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Tim Kaine, and Other Faith-Based Politics

It's not just that Clinton's vice presidential pick is terrible, it's being sold as a triumph.

1


Christ on a stick, this is what I didn’t count on with the Kaine pick as VP.

The problem isn’t the pick itself: it is what it is (see #2 below). The problem is the ejaculations of joy it prompts among the pundit class and the Twitterati, who now have to sell it to us as the greatest choice of a second since Moses appointed Aaron.

And not because the pundits are on the Clinton payroll: I’d have a lot more respect for them if they were.

No, they do this shit for free. Out of love. Rapture. And bliss.

2


I’m not one of those people who cares much about a VP pick.

I don’t think it tells you much about Clinton one way or the other. Her agenda is what it is, and it’s not revealed or concealed by this choice. Do most people change their vote for a candidate based on the running mate? It’s hard to imagine it really matters all that much. So I’m neither heartened nor disheartened. Nor am I surprised.

But — you knew it was coming — can you imagine the howls of protest this VP choice would have provoked among Clinton supporters had it been made by Sanders? And not just howls for a few hours on a late Friday night that slowly morph into cheers by morning. No, I’m talking truly bitter howls of rage that last and last.

Howls of protest:

  • about how, out of fifty-seven Democratic senators, Kaine had the forty-first most liberal record, putting him far closer to the Max Baucus conservative end of the spectrum among Senate Democrats;
  • about his mixed record on abortion, about how he supported all those restrictions on a women’s right to choose;
  • about how, despite his opposition to the death penalty, Kaine sent eleven people to their death as governor. (That one, incidentally, made me think of Bill Clinton. When it comes to capital punishment, Kaine smokes, but doesn’t inhale; or inhales, but doesn’t smoke.)

Instead, we’re treated to a lot of happy talk about Kaine’s time in Honduras and how he fought housing discrimination in his younger days. Remember how they laughed whenever someone said Sanders had gotten arrested as part of the Civil Rights Movement? Suddenly, youth matters.

When I talked about the amnesia of the pundit class the other day, I was thinking they couldn’t remember what Nixon or Reagan said forty years ago. But apparently they can’t even remember what they themselves said. Three months ago.

3


Speaking of Kaine and abortion, there’s an interesting historical parallel here to note.

As I understand it, Kaine’s record on abortion as governor of Virginia was much more conservative than his record on abortion as senator from Virginia. As a Catholic, Kaine has always been personally opposed to abortion. And early in his career, he took some pretty bad stands.

But since he’s gotten into the Senate, Kaine’s gotten 100 percent ratings from NARAL and Planned Parenthood, by cosponsoring a bill, for example, that would prohibit states from putting restrictions on abortion and insisting that Obamacare include greater access to contraception. Whether he’s given up the earlier bad stands — for example, backing the odious parental consent law and the equally odious “informed consent” law or the partial birth abortion ban — I don’t know.

Lurking in the background for him, at least since 2008 when Obama was considering him as a VP choice, was the possibility of a seat on the national ticket. As he came closer and closer to the national stage, in other words, he “evolved” on this issue (as they say).

Which brings to mind nobody so much as another VP candidate from yesteryear: George H.W. Bush.

For years, in the 1960s and ’70s, Bush was a pro-choice politician, with close ties to Planned Parenthood. So committed was he to reproductive rights that his nickname in Texas was “Rubbers.” Then, in 1980, as a spot on the national ticket came into view, he too “evolved.” To the right.

Not sure what any of this means, but I’m struck by the parallel.

On Facebook, the head of NARAL says: “I believe she chose Tim Kaine because she trusts the guy, and I trust her.” When Republicans say this kind of thing, we call it faith-based politics. Democratic skepticism, it ain’t.

4


Whenever I pour a bit of cold water on the ahistorical commentary about Trump, I get charged with being indifferent to whether he wins or not. A commenter on this blog even compared me to people who yawned about Hitler. Which I found interesting, at the rhetorical level.

For decades, the Munich analogy was used by conservatives to say that liberals were soft on communism. Now it’s being used by liberals to say that leftists are soft on Trump.

Even when those leftists write whole books explaining to people that the reasonable, rational, prudential conservatives they think they know are in fact ultra-revanchist songstresses of domination and violence.

5


Along the same lines, another meme I frequently see among the Clinton people and their supporters in the media is that we on the left are somehow indifferent to the fate of poor people and people of color who will be victimized by Trump’s policies .

Yet these very same people are rather blithe about the prospect of sending the US military off to fight Putin or whomever it is we’re now supposed to be willing to fight over NATO.

Now, it goes without saying that none of these people who are working themselves up into a froth over Trump’s remarks will ever have to pick up a gun and fight these wars. We’ve seen that script before, right? We had a word for that during the Bush years.

But, I wonder, who do these people actually think is going to pick up a gun and fight these wars against Putin? Who do they think America’s “all-volunteer” army is disproportionately drawn from if not the poor, the working class, and people of color?