Before the latest Wikileaks release blew up a tempest that so far has led to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz losing her post as DNC chair—and even her right to pound the lectern with a wooden mallet to open the DNC festivities —it seemed that Hillary Clinton's pick of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate would be a hot topic of discussion.
Would the choice further ruffle progressive feathers? Would it make for a powerful antidote to the Donald Trump craziness? Would it lead to catastrophe for the Democratic Party? Or something in between?
We wanted to know, so we asked you in this week's survey: Hillary Clinton Goes Mild
" target="_blank">Why Did Hillary Go Mild with Tim Kaine? And dozens of you responded. Even as the blowback from Wikileaks -- now dubbed #Wassergate Scandal -- seems about to set the convention on its ear, the Tim Kaine choice is still worth a look -- especially as one of the plots brewing among Bernie's supporters is to open up vice presidential nominations.
Research—or a Chance to Talk?
Before Wassergate energized the left at the convention, "safe" might have been the watchword. Certainly, Kaine isn't going to overshadow Hillary.
We ran a survey that Hillary Clinton Goes Mild
">can be found here. Several of you chided us for poor survey research methodology, but I'd have to say that calling what we're doing here "research" is a stretch. Does the fact that 64% of 90 respondents in our survey say that the Tim Kaine pick will cause some Bernie supporters to vote for the Green Party's Jill Stein tell you something you can extrapolate to some larger group of voters? No, of course not. It's like those polls asking which candidate you support on a Bernie-friendly website—you've seen them, the ones that say 90% of folks will vote for Bernie. Right, don't take that to my bank.
What this weekly survey does is give our readers an opportunity to weigh in on important topics, providing a general sense of the way sentiments are shifting on important issues of the day. Not so much in the Gallup, Nate Silver, or Zogby mode, this is more like the NFL field goal kicker who tosses a handful of grass into the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
And one way the wind is blowing with this survey is in defense of Tim Kaine, both as a man and as Hillary's choice. Here's Jeffrey on that point:
"Kaine is not only fairly progressive, he was able to get gun legislation through in his state (which is the headquarters of the NRA), and he was scored with a 100% voting record in the Senate for women’s issues. He was an anti-discrimination in housing attorney for 17 years. He is well liked by his colleagues and by his opponents. He is also articulate and intelligent, and has a depth of governing experience–as mayor of a major U.S. city, a lieutenant governor, a governor, and a senator. Progressives have little to worry about, and should be enthusiastic that Hillary will have such an able representative on the campaign trail and governing partner in the White House. It was a good choice."
Jeffrey forgot to mention the two missions to Guatemala in Kaine's youth and his Spanish language fluency, which doesn't exactly make him Latino and may not attract huge additional numbers of Latino voters—who are already overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton and against Donald "And They Are Rapists" Trump—but it does make for a nice political resume.
And he does seem to be quite a good man, self-effacing, modest, wearing his religion more on his heart and less on his sleeve, someone who has served and served admirably in political offices from the grassroots up. He's charming, too, as we hear him introduce himself to us.
But he's also a mighty safe choice. True, his personal opposition to abortion may irritate those who favor a women's right to choose, and his past support for trade deals and military interventions may irritate—well, he's a centrist Democrat, virtually a Nelson Rockefeller Republican, like Hillary, so a lot of his stances will offend the more progressive among many in the Bernie Sanders camp.
To them, the Kaine pick can feel like a "pronounced middle finger," because Kaine is far to the right on a host of pressing issues—"reproductive rights, climate change, financial regulation, and corporate-friendly trade agrees …than where they think the party, and the country, should be headed." But none of that is "new" offense because he's basically mirroring what Clinton's positions are likely to be once she stops pivoting.
