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Hillary Clinton’s Vice Presidential Pick Is ‘Boring’. But That Could Help Beat Trump.

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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.

Hillary Clinton Campaigns With Tim Kaine In Virginia
Senator Time Kaine (L) and Hillary Clinton (R) at a campaign stop in Virginia. Source: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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).

Republican National Convention: Day Four
Donald Trump (L) and Governor Mike Pence (R) at the Republican National Convention. Source: Alex Wong/Getty Images

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.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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