With Bernie Sanders’ recent appointment of Keith Ellison to the Democratic platform committee, the congressman from Minnesota will start to get some of the attention he deserves.
Some have considered the possibility of a Hillary Clinton-Xavier Becerra ticket, which would certainly be interesting. But as a former Sanders supporter, I am near certain that the California congressman will not fire up the young, liberal base that has pushed so hard for Sanders.
What is most interesting about the rumors of Becerra as vice president is that they mean the Clinton campaign is considering a member of the House. If so, Ellison would be much better than Becerra at exciting the Sanders base (and more).
Ellison’s vice presidency would be equally as historic: the first African-American, first Muslim and the first non-Christian to hold the office.
To ensure that Sanders’ “revolutionaries” don’t stay at home or vote for the Green Party’s Jill Stein, the Clinton campaign needs to prove that she will listen to liberals and that she cares about the progressive agenda.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to pick a running mate who endorsed Sanders over her, which would instantly add credibility to her progressive credentials and leadership.
Ellison is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, a chief deputy whip for the Democratic Caucus and an early Sanders backer. He is unquestionably liberal, which is key to winning over Sanders’ base, whereas the voting record of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine (who is often floated for the VP position) is far more centrist.
Donald Trump has insulted and committed hate speech against Muslims.
Few are more qualified than Ellison to contrast Clinton’s “Make America Whole Again” campaign with Trump’s “Make America Great (Hate) Again” campaign. He was the first Muslim congressman in the U.S. and chose to be sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Qur’an.
Clinton has long said that Trump plays into the hands of radicals.
The newly elected Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told the New York Times that “Daesh, ISIS, all those guys, hate the fact that I am mayor of London. Why? Because it contradicts what they say, which is that Western liberal values are incompatible with Islam.”
The selection of a proud Muslim-American for her running mate would make clear that a Clinton administration is committed to ending radical terror, not waging a war on Islam.
Ellison’s record as a progressive is key to uniting the party, and the region that he hails from is key for Clinton to reach 270 electoral votes.
While Minnesota is relatively safe for Clinton, winning nearby Midwestern states like Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan is imperative for her. Ellison represents Minneapolis, and he is from Michigan. He attended college in Detroit and law school in Minnesota.
Also, unlike others who are under consideration for the VP slot, there is no possibility that Ellison’s election would jeopardize the Democrats’ chance of gaining a majority in the Senate, as might happen through a special election for Elizabeth Warren’s seat in Massachusetts or from giving Gov. John Kasich a chance to name a Republican replacement for Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.
As Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s secretary of labor, explains: Sanders is “continuing to mobilize and energize voters about the most important issue in this election — the increasing concentration of income, wealth and political power at the top, and why it’s harming our economy and democracy. If the Democratic Party stands for anything, it should be to reverse this trend.”
Keith Ellison has done the same thing for the state of Minnesota, and he can do the same thing for our country. He belongs on Hillary Clinton’s shortlist.
Zachariah Sippy is a high school student in Lexington, Ky., and vice president of Henry Clay Young Democrats. Formerly of Minneapolis, he interned for the DFL Party and volunteered on Keith Ellison’s re-election campaign in 2014.