Its been months of speculation of who Hillary Clinton might select as her running mate. Sen. Elizabeth Warren was high on that list as we witnessed Warren campaign hard for Clinton. The idea was huge creating the first-ever two-woman ticket, maybe too big for an America facing Trump. Others considered possible picks were Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a civil rights lawyer who would’ve been the first Latino VP and of course her choice of Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. Kaine as a choice will disappoint some of her most progressive supporters but politically it’s a solid choice.
For the minoritiesincluding women, and the LBGQT community it’s not just that Kaine, like all 47 past vice presidents, is a white dude, and therefore not a not a “first,” who could have driven home just how historic Hillary’s candidacy is but most significantly could have sealed the deal with those who feel under-served. Worse he’s opposed to abortion due to his Catholic faith—however he’s a true supporter of the constitutional rights of the individual and doesn’t feel that it’s his responsibility of right to make that choice for women. That’s progressive. When you can stand by your own personal convictions yet suport the right sof others under the constitutional that’s all is asked of you.
However some get it twisted like Jodi Jacobson of the reproductive rights site Rewire who wrote Thursday, “Is Clinton a progressive? Not if she chooses Tim Kaine.” Being progressive does not mean that you have to believe as others only that you support their right to equality under the Constitution.
Further Kaine is not running on the ticket to be president ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. Much like Vice President Joe Biden also a Catholic and personally anti-abortion Democrat—he’s said that he supports the Supreme Court ruling that established a woman’s right to choose. Also like Biden, Kaine has more or less drifted leftward on the issue lately. His personal beliefs seemed to have influenced his public policy-making. This then makes his selection an optical, and perhaps actual, move toward the center for Hillary.
The evolution ofTim Kaine who has represented Virginia in the Senate since 2012 has seemed shades more liberal on reproductive rights than the Tim Kaine who led the state as governor from 2006 to 2010. As Politico wrote in a deep-dive about Kaine’s “abortion predicament” earlier this month:
Kaine has tried to cultivate an image as an abortion-rights champion. He’s pleased reproductive rights’ groups with a perfect voting record. He’s railed against GOP attempts to defund Planned Parenthood. And he’s celebrated in their legal victories, including last week’s Supreme Court ruling tossing out a Texas law that tried limiting a woman’s access to abortion clinics.
Though it may be difficult to know whether Kaine’s new look reflects his own changing attitudes, or the changing shape of the Democratic Party what matters is where he stands now because people can change their views. In 2005, he ran for governor on promises to promote adoption, reduce abortion, and support abstinence-only sex education. While in office, he backed a partial birth abortion ban, which prohibits a certain method of mid- and late-term abortion, though he supported exceptions in cases where a woman’s health was endangered. Kaine supported aparental consent law that requires minors to get a parent’s sign-off before obtaining an abortion ( something most parents are grateful for as are doctors) —and though that law theoretically includes a “judicial bypass” option, teens are often prevented from using it by misinformation.
Kaine also bears some responsibility for Virginia’s “informed consent” law, which, among other things, requires women seeking abortions to submit to a medically unnecessary ultrasound. He said in 2008 that the law would provide “women information about a whole series of things, the health consequences, etcetera, and information about adoption.” But the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-reproductive rights research organization, has found that many states provide women with “incomplete or inaccurate information,” and that laws like the one Kaine shepherded into Virginia’s constitution often amount to “informational manipulation” of women in already vulnerable situations.
In 2007, Nancy Keenan, then-president of NARAL, said at the time said, “It is unfortunate that, even after receiving thousands of messages from Virginians and pro-choice activists across the country, Gov. Kaine has opted to sign a bill that advances a divisive political ideology at the expense of women’s health.”
The question is how much should progressives care that Clinton picked Kaine, who has loyally voted with his party on abortion in the Senate, but created barriers for women in the state of Virginia? The reality as V.P. he may never touch the issue. A New York magazine article by Ed Kilgore argued that his critics’ motivation is largely philosophical: “[I]n recent years, there’s been a trend among pro-choice folk that’s less friendly to the old ‘personally opposed to but’ pivot, or to any other attitude that condemns abortion morally while tolerating its legality. More and more feminists are insisting on recognition of abortion as a routine medical service like any other, if not an actual social or moral good.”
So what has to be recognized is that symbolism does matter, especially in politics. Kaine’s popularity as a moderate from a battleground state, Kaine is actually a savvy choice in lots of ways. Hillary Clinton just may have gotten it right proving her insight and ability to calculate when it matters. She’s counting on all her years of advocating for women’s rights, that feminists will stand by her. But if we’re honest, we know that she had to give a little to gain a lot. If choosing Kaine meant winning the White house we have to throw all stakes in because the alternative is nothing pretty. We know where Hillary stands.