A few days ago Hillary Clinton announced Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate. There are a number of solidly logic reasons behind this pick, including that he has blue-collar roots, is fluent in Spanish, and comes from a state which will be important in November, however I still believe that this was the wrong choice. The press reaction has largely been favourable, which is surprising given that ordinary people don’t know who the hell the guy is. Clinton should have gone with someone to fire up the base and put forward solutions that inspire a brighter future, not an incrementalist that resembles the establishment orthodoxy of the last thirty years.
What is required to win an election? It’s an important question and everyone who has any idea about politics knows the answer: a clear message, an army of activists to campaign for you, and a candidate who can inspire the voters to turn up on election day. The traditional perception of the running mate’s role is to be an attack dog, but this isn’t always necessary, and sometimes the VP pick can help the candidate win over the base. For instance the Republican nominee Donald Trump selected Mike Pence because polling suggests that evangelical Christians were not overly enthusiastic about supporting the New York businessman. For tactical reasons alone, the pick made a certain amount of sense.
On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton has already got the centrist incrementalist vote and needed to reach out to the base by balancing the ticket. Instead of doing this, she chose a pro-life, pro-free trade, corporatist that the Left of the Democratic Party think is insufferable. As I said above in order to win an election you need an army of activists on the ground canvassing, getting the vote out, and winning people over to your side. Many left-wingers who were thinking of voting for Jill Stein or writing in Bernie Sanders will not go knocking on doors to help get a Clinton-Kaine ticket over 270 electoral votes. Furthermore, Clinton’s choice has made her message perfectly clear a lot of people in the Democratic Party. A Clinton administration will be four years of pushing free-trade deals, liberal interventionism overseas, and corporatism. Your message is supposed to be clear to voters so it can inspire them to get involved, and it should accentuate the common ground you have with the base rather than sticking to an ideological line that half the Democratic Party hates.
The other thing that is problematic for the Democrats is that Hillary Clinton is already a flawed candidate that many people in America find instinctively untrustworthy. After the Republican National Convention ended I watched Hillary’s Clinton’s speech during a rally in Miami. Given that I had just watched the entirety of Trump’s convention speech, I was going in wanting to believe Clinton and wanting to support her. Obviously as a communist I would never vote for her, but I was trying to put myself in the mindset of a Democrat who had supported Bernie Sanders. And yet, even after I sat through Trump’s hour-long impersonation of Mussolini, I listen to Clinton and thought one thing: I don’t believe you. When she says anything vaguely left-wing it is couched in language which gives her an opportunity to reverse her position. The rest of the speech was rhetoric and platitudes. She cannot help herself and the choice of Tim Kaine proves why she’s such a flawed candidate. She should have chosen someone to rally the base, but she went for a Senator who is a run of the mill moderate. She could have united the party but didn’t.
Why would people who supported Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist, support the Democratic ticket? She is taking a huge risk and is banking on people choosing her because of the spectre of a Trump presidency. Clinton should have chosen someone like Elizabeth Warren to prevent people on the Left of the Democratic Party flocking to support a third-party candidate, and it would have enthused people to go out and campaign. The Vice President doesn’t actually do that much so you might has well gamble with the choice as it’s not like giving someone you have disagreements with will impact decision-making. The job of the VP is to take over if the President dies or is impeached, and so Clinton might as well have thrown a bone to the base.
I don’t know who is going to win in November, but if Clinton actually does want to be President then I would stop talking in platitudes, start appealing to the base, and suggest some really radical policies. She is all about incrementalism but if your starting position is moderate and you compromise, the policy you implement will be something that lots of the party will not like. If you start with something radical and compromise, the solution is something that the party will unite behind. Clinton is a centre-right Democrat and by choosing another centre-right Democrat as her VP, there is no ideological reason why centre-left Democrats, who are more in the FDR and LBJ tradition of the party, will campaign for her. She is hoping that people will be scared of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, and in a year where people have shown that they are sick of the establishment I’m not sure that the threat of a Trump presidency will be enough to carry her over the line.