Home 2018 Elections A Dozen Reasons Why Progressives Should Be Enthused About Sen. Tim Kaine

A Dozen Reasons Why Progressives Should Be Enthused About Sen. Tim Kaine


Recently, I’ve noticed some strange attacks coming from limited-but-vocal corners of the internet — Russia apologist Glenn Greenwald, for instance, who’s apparently never met a Democrat he liked — attacking Sen. Tim Kaine as insufficiently progressive for their tastes. As someone who started the forerunner to this site (“Raising Kaine”) as a platform for progressive voices uniting around Tim Kaine’s campaign for governor in 2005, I find it all very bizarre. Maybe national pundits, not the quickest folks on the uptake after all, are just now tuning in to Kaine, having only become aware of him in 2016? Sure, people can reasonably disagree with Kaine – or any other member of Congress – on this or that vote. But to argue that Kaine has not been a strong progressive who has done an excellent job representing us in the Senate since 2013 truly puzzles me.

Here are a dozen top reasons we all – progressives and every other shade of Democrat – should be enthusiastically energized to support Tim Kaine this fall:
    1. Speaking out about fracked-gas pipelines. Kaine has been an ally to those of us opposing the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines, speaking out regarding the unfair FERC process that took private lands for private corporate gains, and urging FERC to reconsider its approval. Furthermore, Kaine has consistently spoken up for those exercising their free speech rights – in part, because he doesn’t believe local voices have been sufficiently listened to – and for humane treatment of protesters.
    2. Preventing gun violence. Tim was a strong leader in confronting gun violence long before many others (including many Democrats) in Virginia were willing to take on the NRA. Kaine co-sponsored a bill to ban assault weapons. He supports “a comprehensive approach to curb gun violence which includes expanding mental health services, background record checks prior to gun purchases and responsible limits on combat-style weapons and high-capacity magazines.” He authored the “Responsible Transfer of Firearms Act, which would hold people responsible if they sell or transfer a firearm to someone who is barred by federal law from possessing firearms.” He spoke out and sat down with fifty moms after the Parkland shootings. And, of course, many of us who were living in Virginia during and following the Virginia Tech shooting know how strong Kaine has been on this issue — stronger than so many politicians who are only now coming to the right side of this issue.
    3. Opposing offshore drilling. Tim Kaine spoke up loud and clear after Trump announced he would open up U.S. offshore waters – including Virginia’s – for new oil drilling. As Kaine wrote at the time: “A small business owner on the Virginia Beach boardwalk asked me to imagine what a BP-like oil spill would do to summer tourism. It’s not worth the risk. We should move forward with clean energy, not take a step backwards that will accelerate climate change.”  He empowered a broad Hampton Roads coalition — military veterans, local tourism leaders, vulnerable communities, environmentalists, business leaders — to join him in pointing out the folly of Trump’s plan and to oppose  oil drilling off Virginia’s coasts.
    4. Supporting a robust public option. Since 2009, when I advocated publicly for a robust public option as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), I’ve believed strongly that it was a great idea. As a side note, I’d argue that the ACA would have been stronger and more popular from the get-go had President Obama listened to many (including Tom Perriello, by the way) who argued that a public option should be included. Now, we’ve seen more and more insurers leaving the marketplaces and giving Virginians fewer choices for health care. So, Tim Kaine is offering a “Medicare X” “supercharged public option plan” to give every American a chance to purchase a public health insurance plan, like Medicare (but also “cover[ing] things that Medicare does not, such as pediatrics and maternity care”). This would rapidly and effectively improve our health care system and give Americans more/better healthcare choices. I realize that many progressives support moving to a single payer system immediately. In my mind, as someone who supports moving towards single payer as expeditiously as possible, Kaine’s “Medicare X” would represent the most feasible (e.g., politically realistic) on-ramp to doing just that.
    5. Defending immigrant communities. Tim Kaine was one of the main leaders working on a plan that could actually pass the U.S. Senate to protect Dreamers from Trump’s threatened deportations. Kaine might not yell the loudest, but he’s almost always the first guy to try to achieve the most progressive thing that can actually pass — the epitome of a pragmatic progressive, which is my ideal in a politician. Kaine also is unique in never forgetting to also specifically fight for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) recipients, like those from El Salvador or Haiti, who Trump has threatened to deport by revoking their protected status. In sum, Kaine’s a strong Dream Act supporter, voted for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship in 2013, and is never afraid to call out the disgusting xenophobia and anti-immigrant attacks from the right.
    6. Opposing Trump’s Tax Bonanza for the Wealthy and Big Corporations. Last year, Kaine opposed Trump’s plan to give the mega rich and big corporations a giant tax cut. He even called the Republicans’ bluff, by offering an amendment to make middle class tax cuts permanent, paid for by rolling back some of the big giveaways to the rich and to big corporations. The GOP, not surprisingly, blocked that.  But that doesn’t change the fact that Kaine has consistently been pushing back hard against this disastrous tax policy.