Before #Wassergate energized the left at the convention, "safe" might have been the watchword. Certainly, Kaine isn't going to overshadow Hillary, who struggles to generate enthusiasm for her candidacy, even now seldom able to fill more than a high school gymnasium with her crowd—can you imagine thousands of boisterous Hillary supporters marching down the streets of Philadelphia this week or 60,000 overflowing Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village as Bernie did some months back? No, probably you can't. So she couldn't afford to have a big personality playing second fiddle in her band, a Sanders or an Elizabeth Warren or maybe even a Corey Booker.
But now that a truly frightening Republican convention has given Trump a three-point lead, maybe "safe" isn't all it's cracked up to be.
"She's Not Him"
Some of you hopped on us for disloyalty. Said Shirley:
"Shame on you. Kaine was not my first choice….but the more I hear the more I like. Get on board, guys. We have to win this one!!"
For those of us who haven't returned our "Feel The Bern" t-shirts and scraped off our "Sanders 2016" bumper stickers after Bernie endorsed Hillary, we'll need to get used to being beaten about the head and shoulders with this sentiment. A Donald Trump presidency would ruin the country, or even destroy all civilization in some tellings, so you damn well get with the program and fall in behind Hillary Clinton—the inimical "Lesser Evil" choice. I bet Bernie's delegates in Philadelphia are hearing that every time they turn around—"Don't you know, 'SHE'S NOT HIM!'" And, and, and "HE'S NOT HIM EITHER!"
And The Donald is doing his level best to give teeth to that grim vision. He doesn't have actual policy positions -- c'mon, demanding that we build a 20-foot-tall wall the length of our border with Mexico isn't a policy—but like a good demagogue, he can stir up a crowd's passion to hate some other group, be it Muslims, or Mexicans, or Blacks, or Women, or….how many have I missed?
So this "Lesser Evil" dilemma will be hard to ignore unless you live in a dead blue state like California, where you can send a message with a vote for Jill Stein. (Who said if you want to send a message, use Western Union? In the Digital Age, is Western Union still a thing?)
With Kaine, Hillary's team seems to be playing a game of chicken with Bernie supporters, according to Caitlin Johnstone:
"From the early signs, it appears that the DNC will keep pushing the Trump line, hoping to scare the slaves back into their cages, while staring them down and continuing to walk towards the right with no concessions to the progressives. They have shown no signs of altering their path even slightly. Classic domination move."
While Hillary went mild in picking Kaine, it's hard to see what she gains with him. He might help bring Virginia into the fold, but the Spanish language thing won't be a big plus. It's said he relates well with working class whites, which might help with the Midwest that was so devastated by the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs.
But Kaine wouldn't seem to appeal especially to women or young people, nor to younger people of color, nor certainly to Bernie's liberal crowd. As Larry Wines says:
"HRC is trying to resurrect the DLC’s old central emphasis on a conservative Democrat who can win just enough votes in red states to make some of them purple and flip a few to blue in the Electoral College."
Thumbing Her Nose
My sense is that Hillary's camp is thumbing its nose at Bernie Sanders and the millions of voters, many of them new, who flocked to him. And she can do that because they have no place to go, at least in the short run. So she can safely tack back to the center and look to scrape up disaffected Republicans and sleepy-headed moderates.
But what that will mean, should it be successful, is that a Clinton-Kaine Administration will owe nothing to the growing progressive, anti-establishment, populist movement that fueled Bernie's campaign and may well flood through the coming years. She'll be able to largely ignore the country's resurgent left, stifling them as the Obama administration has largely done, when she and Tim Kaine go about enacting a series of incremental changes that ultimately change nothing.
I'd rather be working to support a Bernie Sanders-Tulsi Gabbard ticket this fall, but failing that, I'm going to be looking for advancing the progressive program that Bernie Sanders neither created nor owns but that he did historic work in advancing—universal healthcare, protecting a woman's right to choose, free college tuition, massive move to clean energy, mass move away from military adventuring, thoroughgoing criminal justice reform, money out—way out—of politics…. Well, you've been to the rallies, you know.
Editor, LA Progressive