Hillary’s all-white ticket out of step with diverse Democratic base
Now that the nightmare known as the Republican National Convention is over, it is time to take a look at the Democrats. Hillary Clinton has selected her pick for running mate, and her choice for vice president is Senator Tim Kaine. Was this a wise move, a missed opportunity, or a snub to the base of the party?
Clinton named Kaine as her choice while on the campaign trail in Florida, and the duo made their debut in a campaign stop in Miami on Saturday.
And in the soon-to-be post-Obama era, when many young people never saw a White House without black folks, or can barely remember it, can the Dems really get away with an all-white ticket?
Tim Kaine is a popular senator, former mayor of Richmond. and former governor from Virginia — a swing state, a fact which must have been part of Clinton’s calculus when looking at the Electoral College map. Not an exciting choice perhaps, maybe not a household name, but viewed as a safe bet and definitely experienced and ready. Plus, he has never lost an election, he has a son in the military, and he speaks fluent Spanish, which has been on display as he makes the rounds of the Spanish-language news show circuit.
A VP pick who speaks Spanish could prove a big plus with the Latino community, in an election season where the Donald will likely yield historic lows among Hispanic voters due to his anti-immigrant philosophy and border wall-building proclivities. But you know, there are lots of authentically Latino candidates to choose from. Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, who is Mexican American and represents the future of the party and the country, is a prime example. So too is Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, who was the last progressive standing on the VP short list, the last person of color, and a lawyer of Dominican heritage who has dedicated his career to civil rights.
And there are people such as Sen. Cory Booker from New Jersey — young, dynamic and possessing the energy you need in a campaign season like no other. Granted, Booker as VP would have helped upset the Democrats’ chances of winning back the Senate, as Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, would have appointed his successor. But once again, there are many black people to choose from.
Hillary could not have won the nomination without the support of the melanin-heavy base of the Democratic party. There are likely many voters of color who will be disappointed, and progressives who were feeling the Bern or hoping for a running mate in the mold of Elizabeth Warren will have much to say about this. Kaine is very much like Clinton, cut from the same cloth and perceived as being a part of the corporate, neo-liberal, New Democrat wing of the party.
This is a year when economic populism and racial inequality have been on the minds of the public. Further, we are witnessing a nation in the middle of a dramatic demographic shift and an inevitable majority-brown and black population in the coming years. Yet Clinton played it safe. Sen. Kaine is a free trader who supported NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has received the third highest proportion of his contributions from Wall Street. Plus, he has angered labor with his support for right to work laws, is pushing for bank deregulation and is accused of helping banks dodge consumer protection standards.
Perhaps assuming she has the people of color vote on lock — and maybe not caring what the liberal base cares about and assuming they have nowhere else to go — Hillary made a safe bet. But how safe is it, really? Picking Kaine and running an all-white ticket, as opposed to having a running mate of color, could be a subliminal message to white men that everything is ok, and they need not worry. But that type of racial appeal to the hardworking whites did not serve Clinton well in her 2008 primary match against Obama. Moreover, don’t try to beat Trump at the white nationalism game. White men who are gravitating toward Trump are doing so precisely because they do not like Secretary Clinton. Do we really believe that having Tim Kaine on the ticket will change their minds? And is that risk worth taking if it means dampening excitement among your base voters?
Making it all white doesn’t make it alright. We thought we saw the end of the all-white Democratic ticket. We expect that from the GOP, because they are the party of white pride under Trump, and we know how that story ends — because some folks are doubling down on whiteness as a reaction to diversity. Surely the Dems have their sights on beating Trump, who would prove a disaster for African-Americans and Americans in general. But in the process, Clinton must ensure she does not take us for granted.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove