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What a leaked email reveals about identity politics in the Clinton campaign

What a leaked email reveals about identity politics in the Clinton campaign
The man Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton ultimately picked to be her running mate, Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks during a campaign stop at Focus: Hope in Detroit on Tuesday. (Paul Sancya / Associated Press)

Hey kids, want to play "Name that food group?"

WikiLeaks released a document this week purporting to be a March 17 email to Hillary Clinton from her campaign manager, John Podesta, listing potential running mates chosen by Podesta and five other top campaign aides. I say "purporting" because the Clinton campaign has said, without providing specifics, that the emails hacked from Podesta's account had been adulterated, and that the hack was the work of Russians trying to swing the election in Donald Trump's favor. (It's a little late for that, tovarishchi.)

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Yet the words have the ring of authenticity, thanks to the way the list is organized. Given the same task as Podesta, you or I might have listed possible candidates according to the strength of their qualifications, their political potency or perhaps how well they complemented Clinton. Podesta, on the other hand, divided the 39 names into seven batches, which he described as "rough food groups." But what he meant was, "by voting blocs," or more to the point, "by identity politics."

The first group of five was comprised entirely of Latino men. Included among them are two Angelenos, U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra and L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti (whose grandfather was born in Mexico). The next seven are women, all Democratic U.S. senators (and all white; there are no female senators of color from either party this year), ranging in politics from centrist Claire McCaskill of Missouri to liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

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Then there are seven white male politicians — five sitting senators (including Tim Kaine of Virginia, Clinton's actual running mate), a governor and a former governor turned Obama administration cabinet member. Next up: seven black male pols, ranging from mayors to former members of the Obama administration.

Let's see, seven black men, seven white men, seven women, and … only five Latino men? They couldn't find seven? Or was the quota lower?

That's where the ethnic/racial/gender categorization scheme ended, replaced by career-based food groups. The first was comprised of three retired top military brass (all men); the second was nine men and women of various ethnicities from the top echelons of business and philanthropy (or both, in the case of former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates).

The final "food group" had only one entry: Bernie Sanders. You can insert your own joke here about what category he represented. I'm guessing they looked around for people on the left capable of exciting the electorate this year, and his name was the only one that came up.

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There is a wealth of experience and talent on Podesta's list, and many of the people on it would have made good candidates. But the organization makes you wonder whether his team went looking for the best possible running mates, or just for choices that fit into boxes matching the party's identity politics.

Twitter: @jcahealey

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