Election 2016

Hillary Clinton Picks Virginia Senator Tim Kaine for VP, Frustrating Sanders Delegates

Clinton calls him progressive, while critics say he's too pro-corporate.

Photo Credit: twitter.com/HillaryClinton

Hillary Clinton has picked Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate, a centrist from a swing state who speaks Spanish, worked with Central American missionaries in his 20s, and slowly made his way up the political ladder to the U.S. Senate where he is a foreign affairs expert.

The vice presidential choice ends weeks of speculation that Clinton might choose a progressive like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-MA, or Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, to appeal to the more then 40 percent of primary voters who backed Bernie Sanders.

Her choice was quickly criticized by Sanders delegates whose polling of their delegation last week found wide dissatisfaction with Kaine’s pro-corporate record. Earlier this week, Kaine raised their ire when it was disclosed in the Huffington Post that he wrote to federal regulators urging them to go easy on several proposed banking regulations.

Sanders delegates noted that as Virginia governor Kaine had supported restrictions on abortion, though he has a 100 percent pro-choice voting record in the Senate, according to an endorsement issued Friday by NARAL, the National Abortion Rights Action League. Sanders delegates also said Kaine defended Virginia’s anti-union “right-to-work” law and supports corporate trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership.

“The numbers about Sen. Kaine from the Bernie Delegates Network survey of Sanders delegates nationwide—less than 3 percent ‘Acceptable’ and 88.5 percent ‘Unacceptable’—foreshadow that picking Kaine for the VP slot will set in motion a very contentious national convention,” Norman Solomon, coordinator of the national network and a Sanders delegate, said in a press release. “Selections have consequences. Secretary Clinton must know that her choice of Kaine can only inflame rather than soothe her relations with the huge constituency of Bernie supporters. They will understand what it means when their efforts to challenge oligarchy have been met by Clinton's selection of a loyal servant of oligarchy. If Clinton has reached out to Bernie supporters, it appears that she has done so to stick triangulating thumbs in their eyes.”

“When the pomp and circumstance of the convention is over, millions of Bernie's supporters could well be left wondering why their suggested running mates were not considered,” Donna Smith, executive director of Progressive Democrats of America, said in the release. “The party platform and the running-mate selection were the two tangible ways for the Clinton camp to show they truly understood and embraced the commitment to the progressive agenda that Senator Sanders advanced during the primary season. It seems all the efforts to portray a desire for unity may have been little more than lip service. Bernie delegates are serious, thoughtful, and in many cases voters who are new to the party. Vice-presidential candidate Kaine does not inspire those many millions of energetic voters to stay so deeply engaged and to work for a Clinton-Kaine ticket.”  

However, in her announcement e-mail to supporters, Clinton described Kaine as a progressive who grew up steeped in church-based social justice movements and then worked for years defending clients in civil rights and discrimination cases against landlords, employers and insurance companies before running for office.  

“I'm thrilled to share this news: I've chosen Tim Kaine as my running mate,” she wrote Friday evening. “Tim is a lifelong fighter for progressive causes and one of the most qualified vice presidential candidates in our nation’s history.”

“But his credentials alone aren’t why I asked him to run alongside me,” she said. “Like me, Tim grew up in the Midwest. During law school, he too took an unconventional path—he took time off and went to Honduras to work with missionaries, practicing both his faith and his Spanish.”

“When he returned to the states and graduated from Harvard Law, he could have done anything,” she continued. “But instead of going to some big corporate firm, he chose to fight housing discrimination as a civil rights lawyer in Richmond. He and his wife joined a church, built a home centered around their faith, and raised three beautiful children. Then, after 17 years of practicing law, Tim ran for city council—and won.”

According to his Wikipedia biography, Kaine took a break from law school “to work with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Honduras. Kaine worked in Honduras for nine months from 1980 to 1981, helping Jesuit missionaries who ran a Catholic school in El Progreso. Kaine is fluent in Spanish as a result of his year in Honduras.”

Today, he is the junior senator from Virginia, elected in 2012. Prior to that, he served as the state’s governor from 2006 to 2010. He was considered a finalist for a running mate in Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, but instead became the 51st chairman of the Democratic National Committee, serving from 2009 to 2011.

The New York Times reported several days ago that former President Bill Clinton was urging Hillary Clinton to choose Kaine. At first glance, the choice appears to neutralize Donald Trump’s pick of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, a far-right Christian conservative, by appealing to a range of Christian voters, both white and non-white.  

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However, other progessives were quick to criticize Kaine as well.

"As we saw in Donald Trump’s speech last night, Republicans will run hard against Democrats on trade this year," said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. "Unfortunately, since Tim Kaine voted to fast track the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Republicans now have a new opening to attack Democrats on this economic populist issue."

"The mood of the country is a populist one," she said. "The center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction, regardless of who is selected by Hillary Clinton as vice president."

Kaine will join Clinton on the campaign trail in Florida as they make their way to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that starts Monday.

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Steven Rosenfeld is a senior writing fellow of the Independent Media Institute, where he covers national political issues. He is the author of several books on elections, most recently Democracy Betrayed: How Superdelegates, Redistricting, Party Insiders, and the Electoral College Rigged the 2016 Election (March 2018, Hot Books).