    7. Working to Rein in Trump’s Militaristic, Reckless Foreign Policy. Like he did under President Obama, Sen. Kaine is demanding that Trump come to Congress for approval if he wants to start a war. Kaine has called out Trump’s Syria strikes as “illegal,” and now he has a bill to prevent Trump from unilaterally going to war with Iran. He’s one of the few progressives willing to stand up and own a war vote, because he knows how dangerous letting a president (especially Trump) run wild would be for our troops and country. Kaine also argued hard that Trump should NOT pull out of the Iran nuclear deal, which he also voted for multiple times back in 2015. Kaine opposed Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State because of Pompeo’s “anti-diplomacy disposition,” and has generally been a strong advocate of exhausting diplomacy first before considering military options.
    8. Fighting Sexual Assault and Supporting the #MeToo Movement. It seems like every day, yet another political figure — most recently Eric Schneiderman — is letting us down with a history of sexual assault and abuse. In stark contrast, Kaine has been a leader in calling out this disgusting culture, standing up for women, supporting the #MeToo movement, and pushing to reform laws that aid and protect sexual abusers. He wrote thoughtfully on this for Esquire last year.
    9. Consistently Earning 100% Ratings on Protecting a Woman’s Right to Reproductive Choice. Check out Project Vote Smart, which lists Kaine’s LIFETIME Planned Parenthood score as 100% — a perfect score! — and his NARAL scores at 100% as well. One great thing about Kaine is that he “has drawn a line between his personal beliefs [as a strong Roman Catholic] and his political views” on abortion. That “line” was “enough to convince major reproductive rights organizations to applaud his…nomination” as Hillary Clinton’s running mate in 2016. And it’s important to note that Kaine’s “Senate record indicates a sea change in the Democratic lawmaker’s abortion politics,” with Sen. Kaine “[fighting] bills to defund Planned Parenthood, co-sponsor[ing] a bill that assures women the right to an abortion regardless of their zip code, and vot[ing] against abortion bans similar to those he enacted while governor.” As NARAL’s president Ilyse Hogue wrote in 2016, “It’s a hostile, extreme Congress on issues of repro freedom… We’ve not lost Kaine on a single vote. We have lost other Dems.” Good stuff.
    10. Being a Consistent “Hero for the LGBTQ Community.” According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Kaine has consistently been a “hero for the LGBTQ community,” including “advocat[ing] for full federal equality as senator and join[ing] the amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court declaring the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional” and “advocat[ing] for passage of the Equality Act to provide comprehensive federal non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans.” Kaine has also spoken out against Trump’s discriminatory ban on transgender people in the military. Given all this, it’s not surprising that Kaine earned a 100% rating from HRC in 2015-2016.
    11. Fighting His Entire Adult Life for Civil Rights. Check out this article in The Nation, about how “Tim Kaine Was Fighting for Civil Rights While Donald Trump Was Discriminating Against African Americans” and how “Kaine won landmark housing discrimination cases while Trump refused to rent to black tenants.” Also check out this NBC News report, which describes Kaine “as a steady champion on issues important to African Americans.” According to Virginia Del. Lamont Bagby, Kaine “not only made time to talk and listen to the Black community — any time we needed him for an issue or I needed him for an issue personally, he supported us. He’s also supported Black candidates. That’s why you see overwhelming support for Tim Kaine from Black constituents.”
    12. Consistently Scoring ZEROs from the Hard Right. According to Project Vote Smart, the Koch brothers are no fan of Tim Kaine’s, with a ZERO score from the Kochs’ “Americans for Prosperity” in 2017-2018, and a 2% lifetime score from that anti-environment, anti-government group. Kaine also has earned — and I emphasize the word “earned,” because this is a great thing — a ZERO from the hard-right Heritage Action for America in 2017-2018; a 1% lifetime score from the American Conservative Union; a ZERO score from American Family Association Action in 2017-2018; etc.
Beyond all the issues, Tim is just someone who – at his very core, since he went to Honduras as a young man to work with the poor – cares about vulnerable communities, the “common man,” and doing what’s right for everyone. That’s a stark contrast with Trump and the wackos, loudmouths, blowhards, extremists, etc. — Ewwww Jackson, neo-Confederate Corey Stewart and Nick “Freaky” Freitas — running as Republicans to oppose Kaine this year. It’s also a sorely needed set of qualities in a Congress where too many people are showboats who don’t have the personality or skill set to actually achieve progressive gains for people. And in the end, isn’t that what we all want? Go Kaine!
P.S. Oh yeah, one more thing: as I wrote back in February, we need Tim Kaine to win “yuge” this November, not just to send a clear, resounding message to Virginia Republicans that their brand of extremist nuttery and bigotry is not welcome here in the Commonwealth, but also for the positive effect on “downballot” candidates – particularly for Congress (e.g., our nominees against Barbara Comstock, Scott Taylor, Dave Brat, Tom Garrett, etc.), but also for local offices.
  • Roger Miller

