florida: while this is also Trump’s present home state, Demings may stimulate more Floridians to come out and vote Democratic.

Again, suggesting these two candidates is no slight on any others. Stacey Abrams did the near impossible in Georgia. Kamala Harris is engaging, bright and has a great future in politics. Both should be included in a Biden Administration; perhaps both should be offered positions in a Biden “Shadow Cabinet”.

However, campaigns are like prolonged conflicts; you try to bring to bear your strengths against your opponents weaknesses. Trump’s main weakness is simple: he is a phony. He has hugged the flag but has never sacrificed for it. He appeals to patriotism but has never done anything that doesn’t indicate love for himself first. He says “America First” but the biggest gainers from his malign reign have been America’s enemies. Biden can use the talents within his party to highlight that Trump is a fake in every respect. I hope for the sake of the world that he does so.

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