The novel coronavirus has made clear who in this country actually runs things.
It should be, and occasionally is, the president.
But in this instance, President Donald Trump has mostly been a cheerleader, often cheering for the wrong side — the side that thought the virus was just a hoax, that there's nothing to worry about here, and that it would disappear. But he's not the one issuing the orders. That would be the governors and mayors. It's the governors who are out there fighting to buy masks and ventilators in a free-for-all triggered by the president. It's the governors and mayors telling us what we can and can't do. It's the governors who, struggling to restrain the virus, are directing where and when hospital beds can be built. I see Gov. Gavin Newsom every day. I see Gov. Andrew Cuomo every day. I haven't seen Sen. Kamala Harris since she dropped out. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, not at all. I'm sure they are voting with Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Governors fight. Big-city mayors fight.
Every story I read says the front-runners for vice president are the women senators who lost in the presidential primaries and have since been voting on bills agreed to by others. Excuse me. They lost for a reason. They said things about you that will get replayed a million times. And on the greatest issue of our time they are doing nothing more than casting a vote for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's deal.
Women governors and mayors have proved their mettle not by showing up to vote for a fait accompli but by taking their place on the front line of the crisis, uniting their communities, making life-and-death decisions every day.
Meanwhile the senators sit there for absolutely no reason until Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Pelosi tell them to vote yes. Will that qualify them to deal with an economy that has been in recall and a pandemic that may still plague us?
Former Vice President Joe Biden is 77. If he wins, he will be 78 when he takes office and 82, God willing, when he leaves.
In the middle of a pandemic killing senior citizens, voters would be nuts if they weren't worried about age including the president's, who turns 74 in June.
No one had ever heard of Mike Pence before he became vice president. No one cared. But choosing for your ticket a gal people have heard of because you beat her inevitably raises questions about what comments she said in the primaries that she has to eat (as did George H.W. Bush for President Ronald Reagan on Reagonomics). This would be a significant problem for Warren and Harris — or, maybe worse, be overshadowed. The first rule of vice presidential selection is to do no harm.
With a coronavirus still lurking and an aging president, it matters more than ever that the next president know how to run things bigger than a Senate office and know how to deal with crises that require doing more than what Schumer and Pelosi say. Governors and mayors hold the fate of their citizens in their hands.
So how about Gretchen Whitmer, a national co-chair of Biden's campaign, a former prosecutor, a sexual assault victim and a widely respected governor of the must-win state of Michigan?
Or Michelle Lynn Lujan Grisham, the Hispanic governor of New Mexico, who was secretary of aging and health in her state, which is more relevant than a long voting record?
And then there's my absolute favorite. I don't know any of the current female governors. I'm certain Biden knows many people who do. There are many current and former governors. I'm writing this in the hope that they won't just listen to the usual pundits.
I do know a female mayor for whom I have more respect than anyone in politics, who would absolutely be great — brilliant and gracious. Biden would like her. So would most Americans. She does not drip of politics but of compassion.
Jenny Durkan is the mayor of Seattle, the city with the nursing home, that got killed by the coronavirus. I would call Jenny a liberal. In Washington, she jokes with me, they call her a moderate: a lesbian with the same partner for decades (also a wonderful woman) and two boys at the University of Southern California. She was a lawyer in the Justice Department and an adviser to a former governor. Former President Barack Obama appointed her to be the U.S. attorney in Washington. She managed to win the respect of just about everybody (no easy task for a prosecutor), and when then-Seattle Mayor Tim Burgess ran into a problem that would certainly complicate his reelection, the Democratic Party drafted her. She won handily, and her approval rating was over 60 percent before this started. She has actually reduced the homeless population in Seattle.
Sorry, but New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has blustered on television; I'm not nominating him. But Jenny? You've probably seen her or read her quotes, even if you didn't recognize her. She is articulate, forceful, compassionate and determined. She is not cowering in fear of the civil liberties attack. She is calming fears and demanding what her city needs, a city second only to New York in the terror residents are seeing. She is so smart. She has never wavered. She listens to scientists. Her approval rating is sky-high.
But it's the compassion that radiates, the lack of political artifice, the executive strength. Jenny for VP. (And — don't laugh — I said that 35 years ago about a little-known congressman from Queens ...)
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)