Published in The Moderate Voices on July 28, 2016
<strong>“Kaine is able.” – New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, himself a vice-presidential finalist, on the selection of his Senate colleague, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine.</strong>
<a href=”http://themoderatevoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/29OTR-A-master768.jpg”><img src=”http://themoderatevoice.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/29OTR-A-master768-300×209.jpg” alt=”29OTR-A-master768″ width=”300″ height=”209″ class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-218355″ /></a>
<strong>Photo via The New York Times</strong>
Exhilarating! That is the first word that comes to mind about the masterful speech of vice-presidential pick Tim Kaine’s to the Democratic National Convention last night. I use the word “pick” rather than nominee because delegates officially must affirm Kaine’s selection on the convention floor tonight. But despite grumblings from some of the Sanders backers who had advocated for a more liberal nominee, that is expected to be a mere formality. And after his speech last night, it darned well should be.
Few observers, from the media to the who’s who in politics, had any idea of what kind of speech Kaine would give. Known to few outside of Virginia, Kaine was always viewed as charismatic, but in a different, under-stated way. His style is not oratorically dazzling nor does he create an aura of being the most important person in the room. Rather, Kaine’s style is a profound, authentic, almost Bideneque ability to connect with people of all backgrounds. His self-deprecating nature and low-key humor has always been on display but being rah-rah, polished, or even shrill was never inherently part of his constitution. Until last night.
During the course of the campaign, the number two person on the ticket has only a few obligations, but they are big. They include introducing him/herself to the American people, promoting the party standard bearer’s values, and serving as the attack dog for the other side. Because last night was an intro, it was the most important of perhaps any other moment for Kaine in the campaign save his October debate with Mike Pence. If last night was a guide, he fulfilled it with flying colors. With fist-pumping energy and oratory that was unmistakable for its energy and message but not over the top, the speech proved the most extraordinary by a vice-presidential pick in memory. As a result, it offered a glimpse of the kind of voters Kaine will be trying to court on the stump for the next three and ½ months.
Kaine began by mentioning his family, noting that his son, a Marine, recently deployed overseas. “Semper Fi,” he declared. Expect to hear that story often as this will enable him to connect with many veterans who are stung by Donald Trump’s charge about military readiness. Next, Kaine told the story of his blue collar background, specifically mentioning his dad who was a union shop operator. In a year when not all unions are automatically wedded to Clinton, Kaine will be a critical asset to Southern Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and other areas of necessity for the ticket.
Then there are his personal values. Kaine has been married to the same woman – the ex-Commissioner of Education in Virginia (she submitted her resignation upon her husband’s addition to the ticket) for 32 years. His faith is a part of who he is – he has attended the same church since his marriage. And his bond with his children is unmistakable. On the issues, he re-enforced the Democrats stance, in particular emphasizing his support for Roe vs. Wade, which had to have been mesmerizing to the faithful because of his deeply held personal beliefs. And of course, his demeanor quickly led to a nearly instant twitter campaign that labeled him the quintessential dad, which quickly led to a meme of, among other things, the best Tim Kaine dad jokes (example: Tim Kaine is every dad giving an awkward toast at the wedding” or “Tim Kaine is your friend’s dad who catches you smoking weed at a sleepover and doesn’t rat you out but talks to you about brain development”).
But it was Kaine’s mocking of Trump’s platform and promises complete with the voice (“believe me”) that made the speech so potent. While every major speaker last night took aim at Trump’s qualities and the perceived dangers of his becoming President , Kaine perhaps had the most on the line because he is so new to the national stage. He delivered. Each “believe me” evoked a roar from the delegates. Every mention of Trump’s lack of ideas and method for implementation of his platform had the same impact on delegates as team Clinton hopes with the American people. The reaction wasn’t contrived from a partisan audience nor was it awkward. It was a genuine, “that makes so much sense – why can’t I say it that way.” In other words, he had them at hello.
Yes, with last night’s speech, Kaine proved his chops and more importantly, showed his fellow Democrats that he has the necessary ingredients to be Hillary Clinton’s right-arm man.
That is what made the speech so effective. And that is what made Tim Kaine’s selection so sound.