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National Issues

When selecting VP, reach across the aisle

Last fall, Starbucks CEO and potential Democratic nominee for president Howard Schultz penned an op-ed in the New York Times outlining his belief that American public office, and the presidency in particular, should be predicated on the idea of servant leadership.

Although he declined to pursue public office himself, Schultz posited several centrist ideas that struck a chord with the millions of Americans sick of hyperpartisanship. Perhaps most notable among these was the assertion that a candidate intent on acting in the mold of servant leadership should take on a running mate from the other side of aisle.

In many ways doing so would be political theater, but not necessarily the bad sort. The vice president’s role in American politics has seemingly diminished over the years, but as the country’s second-highest ranking office there is an unchallengeable legitimacy to the position. A nominee’s decision to select a well-respected member of the opposition would illustrate a concerted effort to include that party — and its voters — in the White House’s agenda.

In fact, some have already distinguished themselves as prime candidates for this kind of collaborative run for office. Though recent success in New Hampshire has reinvigorated his campaign, John Kasich’s calm demeanor and genuine advocacy of an American agenda has endeared him as a Republican candidate more concerned with policy than party. Kasich’s own experience in Washington and willingness to catalyze more moderate conservatives would not only give a Democratic nominee the opportunity to extend his or her voter base, but genuinely invite Republicans back into the administrative branch.

While plenty might criticize the move as political gesturing and lacking substance, I’ve got a hunch that the disgruntled electorate that has so consistently stumped the predictions of the media and political scientists this election might find it refreshing.

Realistically this won’t happen, and maybe that testifies to just how unyielding our political parties have become. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen, and even entertaining the possibility could generate some minimal level of reconciliation. Perhaps the entrance of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a centrist candidate in his own right, would spur a nominee to take off his red- or blue-colored glasses and take a hard look across the aisle.

The inter-party election ticket is only one suggestion forwarded by Howard Schultz in his brief op-ed on servant leadership, but it is one of the easiest to execute and perhaps the most visible one to tout. People have rallied around Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders because they’re frustrated with the way that American politics works. If the class of old politicians wants to prove them wrong, working together might be a good place to start. The White House could probably use a little purple on the inside.

Caleb Ellis, from St. Louis, is a senior studying English and public policy at Duke.


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