Saturday, July 23, 2016

Introducing Tim Kaine

Hillary Clinton decided not to go flashy or outside-of-the-box, but instead decided to go with the tried-and-true when it came to her first major decision as a presidential candidate: that of who will be the person standing next to her through thick-and-thin throughout a hypothetical four year term in office?  In this decision, she chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, a longtime party player who has been through this dance before with a much different outcome (he was Barack Obama's second choice in 2008, as, it's worth noting, Hillary Clinton was the Democratic Party's second choice in 2008, proving second acts can happen in politics).  I didn't have a chance to do this with Mike Pence a week ago, but I did do it eight years ago with Sarah Palin and four years later with Paul Ryan, so I figured it was appropriate for me to talk about what my thoughts are on Tim Kaine being (potentially) one heartbeat away from the most powerful office on earth.

Honestly, I think my reaction was always going to be of support here.  This is not an election where there's not a lot of room for error, and Kaine was by far the most qualified on-paper person vetted for this job, and perhaps the most qualified Democrat in America save Joe Biden or Al Gore when it comes to actually becoming the Vice President.  His electoral resume is pretty much perfect; serving as Mayor of Richmond, Governor of Virginia, and currently as a US Senator, he has never lost a race for public office.  Combine that with a term as chairman of the DNC (which should help from a party-building perspective, since he has held that lens in the past and it's desperately needed after 2010/2014), and the fact that Terry McAuliffe, the state's current governor, is a Democrat (meaning that the seat won't immediately switch hands since McAuliffe can appoint a Democrat to the seat) and you've got a candidate that basically, on paper at least, sounds about as good as you can get.

His views on the issues show a left-of-center progressive who is very much inline with current Vice President Joe Biden.  Based on his voting record, he is definitely someone the vast majority of Democrats should be able to fully get behind.  He has 100% scores from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, as well as has been praised by NOW, Emily's List and voted for the Lilly Ledbetter Act.  His environmental scorecard is about as progressive as one would expect from a senator in the South, but he has a relatively strong score from the League of Conservation of Voters (91%) which is encouraging, as is the fact that he's been an advocate for climate change and voted against the Keystone Pipeline.  He supported the Affordable Care Act, has sponsored the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and has an F from the NRA despite being a gun owner himself, which should help that issue as it will give more moderate senators a voice to cling toward as cover.  About the only issue that Democrats might have room to quibble with are his views on trade, though he's been supported by organized labor in the past and admittedly I think that the conversation about trade has gotten relatively out of hand in recent years-you can't completely be against trade, as it's not pragmatic to the larger economy of the country without risking inflation.  Instead, we should be focusing on an economic approach that doesn't leave manufacturing industries in the lurch and better enables workers access to college and higher education to ensure that they are not burdened by a lack of opportunity.  Overall, though, Kaine is about as strong of a candidate as one could expect on a national ticket, and progressive icons such as Barbara Boxer and Al Franken have enthusiastically endorsed him.

Other names on the presidential list, for their many assets, never really measured up to Kaine, who feels in some ways to be made in a factory of ideal running-mates.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren had enraptured liberals, but her Senate seat would have gone to the Republicans were she to lose, and she is far more of an asset to the left in the Senate, ensuring that the administration (whomever they may be) keep her issues on the table than as a vice president who would have to largely acquiesce to the president's agenda.  The same can be said for Sherrod Brown and Cory Booker.  A personal affinity for Booker makes the fact that he won't be on the national ticket a little bit hard to swallow, but fans should know he's relatively young and will have other opportunities.  The same can be said for Julian Castro, whose resume is probably too thin to make it onto the national stage, and will hopefully either gain an important role in the new Clinton administration, or will test the gains made by Latinos in Texas and make a play for a major role in the red state.  Thomas Perez was an intriguing choice, and also could stay on in his position into a Clinton administration, but lacked the electoral experience (perhaps he should run for Governor of Maryland in two years?) necessary for such a brisk and unpredictable campaign.  Sen. Al Franken was a poor countermove to Mike Pence, as his style is too flashy and would have taken away from Clinton's "experience matters" message (between his time in elected office and in particular his work on the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, Kaine is deeply ready to be the president if need be).  Rep. Xavier Becerra was an intriguing option, but has a relatively low profile and with the implosion of Debbie Wasserman Schultz this year and the decision by Chris van Hollen to run for the Senate, he has a clear path to eventually being Speaker of the House so perhaps having him in that lineup makes better sense considering the ages of most of the Democrats' House leadership team.  About the only other candidate on the list that fit all of these boxes and was clearly the second choice here was Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who would have made an excellent and similar choice, though he is not as progressive as Kaine, and has an easier arsenal of attack ads (namely the Shirley Sherrod scandal and his views on industrial farming and climate change).  All-in-all, even if part of me wanted Vilsack for the thrill of a Midwesterner on the ticket and my deep love of Cory Booker wanted him to be on the ticket both as someone I have rooted so heartily for and as someone that would have brought about the first African-American Vice President, overall this was the smartest decision for Clinton, and Kaine is clearly more than capable of being president someday should that need to be the case.

