Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine is special in a way that connects with the heart of today’s political battle.
That creates an opportunity that the Democratic Party should seize: to make use of Tim Kaine in a national ad campaign that might move voters to magnify the Blue Wave.
Political Battle at an Unusual Level
First, we should recognize how different today’s political battle is from those in the America in which my post-war generation grew up.
Back then, the two sides represented – at least to an important degree – different sets of value priorities and different visions for how society should be organized. Self-interest was always part of the picture, of course. But there were genuine contests at the level of values and ideas.
But today’s political battle is at a much more fundamental, one might even say “spiritual” level.
Our politics have long since sunk below disputation over ideas and values. We are engaged instead in a battle between two deeply contrasting “spirits” that today animate two deeply contrasting political parties.
One side is consistently acting like what we’d regard as “the bad guy” in any movie—lying, cheating, hurting people, driven by greed and the lust to dominate. Onto the other side falls the responsibility to rally to protect what’s “good” in America. (And the Blue Wave is an essential part of that rallying.)
That’s where Tim Kaine’s special quality comes in. To an unusual degree, Kaine conveys a spirit of goodness.
I met Kaine once briefly, back in 2012, when I was on the same ticket as Senator-to-be Kaine. The experience made an impression on me: I’d met –and liked — a lot of politicians, but what was extraordinary about Kaine was how quickly and fully I felt convinced he was a genuine and truly decent guy.
(His life story shows where he’s coming from: as a very young man, Kaine chose to live his faith of “love thy neighbor” and served as a missionary in Honduras, to help people – people ethnically, racially, linguistically quite different from himself — who have it rough.)
“Goodness” of that sort is smack dab in the middle of the ballot for this upcoming midterm election. And, fittingly, at a big banquet the other evening in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where I saw him for the second time, Kaine delivered a powerful message about “goodness”—even though he never used the word.
The “For-All” Party
The word “goodness” didn’t have to be used. Tim just told a couple of political stories that demonstrated how centrally goodness is at stake in this fall’s battle between today’s Democrats and today’s Republicans.
His theme was: “The Democrats are the ‘For all’ Party.” And “For all” translates readily into “Good.”
It derives some of that status, and power, sitting as it does at the tail end of the Pledge of Allegiance, our consecrated national pledge of which conservative “patriots” are always making a big deal. Senator Kaine looked beyond the flag to those values for which it stands—like those embedded in the Pledge’s final two words: “for all.”
“For all” is tied as well into our religious values – Kaine’s speech touches glancingly on “love thy neighbor” – according to which we’re supposed to care about everybody getting the benefits of living in this America, not only ourselves and our allies.
So Kaine, having connected both God and Country to his theme – and thus to his argument for the Blue Wave – proceeded to tell two stories that reveal the stark difference between the spirits animating the two political parties. He told
- Of the Democrats, who fought for years to be able to provide health care coverage to 400,000 Virginians who have been living in danger and fear. And then, after their big electoral victories in 2017, they finally succeeded. So how, Kaine asked, did those Democratic legislators feel about helping so many people who will never ever vote for them? And then he answered his own question: “They felt fantastic!”
Good people care about everyone (“as thyself”).
- And then the very different story of the Republicans, whose main priority on taking charge after the 2016 elections was to overturn Obamacare. Had those Republicans been successful, they would have stripped 23 million Americans of their health care coverage, a large proportion of them being people whose votes put them in office.
What does it say about a Party that cares about getting people’s votes, but doesn’t hesitate to sacrifice their well-being?
Kaine thus revealed a stark contrast – at the most fundamental moral level — that speaks volumes about the choice voters face this fall.
(Moreover, Kaine’s message focuses on an issue – health care – that polls show is at the top of the concerns of the American people, across the political spectrum, and that is a winner for Democrats.)
Self-interest alone should suffice to lead many voters to support the “For All Party.” But beyond straight self-interest, there’s also the deep moral dimension: as Love and Cruelty track rather well on the spectrum of good and evil—words that need not be used for people to have that dimension vibrate within them.
Directing people’s attention toward goodness is a winning strategy for Democrats, because the more people see the battle in those terms, the more Americans will move across the fulcrum to support the Blue Wave and not the mean-spirited, uncaring Trump Party.
Good Face of the Democratic Party
A powerful message about “goodness” delivered by a man whose own palpable goodness makes him a fitting messenger.
All of which argues for the Democratic Party – in their quest to maximize the Blue Wave — to run ads nationally that present Tim Kaine as the face of the Democratic Party, calling on voters to support the “For All” Party.
(Assuming there’s still time.)
In a piece appearing here soon, I will present an idea for another national ad campaign in the set—this one featuring Democratic Florida gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum. I believe that Florida’s Democratic electorate got it completely right when they raised up Gillum to his unexpected victory. Graham was fine, but Gillum has what the times – and the present political battle – require. Stay tuned, and I will explain why I think Gillum is showing us how this battle should be fought.