Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Triangulators gonna triangulate

Here's the quick and boring take on the Tim Kaine for VP pick just in case you haven't read some version of this all over the internet. Hillary's plan is to win by peeling off anti-Trump white Republicans. The Clinton campaign is following a version of the strategy the Bill Clinton campaign won with in 1992 and has basically been the Democrats' trademark throughout the post-Watergate years.  Even the seemingly bizarre context introduced by Donald Trump, they're sticking to the old school plan.  The Kaine pick is part of that strategy. Like any VP choice, it isn't an especially important part of it. But it does embody the larger plan to a significant degree. When pundits write that Kaine is a "safe" choice, though, what they mean is that he's not necessarily hated by white conservatives.

In particular, Kaine should appeal to the sort of white conservatives the Trump GOP may have alienated. On trade, for example
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) reportedly told Hillary Clinton he would oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership before she selected him as her running mate – but as recently as Thursday, the Virginia senator was praising the massive trade deal.

The Huffington Post reported Friday night that Kaine told Clinton he would oppose the trade deal between the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. According to the report, Kaine said he agreed with Clinton — who had helped negotiate the trade deal as secretary of state but now opposes as the Democratic presidential nominee — that the TPP did not meet certain standards on wages and national security.
Kaine may be "evolving" his position on TPP now that he's the veep nom, but that's just textbook Clinton-speak. There's deniability now but the latent signal to global capitalists is that this guy is really one of them.  Hence this similar message to the financial lobby.
WASHINGTON ― Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is on Hillary Clinton’s short list of potential vice presidential nominees. He’s also actively pushing bank deregulation this week as he campaigns for the job.

Kaine signed two letters on Monday urging federal regulators to go easy on banks ― one to help big banks dodge risk management rules, and another to help small banks avoid consumer protection standards.
Meanwhile he's also "evolved" a fairly safe position on abortion over the course of his career emphasizing "faith-based" pro-life leanings which informed some of his actions as a governor, but later racking up a Senate voting record that scores highly with Planned Parenthood and NARAL. In any case, the only bearing this election has at all on abortion will be via the winner's Supreme Court nominations. And that doesn't have anything to do with Tim Kaine. Very little of the next administration's policy direction does. Again, this is all about signaling to specifically targeted portions of the electorate.

All of this, as we said, is textbook Clinton stuff. And they think their stuff applies to this year's electorate as well as it has to any. The expectation this year is, with two unpopular candidates facing off, and with a disappointed liberal base not turning out in huge numbers, the votes in play are the chronic voters among Independents and Republicans who are looking for excuses not to vote for Trump. They might be right about that and their play might work. But it also might not not.

There are two obvious caveats. First, none of the cynical conventional politics that usually work have worked against Trump during the primary. (Everything we knew about politics turned out to be wrong, there.)  I, somewhat hesitantly, don't think that phenomenon will be quite as evident in the general election. But I am worried about a second caveat which is, it's quite possible white conservatives will never vote for Hillary Clinton under any circumstances. If so, that blows the whole thing out of the water.

In which case, Hillary would have been better served to do something to pick up the spirits of a demoralized progressive base.  It's hard to say what that could have been at this point.  Hillary herself is such a well known and distrusted figure to the left by now that she doesn't "Etch-a-Sketch" easily.  A more progressive VP choice, like Elizabeth Warren, for example, would have been one way to try. Although, Hillary's detractors may be too sophisticated (or just entrenched in their opposition) to buy into something like that.

Her supporters, on the other hand, are freaking Pod People. After the (intentionally "boring") Kaine pick was announced, the #ImWithHer corners of the internet erupted in shouts of completely inappropriate and disproportionate glee. It was one of the stranger things I've seen during this very strange cycle. It was a relief to find I wasn't alone in observing this. The best reaction came from Corey Robin
Christ on a stick, this is what I didn’t count on with the Kaine pick as VP.

The problem isn’t the pick itself: it is what it is (see #2 below). The problem is the ejaculations of joy it prompts among the pundit class and the Twitterati, who now have to sell it to us as the greatest choice of a second since Moses appointed Aaron.

And not because the pundits are on the Clinton payroll: I’d have a lot more respect for them if they were.

No, they do this shit for free. Out of love. Rapture. And bliss.
Some days I feel like we're living in a bad sci-fi movie where all of our friends and neighbors have been replaced by marketing droids. It's just not conceivable that the bots expressing such elation over Tim Kaine actually believe what they're saying unless they don't actually understand how feelings work in the first place.

I wonder if this isn't a symptom of something even more deeply damaged in the social fabric. Like the mythos of "personal branding" in service of a burgeoning social order where everyone is incentivized to always be selling the best possible version of themselves and their preferences has left scores of us incapable of harboring or expressing critical thought.  Or maybe they're just full of shit.

After all, these are the sort of people who, when they talk how their candidate might better serve the concerns of their voters, are only talk in the most insulting marketing speak, conceiving of their constituents  as "consumers" to be "acquired."
It's precisely this sort of un-thought that puts Tim Kaine on the ticket. See what we're trying to do here is show the NeverTrumpers how safe we are. But we'd also like to shore up that Latino market segment. I know! Here's a pro-life white dude from a swing state who knows how to speak Spanish!

And that's what the "smart" folks call Triangulation.

Today the Democrats at the convention will go through the roll call process of actually nominating the candidates for the ticket. It's more or less a ceremony at this point since we know who the candidates will be.  But as of yesterday there was still an effort afoot to at least make a little mischief where it regards the VP slot.
PHILADELPHIA — Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders are moving toward a challenge of Sen. Tim Kaine’s selection as presumptive vice presidential nominee, accusing Hillary Clinton of failing to roll back “some of the worst neo-liberal policies” with her choice of running mate.

“There’s serious interest right now and exploration as we speak of a formal challenge,” Norman Solomon, a California delegate and national coordinator for the Bernie Delegates Network, said at a news conference Monday. The network represents about 1,250 of the 1,900 delegates that have pledged support for Sanders.
We'll see how far they get. Right now it looks as if the forces of "Unity" may have already shut them down.

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