Friday, July 29, 2016

And now for the campaign's grind phase: Why Kaine?

When Hillary Clinton named Tim Kaine to be her Veep, my friends mostly wondered "why"? Sure, he looks to us like a pretty garden variety centrist Democratic white guy. And he is. Perhaps he is a little unusual in having experience with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Honduras, speaking Spanish, and attending a majority African-American Catholic parish. Some worry that he might be squishy on reproductive freedom, but I'm willing to trust Clinton on this one. Women's autonomy is baseline stuff for her.

But a moment's reflection shows what he is good for, beyond not pissing off anyone not already pissed off. His inclusion is a plausible outreach strategy to the only sector of the white electorate in which Clinton might be able to make gains: white Catholics.

NCR graphic
Polls usually describe Clinton as having a lead among Catholics. But that's what the numbers look like when you lump Latino Catholics with white Catholics. It is not hard to understand why Latinos intend to vote against Trump. But disaggregate the vote by race and you can see Clinton lags among white Catholics -- except those white Catholics who are most engaged with their faith. John Gehring at Religious News Service took a shot at explaining the discrepancies:
Catholic voters, who have been key to picking the winning ticket in almost every modern election, reject Trump decisively. In 2012, President Obama won the overall Catholic vote 50 percent to 48 percent. Hillary Clinton now leads 56 percent to 39 percent, a sizable gap unlikely to close much by November.

... Consistently reliable Republicans who attend Mass weekly supported Mitt Romney four years ago by 15 percentage points. Clinton is winning this critical slice of the Catholic electorate by a whopping 19 points. The Republican ticket also usually performs well with white Catholic voters, who supported Romney by 9 points, 53 percent to 44 percent. Clinton has halved that gap, trailing Trump by only a few percentage points, 50 percent to 46 percent.

... When Trump calls for a religious test for Muslims entering the country; questions the faith of Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Mitt Romney; and demonizes undocumented immigrants as “rapists,” it’s a reminder of the ugly nativism that Catholics once faced.

... Most politicians are smart enough not to tussle with a pope. Trump is the exception to that rule. He clashed with Pope Francis during the pope’s visit to the U.S.-Mexico border in February, blasting the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world as “disgraceful” and a “political pawn” of Mexico.

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian,” Pope Francis said in response to a reporter’s questions about Trump’s plan for a massive border wall.
Clinton has room to grow her support among the white Catholic population. Few of them really vote the culture war issues -- abortion, gay marriage, gay parent adoptions -- however much conservative bishops might wish they would. Human decency counts with this group and if Kaine can reach some of these people, she'll reap another small segment of the white vote.

She needs that, as much be able to govern, as to outpoll the Donald in November.
Kaine's connection to Honduras does highlight one of Clinton's worst actions as Secretary of State: putting the United States behind a coup in 2009 in that country which has, predictably, left workers and peasants at the mercy of oligarchic and corporate exploiters. Honduran indigenous activists hold their coup government responsible for 100s of killings, including the assassination of environmentalist Berta Cáceres last winter. Her daughter, Laura Zuñiga Cáceres, joined protesters outside both conventions.

Will Tim Kaine use whatever influence a Vice President has for justice in Honduras?

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