A Hillary-Romney Alliance

Relax, relax — not for vice president.

No, I’m not suggesting that Hillary select Mitt Romney to be her running mate – but she should announce that she’s going to appoint him to a crucially important job in her administration – running AmeriCorps.

Appointing the 2012 Republican nominee to a prominent role in her administration would signal that she’s serious about something everyone has pretty much given up on: breaking gridlock and draining the poison from the political system. It would be a dramatic gesture of good will that would elevate her from pol to stateswoman. And it could help lure some moderate, suburban Republicans, to vote for her.

Usually, the politicians brought into an administration from the opposite party are minor figures, or on the ideological edge. As far as I can tell, no president has brought a former nominee of the opposing party into the tent.

But Romney is ripe to make history. He is the leader of the anti-Trump Republicans, having been even more harsh on the GOP nominee than Hillary. (“Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud.”)

While Hillary and Romney disagree on most big things (making it impossible for him to be, say, Secretary of the Treasury), they actually strongly agree on the importance of AmeriCorps and community service.

Romney’s support of national service goes back to the early 1990s, when he got Bain & Co. to provide crucial early support to City Year in Boston. When Republicans tried to eliminate AmeriCorps in 1995, Romney came to its defense, and in 2003, as governor of Massachusetts, he lead a bi-partisan effort to increase the program’s funding. His commitment runs deep: his father George Romney was one of the earliest advocates of a major national service program.

True, when he was running for President, the newly right-wing Romney stupidly hid his support for AmeriCorps and even backtracked a bit. But since he was so strong on this for so long, we should be willing to etch-a-sketch that episode away.

There’s one more reason this would be good for Hillary. Obama hasn’t done much with AmeriCorps. He lost a massive opportunity during the recession to get young people employed by dramatically expanding AmeriCorps.

Hillary has always been a big AmeriCorps supporter and has proposed tripling it and increasing the size of its education award. Her plan would help with both college debt and youth unemployment – as well helping with critical community needs.

She should announce that she would dramatically increase the significance of AmeriCorps in her administration – and ask Mitt Romney to run the Corporation for National Service, the agency that oversees AmeriCorps and other service programs. If he doesn’t want to be the CEO, he can be the Chairman of the Board. Selecting Romney would substantially elevate the program’s stature and impact. And he’d probably do a damn good job with it.

This would be good for Hillary, AmeriCorps, the country and Romney, as it allows him to tap into the most impressive part of his life story, his Mormon commitment to service. And we’ll let the right-wing press decide whether they want us to now refer both to RomneyCare and RomneyCorps.

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Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman, a Washington Monthly contributing editor, is the co-founder of Report for America, a national service program for journalists.