Like a lot of Virginians, I've had to chuckle a bit at the way Virginia Senator Tim Kaine has been portrayed since rising to the top of Secretary Clinton's VP short list. Apparently, the gods of conventional wisdom have decided Kaine is a "boring," "safe," "centrist" pick whose "DINO" positions may make him anathema to the Sanders base. Oh really? Because I can assure you as a native Virginian, this caricature doesn't at all fit the man I've watched over nearly 20 years. In fact, the consistent knock on him in every election in Virginia has been that he was too liberal! This was such an issue that when Kaine was elected Lieutenant Governor under Mark Warner in 2001, Warner used their first joint press conference to distance himself from the controversial, left-leaning Kaine. So before you allow the national media topline and Kaine's status as a white Southern man to lull you into a quick judgment, here are a few things you should know about why this Bernie broad loves Tim Kaine.
Kaine is the son of a welder who graduated from a Jesuit high school, flew through University of Missouri and then landed at Harvard Law. While his classmates were hanging out in Cambridge fielding offers from big firms, Kaine took a year off to do mission work in Honduras where he worked with young boys growing up in brutal poverty. The year abroad left him fluent in Spanish and with a deep commitment to using his Harvard law degree for the public good. After law school he made good on his commitment to service and rather than cashing in on his degree, spent much of his legal career fighting against housing discrimination. Now you just tell me, does that sound like the bio of a chamber-backed, blue dog, corporate Dem?
Ahh but perhaps Kaine abandoned all his lofty principles in a quest for political power in a conservative Southern state! If that's your concern, perhaps you should just ask the NRA how they feel about Tim Kaine. Here's how his elections in Virginia typically go: the NRA gives him an F rating, fear mongers about how he's going to take everyone's guns, spends massively against him, and then Tim goes on to win anyway. Keep in mind, the NRA is literally headquartered in Virginia. If they are powerful anywhere they are powerful in the Old Dominion but that didn't stop Kaine from signing an executive order following the Virginia Tech massacre to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. It also didn't stop him from pushing additional gun control measures as governor like eliminating the gun show loophole and it hasn't stopped him as Senator from continuing to lead the charge for sensible rules like increased background checks. As someone who ran for Congress, in Virginia, I can tell you that perhaps the definition of political courage for a Southern Dem is willingness to buck the gun lobby. Tim Kaine has been unflinching.
Maybe though, Kaine was able to be bold on guns because he was right of center on everything else. Yeah, not so much. In Virginia, Kaine raised taxes, spearheaded efforts for universal pre-K, made Virginia the first Southern state to ban smoking in public places, and consistently opposed the death penalty. Let me repeat that last one. Tim Kaine consistently opposed the death penalty in a state that trails only Texas in number of executions. As governor, he bucked the prevailing law and order winds and vetoed eight different bills that would have expanded capital punishment. The issue was front and center in his gubernatorial race but he stuck to the Catholic values that have guided his life and never backed down.
Speaking of Catholic values, shouldn't pro-choice progressives be terrified of Tim Kaine on the ticket? After all, he has said he is personally opposed to abortion. If you didn't look any further, then a pro-choice feminist like myself might have cause for concern. Continue digging just one inch deeper though and you'll find that Kaine has consistently supported Roe v Wade. In the Senate, he actually enjoys a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. Based on Kaine's record, it seems he would be entirely comfortable backing Hillary Clinton's strongly pro-choice positions and in the unlikely event he would find himself President and making Supreme Court picks, there is every reason to expect Kaine would seek out Justices who would uphold Roe. He has been quite clear that while he may have his own personal objections to abortion, he has no interest in policing the lives of others. I, for what it's worth, have no interest in policing the thoughts of others. Kaine doesn't want to control my body and I don't want to control his mind, so we're all good there.
But, but, but Kaine is so boring! Surely he won't bring the energy the ticket needs to win, right? If you think so, here's something to consider: Tim Kaine has won every single election he's ever run in. He's won everything from Mayor of the majority African-American city of Richmond, to governor of a conservative Southern state. In fact, Kaine was a big part of turning Virginia into the state we see today which went twice for Obama and currently has a Democrat in every single statewide office. Bernie Sanders has himself said that we've got to do everything we can to defeat Donald Trump. Tim Kaine could be a real asset in that regard. Obviously, he's from an important swing state but the way Kaine won in Virginia is important too. He precisely targeted and outperformed in the kind of suburban and exurban counties where Republican leaning voters may be feeling the most uncomfortable with the charlatan who has won the Republican presidential nomination.
Look, anyone who has served as long and in as many ways as Tim Kaine is going to have taken positions you don't agree with. I'm not saying the guy is perfect. But having watched a long time and gotten to see the man up close, I can tell you he is courageous, principled, and value driven. I can also tell you that this progressive who begged HRC not to run and drove 12 hours to be able to vote for Bernie would be delighted to see him on the Dem ticket. He won over skeptical Virginians when it was supposedly impossible. I'd love to see what he can do to help Secretary Clinton win over America.
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