Why would Hillary Clinton choose a “nice,” “bland” running mate with a mixed legislative record on repro rights? Our columnist makes the case.
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You know that feeling you get when you are playing Pokémon Go, and you’ve been walking and walking and you get the “Oh?” because your egg is about to hatch? How you eagerly tap to see what magical creature is going to pop out? And how your heart sort of drops a little when you realize it was just a Weedle?
That’s the feeling I got when former secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally announced on Friday night that Virginia Senator Tim Kaine was going to be her running mate. Oh, I knew his name had been in all the headlines as the likely pick for months. I knew that he had already met with her repeatedly. I even knew that his Wikipedia entry had been edited literally hundreds of times just on Friday alone, which apparently is the online version of setting up a press stakeout at the airport to see which politician is preparing to leave town on announcement day.
Still, I couldn’t stop holding out hope that I was in for a surprise. That when the text came from Hillary, it would be New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, or Maryland Congresswoman Donna Edwards, or my never-gonna-happen favorite, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison. (Could you imagine the heads that would have exploded in the GOP if an African-American Muslim were on the ticket?) Instead, we got who we were told we would get all along, and yet somehow I still felt as if I had been personally let down.
In reality, I shouldn’t have been. Clinton did exactly what she should have done in order to establish her presidency. She’s already made history as the first woman who will be nominated by a major party for president, and if she wins in November, she’ll be the first woman in the Oval Office. While I personally wanted to see a running mate that was just as inspiring and groundbreaking to partner her along the way, it makes sense that she purposefully chose a person who would do absolutely nothing that might outshine her on the campaign trail. With the first woman finally leading the ticket, I wanted to take that moment to shatter even more barriers: another woman or a person of color—or anything that deviated from the straight white male that already holds over 80 percent of the elected positions in Washington D.C. I wanted more, but why would Clinton want the same when she finally has her own chance to have the spotlight to herself?
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the HBO television series Veep this year as they struggled to turn what should have been a four-episode long election narrative into a two-season-long story-line. Despite my growing annoyance with the convoluted plot and an escalating hatred of vice-president turned accidental president Selina Meyer, I felt I had a responsibility to see the series to its conclusion much in the same way I still feel obligated to vote when I don’t care for any of the candidates on the ballot.
I couldn’t help but think of Meyer’s political relationship with Senator Tom James, whom she eventually picks to be her running mate, only for him to upstage her on the trail as he becomes more relatable, likeable, and eventually almost more powerful than she is as the campaign draws to a close. In other words, an inspiring, charismatic running mate can be one of the most dangerous cohorts a presidential nominee can have.
Clinton won’t have to worry about that with Kaine, who is frequently described as “nice,” “bland” or “boring,” depending on who you ask. In fact, his greatest asset appears to be that he shouldn’t make any waves.
Let’s hope that is true on a policy front as well, because Clinton has made a number of big promises to progressives when it came to securing the party nomination. Foremost, she promised a full-throated endorsement for reproductive rights that includes ending medically unnecessary abortion restrictions and implementing new paths to expanding access for those who require it: especially those who are lower income by rescinding the Hyde Amendment, which bans elective abortion coverage in Medicaid and government insurance plans. It was this vow that brought the support of national organizations like NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and numerous women’s groups, and it’s a pledge that she must uphold, even if she has brought on a running mate who considers himself to be pro-life and has in the past supported anti-abortion laws.
Kaine’s more recent votes have evolved from the “mixed choice” moniker he earned as governor of Virginia. And pro-abortion-rights political groups are taking him at his word that he would be no threat to the goal of rolling back the significant gains the anti-abortion movement has made since 2010. Still, the idea of an anti-abortion wingman can’t help but make activists edgy, regardless of how affable and non-threatening on the topic he claims to be.
In the end, Clinton is completely right. After a night of watching the horrifying vision of what Donald Trump wants to see for the country—a country surrounded by a wall, filled with “law and order” police roaming the streets, a “good guy with a gun” on every corner protecting the nation while most people of color either are deported, in prison, or harassed by their neighbors who are no longer reined in by “political correctness”—there is simply no person she can put on the ticket that I will not accept as part of the package deal of keeping Trump out of power. We have moved past a point where this is a mere disagreement in political priorities, and now to a place where the literal freedom and lives of hundreds of thousands of people in this country are on the line.
I’m willing to accept Kaine as he is, and take his word that his personal belief in abortion has no bearing on what he would do as a politician, just as I accepted Vice-President Joe Biden in the same way. All he has to do is just stay in the background and let her govern as she wants, and it will be just fine with me.
After all, a Weedle doesn’t matter that much when you have a Dragonite on your team.
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