Last week, New York Times opinion columnist Thomas Friedman wrote a superb op-ed arguing that in order to win back the White House in November, Democrats must forge a national unity ticket “the likes of which have never been seen before.” After yesterday’s Super Tuesday results, it seems almost inconceivable that someone other than Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Vice-President Joe Biden will become the Democrats’ standard-bearer in the general election. One way or the other, one half of the party will be bitterly disappointed with the eventual nominee, which makes it all the more important that the primary winner builds a deeply unifying “team of rivals,” as Friedman puts it, borrowing the phrase from Doris Kearns Goodwin’s seminal book on President Abraham Lincoln’s genius cabinet. Although neither Biden nor Sanders is my ideal candidate, I found his list reassuring — nay, even exciting — and it inspired me to brainstorm my own. Here is my ideal “team of rivals,” regardless of whether Biden or Sanders is at the top of the ticket:
Vice-President: Stacey Abrams
Abrams earned national admiration for her heroic gubernatorial fight against Brian Kemp in Georgia in 2018. As a younger African-American woman, she’d balance out the inevitable white septuagenarian man at the top of the ticket well, and she’d also bring some moderation and pragmatism to a Sanders candidacy.
Secretary of State: Barack Obama
After the past three years, our relationships with allies are deeply compromised; given his relationships with global leaders, the former president would be perfectly suited to rebuilding our international credibility and trust.
Secretary of the Treasury: Elizabeth Warren
No one would be better to advise on economic policy and our nation’s finances than the woman responsible for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She’d prioritize tackling inequality and taking on Wall Street.
Secretary of Defense: Pete Buttigeig
Buttigieg earns some credibility as a young recent veteran, so he understands intimately the challenges facing those in our military. He would also have the gumption to stand up to the military-industrial complex and the deep moral reason to fight against the Trump administration’s politicization and corruption of the agency.
Attorney General: Kamala Harris
Harris has experience running the nation’s second largest Department of Justice in California; she’d be well-prepared to clean up the corrupt mess that the Trump administration has created in the nation’s largest.
Secretary of the Interior: Tom Udall
The senior senator from New Mexico has a track record of commitment to public lands, an appreciation for the need to improve governmental relations with Native American tribes and a strong grounding in the western states where a disproportionate part of Interior’s landholdings are found.
Secretary of Agriculture: Amy Klobuchar
As a Minnesotan, Klobuchar has deep experience with Midwestern agricultural issues, she’s served on the Senate Agriculture Committee and she has the intelligence and drive to bring a steady voice of reason to farming policy in the heartland.
Secretary of Commerce: Mitt Romney
Romney courageously broke with his party and voted to convict Trump, and if any Republican would be a sensible addition to a “team of rivals,” it would be Romney. His international respect would make him well-suited to a position at Commerce.
Secretary of Labor: Andrew Yang
Yang emerged out of complete obscurity this primary election cycle, only to outlast well-known senators and governors and upend all expectations with the strength and longevity of his campaign. He’s thinking harder than anyone else about the enormous challenges soon to be facing American workers as automation and AI fundamentally change the role of labor in our economy.
Secretary of Health & Human Services: Kirsten Gillibrand
Gillibrand would be a strong advocate for whatever version of health care reform emerges (whether it’s Medicare for all or a public option on the Obamacare exchanges), and with her strong background on women’s and family issues, she’d bring a commitment to health care equity for women and minorities.
Secretary of Housing & Urban Development: Cory Booker
Booker is passionate about revitalizing inner cities, and as the former mayor of Newark, he has experience with the housing and urban challenges facing our cities today.
Secretary of Transportation: Al Gore
Our public transportation infrastructure must develop on an unprecedented scale if we are to decrease reliance on fossil fuels and fight climate change’s worst effects. There’d be no better person to lead that effort than one of the earliest whistleblowers on our warming planet.
Secretary of Energy: Jay Inslee
Inslee, who ran as the “climate candidate” earlier in the primaries, has put a real focus on the climate crisis and would be a solid choice to head an agency that will be at the forefront of scientific advancements to help transition our energy reliance away from fossil fuels.
Secretary of Education: Michael Bennet
Bennet has the requisite passion and commitment to public education, having run Denver’s public schools through challenging times. He could be up to the task of damage control following the disastrous tenure of current Secretary Betsy DeVos.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs: Claire McCaskill
The former senator from Missouri was a longtime member of the Committee on Armed Services and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Committee and would be sure to honor the nation’s commitment to those who have served.
Secretary of Homeland Security: Julian Castro
Whether you agree or disagree with the politics of decriminalizing border crossings, Castro is one of the best thinkers in regards to immigration reform, and I would trust him more than anyone else to oversee the serious changes that need to be made at Customs & Border Protection.