The most important, purely political decision of this generation may be Hillary Clinton’s choice for her running mate in 2016. The lack of other Democratic presidential prospects is striking: If Clinton were to foul out, the coach could look upon a bench of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Virginia senator Jim Webb for a substitution. That’s the A-team right now. So Clinton’s selection won’t be just about ideological or demographic balance or advantage — it will also be about appointing a leader of the next generation of Democrats. That person will immediately vault to the starting lineup.

Hillary Clinton speaks in Boston last year. (Elise Amendola/Associated Press)

There will be lots of time to speculate on Clinton’s potential choices for her ticket. Right now, I have a little advice for those who might want to be on that list: Start running for it. Begin your campaign by being one of the only Democrats to stand up and fight for her. Have you noticed the silence in the past few months as Clinton has endured scrapes and bruises? Someone who is willing to go out and defend her and rain some fire on the Republican candidates will gain first-mover advantage in the running-mate sweepstakes. And that person will be doing the party a service: Democrats may have worries and doubts about Clinton, but when they look at their current bench, they might remember to do a better job of protecting their star.