As a service to you, the reader, a surprisingly convincing argument that you may find useful to impress your friends at Memorial Day barbecues.
At some point, Donald Trump needs to designate the person who will serve as his second-in-command should he win the presidency this November. Predicting the person who will be tapped to serve as a candidate’s vice president is always a tricky affair, thanks to the general opacity of the decision-making process. For Trump, there’s an added layer of obscurity; the simple unpredictability of the guy coats the whole thing with another layer of thick black paint.
So who’s it going to be? He’s mentioned looking for someone with experience on Capitol Hill, and he and his staff have had a sort of muddled presentation on the merits of choosing a demographically friendly subordinate. Which seems quite possibly to be the role his pick will play: The manager of the restaurant, dealing with the quixotic owner. Perhaps that’s ungenerous, but his new current No. 2, Paul Manafort, told the Huffington Post that the VP would “do the part of the job [Trump] doesn’t want to do.”
With that in mind, allow us to propose the person who I believe would be Trump’s best VP choice both politically and personally: His daughter, Ivanka Trump.
Let’s dismiss the obstacles at the outset. Ivanka is currently 34 years old, below the 35-year-old threshold demanded by the Constitution. The good news is that her birthday is Oct. 30 — just about a week before Election Day.
A bigger stumbling block is that both Ivanka and Donald share the same home state. Fans of the 2000 election may remember concerns over George W. Bush and Dick Cheney both hailing from Texas, in apparent contradiction of the 12th Amendment’s prohibition against both candidates being from the same state. It ended up not being important, thanks to a court’s decision that December that Cheney was a resident of Wyoming.
But the amendment’s criteria are also often misunderstood. What the amendment says is that members of the Electoral College “shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.” So it’s not that the candidates can’t both be from the same state; it’s that the electors from that state can’t vote for both, as Politifact noted last year. That adds a hurdle to a Trump-Trump candidacy, but not an insurmountable one. It means that Trump needs to win the presidency by at least 32 electoral votes (one more than the number from New York state) in order to serve with his daughter. (If this rabbit hole isn’t deep enough, here’s what might happen next.) But, as Ken Fowler pointed out on Twitter, that’s only if Trump won New York — which seems unlikely.
Why even risk it? Because Ivanka brings so much to the table.
She is a woman. I am a skeptic about the idea that women who plan to vote for Hillary Clinton might be tempted by Trump simply because he picks a woman as his running mate. John McCain gave that a shot eight years ago, and it was not a success. But Trump’s problems with women far exceed McCain’s, and having a constant reminder that he has strong, smart women in his life probably isn’t the worst idea.
She knows how to work with Donald Trump. Of all of the considerations that seem critical in a Trump vice president, the ability to deal with the quixotic candidate seems pretty near the top of the list. Chris Christie’s given it a go and stuck with it even after being curtly dismissed at one event, and told not to eat cookies at another. But Ivanka’s been putting up with his shtick for 35 years (in October) and been successful at it.
She is a good campaign surrogate. We could probably modify this by saying that Ivanka isn’t a bad surrogate; after all, her recent assurance that her father was “not a groper” probably wasn’t super helpful. Compared to other Trump surrogates, though — Ben Carson, for example — she’s hitting at a remarkably good batting average. This is almost certainly a function of having been around her father long enough to have a very good innate sense of his boundaries, and of how to present his will to the world.
She seems like a capable negotiator. Granted, I’m flying a little blind here, but Ivanka has, by all obvious measures, been able to carve her own path to success in the business world. Being born a Trump was more of a kickstarter for her than even for her father, but her personal empire stands on its own feet.
When Trump says he wants someone that knows Capitol Hill, he probably means two things. One is that he wants someone who won’t get out-maneuvered on the picayune rules and systems that it takes to get anything done in Congress. Ivanka can’t do that. What she almost certainly can do is the other thing: She can wrangle and cajole members of Congress, build relationships and serve as an ambassador for her father.
Would someone who knows members of the House and Senate have an advantage in this regard? Perhaps, but perhaps not. No one seems particularly able to move much on Capitol Hill these days, and I would propose that a celebrity who is new to the scene might have better luck cracking open doors — at least for a little while. I mean, Alex Rodriguez showed up on Capitol Hill and people actually met with him. If a celebrity that toxic can make a dent in things, imagine what someone with actual charm and talent could do. (Editor’s note: Philip is a Mets fan.)
It’s good branding. One of the things that has been running through my head as we consider who might be Trump’s running mate is the idea that Trump might someday soon have to share his campaign signs with another person’s name. When insiders were bubbling over the idea of Sen. Bob Corker, I found it very hard to envision “Trump-Corker” t-shirts sweeping the country.
Well, how about: “Trump-Trump”? Or, more simply: “Trump.”
The only words that Donald Trump likes to see next to his last name are the names of products he wants to sell: towers, steaks, water. He’d probably settle for following “Trump” with another “Trump.”
Choosing Ivanka would allow Trump to create a sort of hereditary system for the presidency. Our founding fathers went to great lengths to create the most-democratic and least-monarchical system of government they could think of. Every four years, a new election and possibly a new president. None of this hereditary transfer of power nonsense. Well, bad news, Mssrs. Madison and Jefferson. Somebody may have just found a loophole.
The beauty of this entire thing is that, for once, it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility. I approached this exercise as more of a thought experiment than a real effort at advocacy, but as I was exploring it, realized that ... it’s not actually all that crazy. Especially given that the person making the decision somehow manages to intersperse completely rational decisions with utterly incomprehensible ones within the span of a few minutes. Donald Trump — who has even mentioned choosing his daughter as his running mate in the past — is as likely to pick Ivanka as he is Mitt Romney, Bob Corker, Shaquille O'Neal or the skeleton of Betsy Ross.
The case has been made. Now we wait.