Analysis The Center Can Hold

In Picking Kaine, Clinton Emphasizes Competence

The Democrat distinguishes herself from Donald Trump by promising intelligent, steady leadership.

There has been a lot of good analysis of Hillary Clinton’s choice for vice president, Tim Kaine.

Read Jonathan Bernstein’s take at Bloomberg View, for example, or Domenico Montanaro’s for NPR, or Jeff Greenfield’s for Politico.

They all argue that Kaine is a little boring, a safe pair of hands, white, male, centrist, Spanish-speaking. Not somebody who will shake up the race, but someone who can do the job.

I argued last year, when a commentator accused Britain’s then-prime minister, David Cameron, of feebleness, that I’d take boring over exciting in politics any day. I’d rather be governed by the David Camerons and the Angela Merkels of the world than the Nigel Farages and the Donald Trumps.


I don’t remember where (apologies to the author!), but somebody argued recently that she can roughly make two arguments:

  1. Either she agrees with Donald Trump that these are rotten times and that’s exactly why Americans should trust her, a steady hand, to govern.
  2. Or she can say that, after eight years of Barack Obama, things are actually improving and America needs to keep at it.

With these themes have in common is competence.

Clinton might try to have it both ways and that could be a challenge. It’s hard to argue the world is better than it was eight years ago but still bleak. Picking Kaine, a former mayor, governor and Democratic National Committee chair, suggests she is leaning in a more optimistic direction.

Lynda Tran, a Democratic strategist and former top Kaine aide, told Politico the now-senator is renowned for his optimism.

“I’ve heard him described as a happy warrior on more than one occasion,” she said, “and I think that’s an apt description.”


Americans could use a little optimism.

No doubt there are problems, but they’re not living in the dystopia Donald Trump imagines.

It’s not the 1930s.

It’s not even 1968.

What America needs is not a radical shakeup but serious and smart politicians who can make things better. Clinton and Kaine are those type of politicians.