As a lifelong progressive activist and the first woman to head a major American labor coalition, Burger is a highly accomplished, admirable individual. But she simply isn’t a realistic veep choice: She’s too lefty, has never held an elected office or served in government, and as a public speaker, I’ve found her hit or miss. Furthermore, her deep-seeded economic populism, frankly, hasn’t been embraced by the Obama campaign to date.
I actually spent much of my time reading The Argument (long post coming after graduation tonight, I promise) wondering why no one was talking about Burger’s boss at the SEIU, Andy Stern, as a VP choice. He, along with John Podesta, comes across astonishingly well, as a committed progressive who gets that the globalization information economy require a fundamental rethinking of the social contract and the New Deal-era safety net. What’s more, Stern, like Burger, was born in 1950, making both of them young enough (66) to succeed Obama in 2016. Obama has said that he’s more sure of his foreign policy credentials than his domestic policy ones, and so a pick like Stern or Burger seems to make more sense than Webb or the homophobic Neanderthal that is Sam Nunn (in all seriousness, if it so much as looks like Obama will pick Nunn, everyone I know still working on the campaign will get a mouthful from me). Stern and Burger would both bring a reformist bent, as part of CtW rather than AFL-CIO, and a combination of outsider appeal and deep experience. While Goldstein’s right that Burger and Austan Goolsbee would probably disagree on a lot, she and Stern both have a more center-left, and more globalization-friendly, economic view than many, more traditional unionist, which jibes well with Obama’s approach.
But as soon as I got back and Wikipediaed Stern, I realized the most immediate reason either pick wouldn’t work: the SEIU UHW dispute. While I don’t know nearly enough about it to take sides, the controversy centers around accusations of un-democratic behavior on the part of the SEIU leadership (i.e. Stern and Burger). That plays into the most devastating and common right-wing attacks on unions, and would allow McCain, without any basis, to play an Obama/Stern or Obama/Burger ticket as a continuation of the old days of corrupt unions and political machines. It’d be totally unfair, especially given how reformist the three are, but the SEIU UHW deal makes it possible.
So I think that, on the merits, Goldstein isn’t giving Burger her due. Either she or Stern would make a fine vice president, and a fine president in eight years. But if she’s picked, or Stern for that matter, I hope Caroline Kennedy and Eric Holder have vetted them by crazy. The potential for right-wing smears is great, and we have to be sure that neither would be a electoral liability.