Trump’s logical VP choice is Jeff Sessions
In one of the most dramatic scenes in Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, alone on the courtroom floor after the jury has passed a guilty verdict on his client Tom Robinson, wearily packs his briefcase and walks out the rear of the courtroom. In the balcony above, the assembly of all the colored people from the “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama, rise to their feet in respect. Their spiritual leader, Reverend Sykes, gently remonstrates Finch’s daughter (who is sitting with them in the balcony): “Miss Jean Louise, stand up…your father’s passin’.”
Finch’s fight to defend a falsely accused black man in the deeply racist, depression era South stands as one of the most heroic examples of a solitary, noble man waging a seemingly hopeless battle against entrenched prejudice in all of American literature. It is not so surprising then that To Kill a Mockingbird, (as listed on his Facebook page) is one of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions’ favorite books.
For more than a generation, and particularly during the Obama years, Jeff Sessions has represented the gold standard of conservatism in the United States. On fiscal policy and the looming catastrophe of the national debt, on readiness for our defense and honorable treatment of our veterans and, most conspicuously, on protecting Americans at home whose jobs, safety and pocketbooks are all threatened by the obstinate refusal of the government to end illegal immigration, Sessions stands tall. For instance, in response to President Obama’s Executive Amnesty order of 2014, Sessions’ words rang with the clarity of a bell:
The American people have begged and pleaded for years for a lawful system of immigration. They have justly and rightly demanded that their elected officeholders enforce their laws, secure their communities, and protect the integrity of our national borders.
But these pleas have fallen on deaf ears. Our border is not secure; it is in crisis. Our communities are not safe; preventable crimes occur every day because our laws are not enforced. And our sovereignty is not protected; we have a President planning to issue a sweeping executive amnesty in violation of our laws and our constitutional separation of powers.
This cannot stand. It will not stand.
Many Americans who heard those words stood up for Jeff Sessions…and cheered.
Donald Trump is now engaged in a decision that will determine his future and thereupon possibly the future of the country: he must choose a running mate. Trump, who has mercilessly derided the political establishment and at times insulted the entire political profession has made one glaring exception to his blistering indictments – and that exception is Jeff Sessions.
Early in the campaign Trump singled out Sessions as a man of integrity who provided him advice and was a “great politician.” Sessions has systematically reciprocated by focusing media attention on Trump’s policies rather than his occasionally misdirected bombast. When Sessions briefly donned a “Make America Great Hat” in the massive Trump rally in Sessions’ hometown of Mobile, Alabama, he was taking the first step toward his ultimate endorsement – and make no mistake about it, this was a choice rooted in substance rather than style.
Trump and Sessions naturally agree on core conservative issues like tax policy and they also share a deep concern for the sorry treatment of our veterans. But it is obvious that the overriding areas of philosophical agreement between the two are on immigration and trade. In these issues where the welfare of average Americans is so starkly pitted against that of the business and political elite – the seemingly hopeless battle against entrenched prejudice – Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions are America’s undisputed champions.
The choice of a vice-Presidential running mate is commonly thought to depend on governance and electability. If Trump and Sessions are soulmates on their vision for a bright future for all Americans, that does not necessarily imply that Sessions is the strongest VP candidate from an electoral point of view. In the world of conventional politics, Marco Rubio or John Kasich clearly check more of the electability boxes (though they are hardly likely to be available). The same might be said for Mike Pence or Joni Ernst.
But in the unconventional world of Donald Trump I suspect that the paramount characteristic of a running mate that will make for a winning team is that that person have Trump’s full and deep respect. And whatever the virtues of Pence or Ernst might be, Trump simply does not have time for either of them to diffuse into his zone of full respect. To some degree Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich are already there. But they have various liabilities of their own.
The simple fact is that Trump trusts Sessions. It is that trust, and the feedback which that allows from the VP to the President, that will build Trump into a steadier and more disciplined candidate and ultimately into a more successful President.
Donald Trump has shown that he is a man who, whatever his failings, is not intimidated by the prejudices and opposition of the ruling class. He has found in Jeff Sessions a kindred spirit for whom other man rise to their feet when he passes by. All he needs now is to make him his vice-Presidential running mate.