    Wishin’ and hopin’ doesn’t prevent gun violence or stop unnecessary pipelines. He’s a really nice guy, but I don’t see anything on your list that is an actual accomplishment. A political commentator could point to a similar resume.

    • You do realize that Republicans have been able to block gun legislation – or any progressive legislation – since Kaine’s been in the Senate, right? So by that reason, I guess no Democrats have many (or any) major accomplishments since 2011, after Republicans took back the House of Representatives and decided to “make Obama fail.”

  • K Hoekstra

    I’m usually a big fan and enjoy reading your columns, but might I suggest you have a conversation where you spend a good amount of time listening to Glenn Greenwald, rather than just having what appears to be a knee jerk reaction to him and his writings. And oh by the way, as someone who worked in the banking industry for years I can state Kaine’s most recent vote on the banking industry rollbacks was definitely NOT progressive. Ask Senator Elizabeth Warren. While I do appreciate Kaine’s votes on the issues you raised, I now wonder how many he would have made if his vote was the deciding one.

    • I’ve followed Greenwald for years. This is FAR from a “knee jerk reaction” to him.

      • K Hoekstra

        Me too, thus my comment. I guess we will have to agree to disagree on Glenn.

  • Kenneth Ferland

    Kaine is a Bill Clinton style socially liberal, economically conservative ‘new Democrat’ which is the faction of the party that the Progressive caucus was specifically formed to oppose.

    Just rattling off his socially liberal positions or the fact he voted with EVERY other Democratic senator against the tax cuts (both of which I consider a minimum bar to even be worthy of being a member of the democratic party) and trying to have that make up for bad economic policy, let alone ‘enthuse’ us is exactly the rhetorical tactic that Progressives are sick and tired of.

    You even have the snide remarks about ‘showboats who don’t have the personality or skill set to actually achieve progressive gains for people’ which is just a long winded versions of ‘I’m a Progressive that likes to get things done’. Your LITERALLY just regurgitating 2016 talking points.

    The complete inability to learn from failure is why this Clinton faction needs to be replaced by Progressives as soon as possible. Kaine didn’t even get a challenger this year but as soon as he dose I will be looking to replace him with a Progressive.

    • Neoliberalism: “refers primarily to the 20th-century resurgence of 19th-century ideas associated with laissez-faire economic liberalism. Those ideas include economic liberalization policies such as privatization, austerity, deregulation, free trade and reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.”

      Does Tim Kaine support any of these things?

      Privatization? On health care, he’s proposed a Medicare X “public option” plan, which certainly is NOT “privatization.” He certainly doesn’t support privatizing Social Security or other government programs, at least that I’m aware of. So…not sure what you’re referring to.

      Austerity? Definitely not. Kaine has strongly opposed “sequestration” and supported increases in government spending in the recent budget deal, for instance. So, again…not sure what you’re referring to.

      Deregulation? Other than arguably the CHOICE Act, any other examples? I can’t think of any.

      Free trade? Kaine’s position is that “Global trade is a reality. The question is whether the U.S. wants to write the rules for trade or suffer under rules written by others.” That’s basically fair trade, as far as I can tell.

      Reductions in government spending? Definitely not that I’m aware of.

      In sum, I don’t see how Kaine is “neoliberal,” at least by the above definition of that overused/often-misused word…