The meaning of Kaine

Yesterday, I noted how much the far left Sanders faction of the Democratic party hates the selection of Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton’s running mate. Considering that this faction probably makes up at least 45 percent of the party, this is a concern.

The outrage is justified. It isn’t just that Clinton has poked the Sanders folks in the eye, as a prominent Sanders delegate put it, adding insult to the injury of the leaked DNC memos. More importantly, Clinton has created a potential future standard bearer for the non-Sanders faction of her party.

If Clinton loses to Trump, her vice presidential pick will be inconsequential, and the groundwork will be laid for a takeover by the Sanders wing. Same thing, presumably, if Clinton wins this year but loses in 2020.

But if Clinton goes undefeated and her presidency isn’t widely perceived as a fiasco by its end, then Kaine figures to be a serious factor in the scramble to succeed her. And unless the Clinton-Kaine team has fully satisfied the Democratic far left, which seems like a nearly impossible task, Kaine will be a considered a barrier to aspirations of this faction.

Thus, the significance of Clinton choosing Kaine is apparent. Had she tapped Elizabeth Warren or Tom Perez, she would, in effect, have been ratifying the eventual takeover of the party by the Sanders crew. Or so it would have seemed (who knows for sure how Warren or Perez would be perceived after serving with Hillary for four to eight years).

Having picked Kaine, the future of the party looks up for grabs.

Did Clinton select Kaine for this reason? I doubt it. More likely, the decision was a product of (a) her confidence that she can hold the Sanders and minority vote with any running mate and (b) a high comfort level with Kaine.

There’s some irony, I think. Clinton, the malleable opportunist, picks a running mate based (according to reports) on personal preference at the risk of alienating the left-wing base. Trump, the “I don’t give a damn what the conservative establishment thinks,” picks someone with whom he apparently has little natural rapport in order to placate that establishment.

According to reports, Trump is more comfortable personally with Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie than with Mike Pence (an unhappy commentary on Trump’s personality, I should think). If so, then pragmatism drove his decision to select Pence, whereas Clinton went with her personal preference to the justified consternation of a large segment of her party.

Is Clinton right in assuming that the Sanders wing will support her overwhelmingly with Kaine on the ticket? Probably. But many in this faction will be watching to see the extent to which Clinton-Kaine tacks to the center in the next few months. And perhaps they would have tolerated more such tacking from a Clinton-Warren or a Clinton-Perez ticket.

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