I want to address before I go progressives who are screaming bloody murder after this announcement.  While I am not immune to such overreaction (I desperately wanted an Obama/Clinton ticket in 2008, particularly since as a Team Clinton supporter I knew how close we'd been to such a moment in history and because it seemed more-than-likely that a Clinton/Obama ticket would have happened if the reverse had won), I will caution in two ways.  One, Tim Kaine is not a conservative-by only the most recent definition of the word he is a moderate, and as I line-item listed above, he's pretty much as strong of a Democrat as you could muster for the resume that he brought (and the fact that he will help with a swing state, something that should not be discredited).  Claiming he is makes you look foolish, not the other way around.  Two, if you are claiming you won't support Clinton now that she's picked Tim Kaine you're either having a moment of attention-seeking hysteria or you're lying; no one makes their choice for president based on a vice president unless that person is an abject disaster in the form of Sarah Palin-otherwise you just don't care, as most people can't even name the current Vice President of the United States, so don't feign indignation.  Three, flashy vice presidential candidates rarely translate into particularly strong candidates on the stump; Palin is just one example, but people like Joe Lieberman, John Edwards, Geraldine Ferraro, and Dan Quayle all were bold and inventive when they were first announced but suffered deeply when it came time to actually run and not just be a surprise.  Candidates such as Walter Mondale, Al Gore, and Joe Biden-these are men that were hardly considered bold initially, but ended up being strong in their duty.  Four, Hillary Clinton should make the choice of someone that she wants to work with and thinks can help her as president.  It's a bad decision for her to pick someone, so vital to her decision-making, that will constantly be second-guessing her publicly or with whom she shares little personal history.  America has a lot of problems right now-let's not add one by having a vice president whom the president doesn't agree with for four years.

And finally, and I cannot stress this enough-Bernie Sanders didn't win the election, and it wasn't because the system was rigged against him.  It was because he didn't get the most votes.  I know it's fun to threaten to not vote for the Democratic Party, and you have every right to do so, but Hillary Clinton won the nomination.  By a lot of votes.  To pretend otherwise and to pretend that Sanders should get to dictate whom she picks is a fool's errand, undemocratic, and historically bad politics.  Barack Obama made the right decision eight years ago by not selecting Hillary Clinton as his running-mate-three competing egos of that nature that high up (yes, you're the third Bill) would have been bad for the country.  Picking based on the second place candidate in a campaign is foolishness-John Kerry would have been a lot better off had he selected Dick Gephardt over John Edwards in 2004 as it would have meant a ticket he was more comfortable with and an experienced voice in an election where experience became a virtue.  Picking based on political expediency is also idiotic (just ask John McCain if he wished he'd gone with Tom Ridge instead of Sarah Palin).  Time and time again, it has been proven that the presidential candidates who pick the VP that they want and not the presidential candidates that are forced upon them tend to do better on the campaign trail, because it's clear to the public that they will follow their own voice and not that of the swaying winds.  Just look at the flack Donald Trump has gotten for clearly going for Mike Pence in the name of political posterity rather than someone he truly wanted like Chris Christie.  Picking Sanders (or someone like Sanders such as Elizabeth Warren) would have been quickly hailed as Clinton buckling to pressure, not that she stood on her own and went with the man she felt best encompassed her vision for America.  Threatening not to vote for Clinton is foolishness, not just because of the danger that Donald Trump poses, but because Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on so many, many, many issues agree.  Saying otherwise makes you look like a novice-they may differ in tenor, but they are more alike than any other candidate in the race save Jill Stein, and anyone who remembers the 2000 election knows the power of believing a lie (that falsehood being that there's no difference between the Democrat and the Republican) and what damage that can do to the country.  Overall, then, I think this is the right choice-Tim Kaine will be a fine vice president, one ready to be president if need be and an advocate for the many pressing issues that Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and the Democratic Party have espoused over the past year.  And I'm thrilled to vote for him in November.

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