By Edwin Thomas:
With the conclusion of the Republican National Convention, there’s more reason to believe that this election will be remembered for significantly different reasons, to put it mildly. You would think Melania Trump’s plagiarised speech could be the worst moment for, not only the convention, but at this point, the Republican party of Donald Trump has had to deal with too many surprises.
On the opposition side, while this circus was concluding, it was Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential pick that had the Democrat circles buzzing.
And with, Mrs. Clinton, the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party, finally going public with her pick, the buzz is of another kind.
Presenting, Senator Tim Kaine of the state of Virginia – running mate to Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Did I hear a collective “Who?” Makes sense, because, in all probability, you would probably not name Tim Kaine if you had to identify 10 American politicians. However, this is someone who has solid governing credentials, having been the Lieutenant Governor and then Governor (Chief Minister-equivalent) of the state of Virginia, following which, he was elected to the Senate (US Parliament’s Upper Chamber) from the same state. In the Senate, he served on powerful committees like budget, foreign relations and armed services.
To top it off, he was a serious contender to become Barack Obama’s pick for Vice President back in 2008 before Joe Biden made it in the end. This is in addition to knowing how to speak fluent Spanish, which would help in consolidating the fastest-growing ethnic group in the US – Latinos. All in all, seems like a good resume for someone who has to lead the country, in case, something happens to the President.
Traditionally, a VP only has as much power and responsibility as the President decides. Therefore it is good for the two to have a good personal relationship before deciding to run the country. Certain examples of influential VPs in the near past include Dick Cheney and Joe Biden
Since the VP’s position does not have many specific powers carved out in the Constitution, that person could end up being a really good adviser to the President or just a lame duck.
However, if history is anything to go by, on Election Day, most voters do not vote based on a running mate pick, in fact, to many it makes no difference. But this is an election, in which a former TV reality star and real estate developer is now the nominee for a major party. So clearly nothing is set in stone.
And so Kaine on the ticket could actually help Mrs. Clinton with her voting demographics. Right now she has the ‘Obama coalition‘ in her pocket as she is ahead with women, African-Americans and Latinos. However, her numbers among white males are woeful. Not only could Tim help her with those numbers, he will probably also be able to deliver the important state of Virginia, which is considered crucial in the race to capture the White House.
But what were her options really when it came to the final decision.
Having to slug through a year filled with twists, turns and surprises in the political game (Trump, Bernie Sanders), Hillary had two choices: either pick a candidate who would be ‘exciting’ to her base but could potentially make undesirables moves and noises in terms of governance; or pick a candidate who has what it takes to govern and has a record proving the same, but is termed as ‘safe’ and ‘boring’.
By picking Tim Kaine who has been rightly placed in the latter category, both by the political establishment and himself, Mrs. Clinton has a clear strategy: offer a complete picture of experience and stability to the American electorate, as compared to Trump and Indiana Governor Mike Pence (his VP pick).
Trump’s pick is interesting in that sense, because what if he had picked someone just as controversial as him, if that was even possible. Mike Pence, also with a decent resume, is Trump’s effort to unite a party which doesn’t like him to begin with. Sure, Pence seems slightly dull in comparison to Trump, but who isn’t? However, with his extreme views on abortion rights, LGBTQ rights and immigration, he can easily be seen as an extreme conservative. But, once again, that seems pale in comparison to the unpredictable whirlwind, known as Trump.
Keeping this in mind, Hillary, advised by President Obama and former president and husband, Bill Clinton, chose an option that she thinks wouldn’t shake up too many things and ruffle too many feathers. This is a rule-of-thumb when it comes to choosing a vice president – play it safe and make sure you don’t hit any ‘self-goals’ and create too much news or it could end up hurting you. Sometimes, you could lose an election with a disastrous pick. Look up, Sarah Palin.
But where’s the spark in Tim Kaine that we automatically look for in all things Election 2016? The zingers? The one-liners and the insults that have become part-and-parcel of an election season so divided, and filled with bluster and bigotry? It’s natural to want to predict another firestorm of a candidate who unapologetically spits venom at the opponent, since we are so used to the phenomenon that is Donald Trump.
This is exactly why Mrs. Clinton picked Kaine, who has very similar views to her.
However, there is a downside. With a ‘boring’ pick, Clinton runs the risk of carrying a support base to the voting booths that may not be too enthusiastic about her presidency, but would vote for her anyway. Sure, she can win an election, if she manages to do this, however, what remains after that, is a presidential rule of 4 years. If you enter your term with low enthusiasm from your own base, while having to deal with a hostile Opposition, the going may not be smooth. Since Mrs. Clinton’s likability numbers are in the toilet anyway, Kaine need not be of much help in that aspect.
Having endured a shockingly long primary process, thanks to a resurgent progressive movement led by Bernie Sanders, Hillary, being a moderate, had to push herself further to the left. The choice of Tim Kaine, a Wall Street favourite and a centrist, have made progressive supporters balk. Swallowing Kaine along with Clinton could be a hard thing to do, but numbers say that they are more scared of Trump. And if anything works, we know that it’s the fear of the opposite side. And Hillary knows that.
If the White House is the place that Hillary needs to capture in November, a VP pick is not something that will necessarily boost her chances. For better or for worse, Hillary has the disadvantage of being the second-most disliked party nominee in American history (any guess for first), and has a range of issues to deal with: all the way from her email scandal (she has been exonerated by the FBI but it still could somehow pop up any time between now and November) to her trustworthy numbers, from the lack of a strong one-line message (Trump: Make America Great Again, Clinton: Stronger Together) to facing rampant sexism in a toxic political atmosphere.
Hillary has her work cut out for her and having Senator Tim Kaine on the ticket may not make her work significantly easier. But only time will tell how this will deliver in a political season abounding with Trumpism.