Why is it important?
The first vice president, John Adams, called the position "the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived." Traditionally, vice presidents have two responsibilities: be ready to assume the presidency and serve as President of the Senate (... but only vote if there's a tie.)
However, modern vice presidents have become influential players in the executive branch. The turning point was a memo written by Vice President Walter Mondale in 1976, which outlined "an appropriate and meaningful role" for the VP as a general advisor on domestic, foreign, and party affairs. And, since candidates for president and vice president began running together after the Civil War, the VP pick has been part of a larger strategy to win the election.
The role seems only to be gaining power in 2016. Donald Trump, for one, reportedly offered a VP position "in charge of domestic and foreign policy."
Was Tim Kaine the right choice for Hillary Clinton's vice president?
Tim Kaine is not a satisfying candidate to the Democratic base nor to swing voters. He is a candidate with problematic views on important liberal issues but without high name recognition—and he was the wrong choice.
Those concerned he is not a true progressive are right. Take abortion: when he ran for governor in Virginia in 2005, he pledged to "work in good faith to reduce abortions," including "through abstinence-focused education." Take labor: during the same election, he supported "right to work" laws, which weakens workers unions' to bargain—laws even the centrist Democratic platform opposes. Take financial regulation: Kaine recently signed two letters urging the government to loosen regulations for regional banks.
The left-wing voters who care deeply about these issues—many of whom have been left disappointed by Bernie Sanders' loss—cannot rally behind Tim Kaine. Getting these voters excited and motivated to go to the polls is crucial to this election, and Clinton's new VP jeopardizes that.
He does not make up for these anti-progressive views by energizing centrist or independent voters. Unfortunately, Kaine does not have the national name recognition to excite voters within his own party nor across an ideological spectrum.
Tim Kaine is a deeply principled, highly qualified, committedly liberal candidate from a crucial swing state. Hillary Clinton made the obvious choice.
Kaine's record speaks for itself: he fought for common sense gun control in a state where the NRA is extremely powerful (and literally headquartered.) He opposed the death penalty though Virginia has the third highest execution rate in the country. He is religiously—personally—against abortion but has consistently defended a woman's right to choose, which has earned him a 100% rating from Planned Parenthood. He shares both Clinton's politics and her pragmatism.
The two most regular insults lobbed at Kaine from both sides are that he is safe and boring. The idea that Tim Kaine is "safe" is a coded way of saying that while he may not be entertaining, he is the clear choice. And in this election, it needs to be said: politics is not entertainment.
Those who argue he is "boring" haven't been paying attention. The man is engaging, compelling and deeply loved in his state and in the Senate. He has never lost an election—from a Mayor of Richmond, a majority African-American city, to Governor of Virginia, a then-conservative state. And, for those interested in personality traits beyond politics, one hashtag speaks volumes: #TimKaineSoNice.
- How Clinton and Kaine compare on the issues
- "In choosing Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia as her running mate, Hillary Clinton has selected someone who shares her political philosophy and pragmatic approach to governing."
- How Kaine and Trump's VP, Mike Pence, compare on the issues
- "Ahead of this October, when Pence and Kaine will meet onstage at Longwood University in Virginia to participate in the sole vice presidential debate, here's where both candidates stand on some of the big issues."
- How vice presidents influence elections
- "How important is a presidential candidate's choice of running mate? With presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump choosing Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running make, we take a look at historical data on vice-presidential candidates."
- How liberals responded to Kaine's letters on financial regulation
"Our presidential ticket cannot beat the billionaire bigot by simply being not-Donald Trump. To win in November, our ticket needs to have an unquestionably strong record in the fight against income inequality, one of the defining issues of the 2016 election."