Tim Kaine has been consistently ranked as one of the least progressive Democrats in the U.S. Senate. Adding him to the Hillary Clinton ticket would be a kick in the face to Bernie Sanders supporters holding out hopeless hope for some sign of democracy within the Democratic Party.
Kaine was an anti-environmentalist pro-coal governor of Virginia, a supporter of the “right to work” (for less) law restricting union organizing in Virginia, and he is a supporter of corporate trade agreements including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and including fast-tracking the TPP. An extremely loyal Democrat, he nonetheless criticized Democrats in 2011 for proposing higher taxes on millionaires.
Kaine is the anti-Bernie Sanders on policy and on process. He takes his direction from those in power, not from the public. In a poll of over 250 Sanders delegates to the Democratic National Convention (by the Bernie Delegate Network), only 2.7% of them said they thought Kaine would be an acceptable vice presidential nominee.
The bulk of what the U.S. government does, financially and in terms of work hours, is wage wars and move troops and weapons around the world. That whole topic, and even the existence of 96% of humanity, is largely absent from election campaigns. Yet war may be the one spot where people hunt for something more progressive than Hillary Clinton in Kaine’s record.
Kaine supported a nuclear agreement with Iran, a diplomatic breakthrough arguably made possible by the departure of supreme militarist Clinton from the State Department. But Kaine backed President Barack Obama on that, as on everything else. To imagine that Kaine has challenged presidential war powers is to misread another part of his record.
Together with Senator John McCain, Kaine introduced the War Powers Consultation Act of 2014, which some falsely imagined to be a bill to strengthen Congressional war powers. It was not. The Constitution gives the power to declare war to Congress. The War Powers Resolution requires a president who launches a war on his/her own to notify Congress within 48 hours and to end it within 60 days unless Congress authorizes it. The McCain/Kaine bill would repeal the War Powers Resolution, turn Congress into a toothless consulting firm, and arrange for a vote without consequences on “approval” of each war within 30 days of its start. Only if Congress voted down “approval” would it vote on “disapproval.” And if it passed “disapproval,” nothing would follow from that. This amounts to nothing less than unconstitutionally bestowing the power to make war on the president.
The idea behind this “reform” is to take a Congress fully committed to allowing and funding every war, and compel it to also formally express its approval, thus strengthening the president’s position. Kaine has thus pushed for a Congressional vote, a Yes vote, on authorizing a war on ISIS. He’s expressed his view that President Obama lacks authorization. But Kaine has not put a hold on funding bills, has not forced a vote under the War Powers Resolution, has not introduced legislation to deny funding, has not introduced censure or suggested impeachment. He does not object to Obama’s wars, he just wants Congress to clearly and publicly back them, so that the president is not the only one sticking his neck out.
Kaine has proposed authorizing air strikes but not ground troops, or at least he did before there were so many ground troops involved. And he’s expressed awareness that some measures can be counterproductive. But his top commitment, followed most consistently, has been loyalty to the Obama White House. A shift to loyal obedience to a Clinton White House would not require much of Tim Kaine. He might have a few more wars to urge Congress to support, but it seems unlikely Kaine would deem that much of an inconvenience.