Tonight Senator Bernie Sanders will make the case to his supporters that his campaign won huge victories in the Democratic Party’s platform and processes, and ask them to support Hillary Clinton. It may not go well. Although Sanders got most of what he wanted from the platform, the left flank of his delegates are now riled by Clinton’s choice of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential pick. “This is an assault on the progressive base of the Democratic Party that has [roughly] 13 million voters,” longtime activist and California Sanders delegate Norman Solomon told reporters Sunday. “Those smartest triangulators in the room, who have told us that the old formulas from decades ago will work again, seem clueless about our current political environment.”
Solomon and others are threatening to nominate an alternative to Kaine from the convention floor, a move Sanders opposes. But Sanders may not be able to stop it. During an emotional speech, in which he ran down his campaign’s many victories, the crowd booed when he asked them to support Clinton and Kaine. He did his best to cajole. “This is the real world,” he told them—meaning real-world politics requires compromise. But some of his supporters aren’t listening.
For the record, I wasn’t pulling for Kaine; I preferred Senator Sherrod Brown (though I knew he was a long shot, since Ohio Governor John Kasich would get to pick his successor) or Labor Secretary Tom Perez, a strong progressive on labor and civil rights and an impressive Clinton surrogate. But the more I’ve seen of Kaine, and learned about his record, the more I’ve come to believe he was a smart choice for Clinton–and that progressives who loudly oppose him, to the point of obstruction, are missing the point of small-d democratic politics. He shouldn’t be derided as a “Blue Dog Democrat,” the spine-free centrists who’ve been a brake on the party’s necessary shift left. He’s much more courageous than that.
Ari Berman writes more thoughtfully than I could about Kaine’s impressive history of civil-rights litigation and political courage in Richmond, Virginia–a city so opposed to African-American political power that it annexed a nearby suburb to dilute black voting strength. It couldn’t work forever; Richmond became majority black, and that’s where Kaine began his law career, working on civil-rights, housing-discrimination, and death-penalty cases. On the city council, his majority-black colleagues elected him Richmond mayor in 1998.
Kaine has also taken courageous stands on gun control and women’s rights. In Virginia, the home of the National Rifle Association, he’s earned an F from the pro-gun powerhouse. The governor at the time of the horrific Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, Kaine used executive action and worked with the legislature to close gun loopholes, and he remains a strong voice on the issue. And though he began his career supporting restrictions on abortion rights, as a pro-choice Catholic he has “evolved,” as we say, winning a 100 percent from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America for his Senate record.