Why are so many liberal bloggers up in arms about Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine being picked to give the Democrat's reply to Bush's State of the Union? There's been fury in the blogosphere about everything from Kaine's looks, style, obscurity, his open talk about his faith and his inexperience in national security. Liberal writer Ezra Klein (no Brad Pitt, last time I checked him out) vented that Kaine is "a squat, squinty, pug-nosed fellow."
Even the invariably smart and strategic Arianna (Huffington) weighed in: "What the hell are they thinking?" She accused Democrats of picking "someone whose only claim to fame is that he carried a red state" when they need to make the case that "the GOP is not the party that can best keep us safe."
But, let's get real here.
1. It doesn't really matter who gives the reply, since no one listens and it's an impossible task.
2. This is slightly less important than whether House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi chooses to wear blue or red to listen to the speech.
3. He's a Governor. With most of us fixed on the chances of taking back the House and/or Senate, don't forget this is an election year when thirty-six statehouses are up for grabs. And smart progressives understand that the gridlock in DC means many policies which will improve peoples' lives and security--increasing the minimum wage, expanding affordable healthcare, strengthening environmental protection, Apollo Alliance projects for energy independence--are likely to come from states led by Governors who understand the need for affirmative government.
4. And, hell, Kaine is pretty liberal for a Virginian. During the campaign, he was derided relentlessly by the GOP, in an expensive and vicious campaign, as "the most liberal candidate who's ever run for governor in the Commonwealth of Virginia's history." Kaine is a guy who made a name for himself working with the American Civil Liberties Union, who connected his faith to his politics in authentic ways (he was a thoughtful opponent of the death penalty), who was an honest and forthright advocate of government's affirmative role--supporting moves to increase taxes to fund education, transportation and environmental programs.
And as The Nation's Washington correspondent John Nichols observed, Kaine was "a consistent proponent of racial justice in a state that is barely a generation away from the days of 'massive resistance' to integration." And in a state which hasn't backed a Democrat for President since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Kaine connected with retired coal miners and laid-off textile workers who are critical swing voters in Appalachian Virginia.
For liberal bloggers who want to get exercised about something really important: Where are the Democrats or liberals talking about Ford laying off some 30,000 workers, the end of middle class benefits for working Americans, IBM's gutting of pension security, and the collapse of American manufacturing?
These are chilling events, and both parties (especially the divide-and-distract Republicans) treat them as natural disasters about which nothing can be done and for which no one is at fault.
If you want to know why Dems don't win elections, it won't be because Kaine is talking this Tuesday night. It's because the mainstream leadership of the Democratic Party doesn't think, feel, or viscerally respond to the increasing insecurities of working Americans.