June 18, 2004,
Before the presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry arrives in Boston (the presumptive site of the Democratic Convention), he needs to name his running mate. His campaign staff has spent the last few weeks vetting lists of candidates probing their tax returns, military records, video rentals, and scheduling prostate exams. No one is exempt not even Hillary. As you'd expect, this tedious and old-fashioned process has so far produced the tired, old, familiar names the "usual suspects," like Richard Gephardt and John Edwards. But, in my view, John Kerry's best choice for vice president is...
The main advantage of Kerry serving as his own running mate is that he could run as a centrist and as a liberal at the same time. The presidential candidate Kerry could use the perennial Democratic ploy of moving toward the center, and position himself as a "moderate." That's the Kerry who voted for the Iraq war. Meanwhile, the vice-presidential candidate Kerry could lurch left and shore up all his liberal followers. That's the Kerry who voted against the $87 billion in funding for the Iraq war. Likewise, the presidential John Kerry could happily drive an SUV, while the vice-presidential Kerry could make speeches fiercely denying that he owned one even in the same parking lot. In this way, the Democratic party could cover more bases than a utility infielder. And that's a recipe for victory. Best of all, this ultimate "fusion" ticket would be perfectly balanced, while creating the illusion of Democratic unity, always an elusive goal.
Another plus for the Kerry-Kerry strategy is that it would freeze out all Democratic-party usurpers from the ticket. As his own running mate, Kerry would deny the slot to Hillary or any other upstart or loose cannon who might otherwise compete with him for attention. At the same time, picking himself wouldn't be just a narcissistic choice, but a means of sparing his party the agony of selecting a running mate from among the "usual suspects." Kerry wouldn't have to spend time pondering, for example, whether the most experienced man of all, Al Gore, could handle another four years as vice president, or if Sen. Joe Lieberman is too "pretty." Meanwhile, Kerry would get an extra boost from the traditional presidential debates. Sparring verbally with Bush one night, and then debating Cheney a few days later, Kerry would score points for sheer volume taking on two opponents instead of one. The press would spin this as a triumph of Kerry's nuanced and nimble intellect, making him out to be the consummate egghead a cross between Camille Paglia and Mr. Peabody.
Of course, some critics will assert that the benefits of a Kerry-Kerry ticket would be nullified by the 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In that amendment, electors of the Electoral College are prohibited from casting a vote for both a president and vice president from their own state. That means a ticket with both candidates from the same state isn't smart. But fortunately, Kerry owns, with his wife, more than one home. One John Kerry could claim residence in Massachusetts, while the other could use the ski chalet in Idaho as his residence. If that doesn't satisfy the Supreme Court, Teresa might set up a couple of the justices with a nice retirement package like an oceanfront house in Palm Beach.
Naturally, the Republican party will ridicule the Kerry-Kerry ticket as a last-ditch maneuver of a party bereft of ideas and candidates. But the plan is not without historical precedent. Before the passage of the 12th Amendment in 1804, candidates such as George Washington (F., Va.) and Thomas Jefferson (DR., Va.) ran for both president and vice president, in effect, at the same time. Under the old rules, whoever got the most electoral votes became president, and the runner-up became vice president.
Historically justifiable or not, the Kerry-Kerry ticket is just the kind of bold and daring move his campaign needs. With one deft stroke, it could change the face of American politics and without using any Botox, either.
So, while the Republican attack machine (or is it attack dogs?) derides the ticket as "Senator Kerry and his evil twin," it's really a ticket with potential. Say it one time, and let it roll off your tongue: Kerry-Kerry. Catchier than the macarena, as balanced as Pouilly-Fuisse, and as solid as Heinz ketchup.
Kerry-Kerry: One candidate, one ticket, one America! And, just maybe, more than one state.
Leonard Albin is a freelance writer.