Hillary Clinton has a big problem

Even though it's inevitable that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination for president, she still has a big problem: The party's future already seems to have passed her by. It's clear Bernie Sanders and his more progressive wing of liberalism is the present and future of the Democratic Party, and that's even more obvious when you look at how Sanders dominates the polls among younger voters.

Hillary Clinton
Joshua Roberts | Reuters
Hillary Clinton

Like Donald Trump, Clinton needs to use her running-mate selection process to heal growing wounds within her party. To do that, she will first have to recognize what her real problem is with the party's new base. And that problem is that Sanders and his supporters in the party are mostly angry at what they see as a rigged process by the party elites and the Clinton camp. It's not just the fact that Hillary made so much money from speeches to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms, it's the secretive nature and cronyism that appears to be at play throughout her career.

I'm about as far from a Hillary supporter as it gets, but I have some good advice for her and her campaign: Let the people decide.

Even if Clinton could choose Bernie Sanders, which looks impossible now because of the personal animosity between them, that wouldn't fix that image problem. It would still look bad because it would seem like yet another corrupt bargain of some kind. And it certainly would not be the result of an open process.

That's why, just like Trump, Clinton would be wise to announce well before the convention that she's going to let all the delegates choose her running mate for her. This would not only be an open process, but it would show that Team Clinton is finally willing to give up some control of what's looked like a rigged game for years. Sometimes, nothing consolidates your popularity more than being willing to give up a little bit of your power. That's actually the definition of a compromise.

In that open-nomination scenario for the Democrats, I see Senator Elizabeth Warren as a strong favorite. She, alone, can bring the progressive Sanders followers back into the fold, because Sanders wing is also her wing. It's a big reason why the Clinton campaign has been so worried about Warren possibly endorsing Sanders during this election so far. But Clinton doesn't just need the Warren wing of the party to strengthen her nomination, she'll need it to govern effectively if she, indeed, wins the White House. No matter which party controls Congress in January, a President Clinton will need strong support from Senator Warren's colleagues and followers to have a fighting chance of getting any legislation passed.

I'm not a fan of identity politics, but the Democratic Party is obviously obsessed with it. Hillary Clinton's campaign pitch to the base of the party has mostly been about her gender and that will continue in the general election. Her gender and the historic nature of the possibility of the first woman president will be an even more pervasive campaign message if the unpopular-among-women Donald Trump is the GOP nominee.

So, why not double down and prove just how much of a good idea it is to have a woman on the ticket by having two women on the ticket? This is a chance for the Democratic party to put its money where its mouth is about female candidates. And it's a guaranteed way to make the general election all about gender, which really works in Clinton's favor.

Go ahead, ask the biggest Bernie-loving/Hillary hating Democrat you know how he or she would feel about voting for Clinton if Elizabeth Warren were her running mate. I promise you, they will at least pause and consider it. Most will like the idea a lot, which will help Clinton in November --and the next four years, too.

Commentary by Jake Novak, supervising producer of "Power Lunch." Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

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