With several months to go until the Presidential election, Hillary Clinton has selected Tim Kaine as her Vice-Presidential running mate.
Kaine is currently a United States Senator for Virginia, having previously served as the Governor of Virginia. As a centrist Democrat, his selection has naturally disappointed many on the more liberal side of the Democratic party, namely those who turned out to vote for Bernie Sanders in great numbers during the primary campaign. Kaine is strongly in favour of the sort of free-trade deals which have been strongly attacked by both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump as being harmful to American workers. As well as this, Kaine has stated in the past that he personally opposes abortion, although he has supported a woman’s right to choose. Nonetheless, the fact that he is not from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has upset some members of this growing faction, who would have preferred a Vice-Presidential nominee closer to the left of the Democratic Party. Perhaps Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, or Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.
Although Sanders clearly lost the primary election, his supporters will feel that the success of such a left-wing candidate should have had more of an impact upon the Democratic Party’s platform for the upcoming Presidential election. Sanders won just over thirteen million votes, compared to the just under seventeen million won by Hillary. In addition, Sanders won more votes from young people (voters under the age of 25) than Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump combined.
Many of these voters chose Sanders over Clinton as they were disillusioned with politics as usual, one of the same reasons why so many people voted for Donald Trump during the Republican primaries. In recent days, Trump has attempted to court the Sanders supporters who dislike Hillary, highlighting the similarities between Trump and Sanders on issues such as international trade (for example, both strongly oppose TPP).
However, although Trump has been reaching out to Sanders supporters, it would be hugely unexpected if vast numbers of people who voted for Bernie Sanders during the primaries, turned out to vote for Donald Trump during the Presidential election. Ultimately, these voters want a progressive, liberal president and so shouldn’t be voting for Trump. No, the real worry for Hillary is that they turn out to vote for a third-party candidate (potentially Green Party candidate Jill Stein, or Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson) or that they simply stay at home on polling day.
Following the conclusion of the Republican Party Convention, Donald Trump crept into the lead in CNN’s post-convention opinion polls, polling 48 per cent to Clinton’s 45 per cent. Although polling will likely swing back in the direction of Hillary following the conclusion of this week’s Democratic Party Convention, the Presidential race remains on a knife edge. Indeed, when third-party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are included as options in polling, Clinton’s share drops to 39 per cent, with Trump on 44 per cent, showing just how close this year’s Presidential race has become.
With Green Party candidate Jill Stein solidly polling around three per cent, she clearly is not going to become President. However, she certainly has the ability to take enough votes away from Hillary to stop her becoming President. This would somewhat mirror what occurred during the 2000 Presidential Election, where Green Party candidate Ralph Nader took just enough votes in Florida away from Democratic candidate Al Gore to hand the Presidency to Republican candidate George W. Bush.
Given the danger of a similar thing happening to Hillary, you would have thought that she would choose a candidate from the left side of the party in order to guard against this. However, she instead selected a Democrat from a Southern state, probably in an attempt to sweep up some of the traditional Republican vote who are unimpressed by Trump. In addition, Kaine is a fluent Spanish speaker and so Clinton will hope that this will help the campaign capitalise upon Trump’s anti-Hispanic rhetoric. However, although the Trump campaign has been divisive amongst Republicans, it seems that even though Republicans are not united in their choice of candidate, they are united in their hatred of Hillary. You only had to see the massed ranks of Republicans with placards reading ‘Hillary for Prison 2016’ as well as the chants of ‘Lock her up’ during the Republican Party Convention in Cleveland, to see that it seems unlikely that Hillary will be able to gain the votes of many lapsed Republicans during the Presidential election. Instead, she should have focused her strategy upon appeasing the growing left-wing element in the Democratic Party and ensuring that these people turn out to vote for her.
Whilst Hillary Clinton’s selection of Tim Kaine as her running mate could be considered a ‘safe’ choice in some respects — Kaine is tested at every level of public office, he is a solidly Democratic politician who has the ability to be elected in Southern states, and he is a good public speaker — it is unlikely to be a move that excites the base of liberal support built up by the Sanders campaign. The loud booing that accompanied Bernie Sanders Philadelphia speech supporting Hillary’s campaign suggests that many of his supporters feel that by endorsing her, Sanders has sold out his principles. Given the way these people feel, it is hard to see them casting a vote for Hillary come November. Instead, they will either stay at home or vote for a third-party candidate. Both of these scenarios have the potential to be disastrous for Hillary’s campaign. In a race as close as this, turnout is king, and if the Clinton campaign cannot get a strong turnout from the young liberals who supported Sanders during the primaries, then they will lose. Equally, previous presidential elections have shown what can happen when a third-party candidate can gain a groundswell of support around the United States. Perhaps the best example of this is the independent candidacy of businessman Ross Perot in the 1992 Presidential Election. Although he failed to gain any electoral college votes, Perot won 18.9 per cent of the vote. He took votes from both sides, but his right-of-centre stance took more support from Republican candidate and incumbent President George H.W. Bush, than it did from Democratic challenger (and eventual victor) Bill Clinton. Given Bill Clinton’s experience in 1992, it seems surprising that Hillary Clinton has not chosen a VP nominee with a scenario like this in mind. Maybe she feels as though there is a little chance of a similar situation occurring. If this is the case, then she is being complacent. She is not universally popular, with some Democrats wishing for a more liberal figure as their nominee, whilst she has become a figure of hate for supporters of the Republican Party (particularly after the FBI investigation into her use of a private email server during her time as Secretary of State). In addition, Donald Trump has remained popular a lot longer than most commentators believed, and has shown no sign of losing the support he has built up thus far.
Given this set of circumstances, Hillary should be doing everything she can to unite the Democratic Party for the campaign ahead. For Hillary to have done this properly, she should have picked a ‘firebrand’ liberal as her running mate, in order to appease the ‘Bernie or Bust’ members of the Democratic Party. Although Tim Kaine is an impressive politician, he will not unite the Democratic Party in the same way that someone like Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, or even Bernie Sanders himself, may have been able to do.
Therefore, the decision to select Senator Tim Kaine as her nominee for Vice-President, is one that Hillary Clinton could come to regret come the conclusion of the Presidential Election in November.