Just for a moment, forget about the second person on the Obama ticket and allow me to place my nomination for a third: Al Gore for a high-profile cabinet-level post on climate change.
I am not talking about just announcing that Gore would have a role in an Obama administration, I am proposing a third member of the ticket who campaigns hard, nationally, from the start, in a way that integrates the issue of global climate change the heart of the campaign.
Today the most important issue facing the US today (and for that matter all humanity) is not the Iraq war, or the mortgage crisis, or jobs, or gas prices but rather global climate change. Yet this most important issue has been all but invisible in the primaries. In 22 Democratic debates it was not the focus of a single question. All we heard from any candidate was a position paper on a web site or a throwaway line: "vote for me and I will [end][win] the war in Iraq, bring new jobs, and solve global warming."
This may seem odd, because both Obama and Clinton -- and yes, even McCain too -- seem to grasp the gravity of the situation. But the issue nevertheless fell victim to the dynamics that have continually sideline it in American politics. Americans vote with an eye on the very near-term. The war in Iraq and the mortgage crisis jostle for "most important issue" honors according to what voters believe might affect them first: will their child get stop-lossed in Iraq before or after they loose their house? Global warming's affects are far less immediate or obvious, so the issue lacks an electoral constituency. That is whey when Al Gore decided to focus on climate change he essentially had to leave the electoral politics. And with Obama and Clinton locked in a protracted tight race, as the various primary days approached, climate change was never an issue that would deliver those crucial last votes.
A few primaries ago, Obama, made "a commitment that Al Gore will be at the table and play a central part in us figuring out how we solve ... climate change now... not 10 years from now, not 20 years from now." That was wonderful to hear, though is hardly the straight talk on climate change we desperately need. Climate change is not a problem we are going to "solve" -- not now, and not 10 or 20 years from now. It is a fact of life on planet earth that humans will have to deal with effectively forever. Addressing it in any meaningful way will require huge changes in American government policy, industry, lifestyle and education. This is not the kind of change that can be simply announced and implemented by a government, no matter who is leading it.
By teaming up together, not just after November but before, Obama and Gore could finally resolve the dilemma of how to win in the American electoral arena while speaking out on global warming:
* Announce now that Al Gore will have a special cabinet level post in the Obama administration dealing specifically with global climate change.
* Then actively campaign as a team, effectively be a 3-person ticket: Obama for President, [?] for VP, and Gore for Climate Change Secretary.
The advantages of this would be extraordinary:
* Obama would be free the to focus on issues which win votes while still signaling that climate change is a top.
* Likewise, it would give Gore the room to focus on climate change from within the electoral arena.
* It would serve as a vehicle for massive education of the American public on this urgent matter, and alert them ahead of time to the fact that the Obama administration would be moving in a serious way on this front.
* It would effectively put Gore "on the ticket," which would help bring the Party together after this divisive primary.
As far as disadvantages, I can think of none.