Clinton’s Selection of Kaine Reveals a Lot About Her Campaign

Hillary Clinton named Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia to be her running mate, a choice that gives a tremendous amount of insight into the race. Here are three key takeaways:

  1. The Clinton camp is cynically concerned about its deficit with white men.

Throughout the primary race Clinton has faltered with white men, a sharp contrast to 2008 when she made it a point to woo them. In that race she went out of her way to defend the Second Amendment, mocked Barack Obama’s contempt for working-class voters that “cling to guns or religion,” and stayed away from women’s issues, while focusing instead on crafting an image of being tough and resolute. The strategy worked. She thumped Obama among white male voters. But this year was a different story. In several states she scraped and clawed to take just a third of their vote, so it’s little not surprising (though it is disappointing) that Clinton chose Kaine to shore up her support among white men. The New York Times reports:

Mrs. Clinton had entertained more daring choices. She considered Thomas E. Perez, the secretary of labor, who would have been the first Hispanic on a major party ticket; Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, who would have been the first African-American to seek the vice presidency; and James G. Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral who served as the supreme allied commander at NATO but had never held elected office.

Instead, the campaign, which had become concerned about its deficit with white men, focused on Mr. Kaine and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and looked more closely at Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado.

These are the types of decisions you make when you’ve become so reliant on identity politics that you lose sight of what matters. Rather than even attempt to craft a broad-based agenda that appeals to every voter, she picks and chooses her words, policies and surrogates to win over certain demographic groups. But elections shouldn’t be treated like recipes, in which you add a little of that ethnicity and a smidge of that age group in order to piece together a winning campaign. That cynical approach only furthers the divisiveness of our politics.

2. It shows just how far to the left the Democratic Party has gone

Sen. Kaine is, by all accounts, a very good guy. As the libertarian writer A. Barton Hinkle writes for Reason, “He is, indeed, honest and decent. And nice – he can disagree pleasantly, and he rarely stoops to partisan smash mouth…He is genial and extremely bright. . . But is he the centrist recent coverage has made him out to be? Hardly.”

He proposed a major hike in the gas tax (even after vowing to veto any tay increase without changes in the transportation fund). After that failed, he tried again. And after that failed he proposed increasing the state’s income tax by almost 20 percent. He has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood, even though he himself opposes abortion. He has a 100 percent rating from the Brady Campaign, which staunchly favors gun-control. The League of Conservation Voters gave him a a lifetime rating of 91 percent. He favors increases in the minimum wage (despite campaign literature saying that he “strongly supports the Second Amendment”). He favors expanding entitlements and dismisses attempts at reform. And he’s strongly pro-union, carrying a 96 percent rating from the AFL-CIO.

“Throughout this time in politics here, there has always been this questions about whether Tim Kaine was too liberal for Virginia,” Bob Holsworth, a longtime political analyst told the Washington Post. “No one has ever suggested this was a moderate who couldn’t be counted on to support liberal values.”

And yet Democracy for America said his views “should be disqualifying for any potential Democratic vice presidential candidate.” Bernie Delegates Network, a group backing Sen. Bernie Sanders, says their delegates may protest Kaine at the Democratic National Convention. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee says his selection means that Republicans “now have a new opening to attack Democrats” for being too conservative on labor issues. The Bernie-friendly group called The Young Turks called Kaine, “an establishment Wall Street Democrat.” And People for Bernie co-founder Charles Lenchner said he “would add no progressive backbone that might inconvenience Team Hillary when it’s time to govern.”

The fact that an orthodox liberal who not too long ago was thought to be too liberal to get elected to statewide office has now become too conservative to get elected to nationwide office, shows you just how far leftward the Democratic Party has drifted. Will they continue to sail into far-left waters with few voters or will the progressive crew mutiny? Either way, things don’t look good.

3. Kaine is boring, which is just what Clinton wants

Tim Kaine is boring. And that’s not meant as an insult. It’s how he describes himself.

“I am boring,” he told NBC’s Meet the Press last month. “But boring is the fastest-growing demographic in this country.”

And although some take the joke in stride, some on the left actively wonder whether it could harm the ticket this fall. The New Republic, in a story titled, “Tim Kaine is Too Boring to Be Clinton’s Running Mate,” argues that he’s a safe choice with little upside who isn’t able to animate the base.

But the fact that Clinton chose a candidate who has an ear for compromise, a reputation for prudence, and a hearty aversion to rocking the boat, shows that Clinton is content playing defense, rather than offense. She’s going with the safe choice because she’s not playing to win, she’s playing not to lose. Maybe that strategy pays off and she coasts to victory in November, but recent polls are pointing to a very close election, in no small part because Clinton’s trustworthiness and approval ratings continue to plumb historically low depths. If she falls much further, who on her campaign is going to have the brio to bring her back?