Sanders backers revolt against Kaine – Politico
PHILADELPHIA — Tim Kaine has a Bernie Sanders problem.
The beloved-but-defeated presidential candidate has given only a lukewarm endorsement to Hillary Clinton’s running mate — Kaine didn’t even get a mention in Sanders’ Monday night address to the Democratic National Convention — and the Vermont senator’s fervent supporters are getting the message.
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From delegation hotels to the cavernous downtown convention center, Sanders’ backers are expressing outrage over someone who in a matter of just five days has gone from being largely unknown outside the Washington, D.C., area to potentially next in line for running the country.
Several Bernie backers say they’re so upset with Clinton’s pick that they’re prepared to cause a scene Wednesday night inside the Wells Fargo Center when Kaine gives his prime-time address, accepting the vice presidential nomination. Others warn of more lasting damage to the Clinton-led ticket in the form of weak turnout in the November battleground states, even with Donald Trump on the other side of the ballot.
“It’s a form of Hillary Clinton saying to the Bernie Sanders constituency, ‘Screw you,’ because we think we have enough of you,” said Norman Solomon, the Marin County, California-based leader of an informal group of Sanders delegates known as the Bernie Delegates Network.
Kaine’s Wednesday morning travels around Philadelphia included a visit to a breakfast hosted by his home state Virginia delegation, where he donned his attack dog hat in slamming Trump’s record on taxes and veterans. He also visited swing state party faithful from Florida and Iowa, where his remarks were more of an introduction. While there were no jeers or boos of Clinton’s top surrogate, the delegates streaming out of the rooms said the lack of catcalls doesn’t mask the deeper challenge Kaine faces in winning over the Sanders’ faithful.
“The selection of that particular vice president was a mistake,” said Marcos Rubinstein, a Sanders delegate from Dubuque, Iowa, who serves on the DNC’s Platform Committee. “He’s not exactly the person that could represent the hopes and aspirations of the base in the Democratic Party in Iowa and of the grass-roots that is loosely organized and could have been voting in mass.”
“I’m not asking to have Bernie as a VP, but I’m surprised that, having other options, they chose him,” he added.
Sanders delegates interviewed this week listed among their preferred VP choices former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator who in an interview published Wednesday by ABC dodged the question of whether Kaine was the “right pick” for the ticket.
Several also admitted they’re only now becoming schooled on the Virginian’s long record, which has taken him from Richmond City Hall to the governor’s mansion and now a single term in the Senate. They say they aren’t buying what they read in news reports from the mainstream media, which suggest Kaine is actually a liberal, by Virginia standards. And they see Kaine’s self-described “boring” label as something less than an asset in the general election.
“The overall picture was underwhelming,” said Jill Yordy, a Sanders delegate from Fairbanks who helped lead his Alaska campaign. “With as much excitement and enthusiasm and passion that’s been brought to the Democratic process through the primary, and I think a lot of that is from Bernie Sanders, I’d have expected a more dynamic choice to be picked if they really wanted to keep voters engaged.”
These Sanders supporters are uneasy with Kaine’s past support for everything from offshore drilling to the Trans-Pacific Partnership or his complicated stance as a personally pro-life Catholic who has governed from a pro-choice position.
“I hear the counter arguments that such and such pro-abortion committee or whoever says that Tim Kaine is good and he’s checked off all the marks from his voting record. But yet you look at it, and he has, but he’s compromised,” said Katrina Bergstrom, a Los Angeles-based attorney and Sanders delegate serving on California Rules Committee. “When it comes down to it, and you look at the actual facts, he’s not enough of a progressive candidate for us.”
Kaine’s lack of popularity with the Sanders crowd is also evident in a recent survey released by the Bernie Delegates Network, showing nearly 90 percent of 285 respondents listed his selection as VP nominee as “not acceptable.” The survey, which cites Kaine’s positions on coal, labor and trade issues, found just eight people answered that Kaine would be an “acceptable” pick.
Kaine in recent days has tried to give liberals reason to back him. Bashed by the left on the eve of his selection for opposing financial regulations, Kaine now says he wants Wall Street to pay its fair share of taxes.He came out against the TPP deal even though, throughout the year, he has generally praised the agreement. And on Tuesday, Bloomberg reported the senator had personally told Clinton he would support repealing the Hyde Amendment that bans use of federal money for abortion services.
But those kinds of rapid shifts aren’t the kinds of things that can break through with a Sanders contingent that wants much deeper changes inside the Democratic Party and sees the addition of a centrist to the ticket as yet another gut punch.
Denise Groves, a Sanders delegate from York Beach, Maine, said the addition of Kaine to the ticket undercut some of the policy victories that the Vermont senator’s supporters were able to notch during the writing of the party platform.
“Platform shmat-form. It’s non-binding,” she said. “It was a bone that they tossed us and then turned around and spit in our face with Tim Kaine as our VP, a corporatist, anti-gay, anti-abortion, doesn’t want to break up the banks, supports the TPP. I’ve got problems with all of those things.”
Many have a list of grievances with the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign that just keeps on growing. They’re frustrated that Democratic officials earlier this week stalled them from filing the necessary paperwork to push an alternative vice presidential candidate. They’re upset about the hacked DNC emails that led to Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s ouster. And then comes Kaine, who was spotted just before Bill Clinton’s speech Tuesday making the rounds of the two arena suites reserved for the very small handful of Clinton’s biggest fundraisers.
“It doesn’t surprise me. It makes me kind of sad,” Yordy said after hearing about Kaine’s visit with the Democratic donors.
Sanders’ supporters have been registering their complaints throughout the DNC with boos on the arena floor and even staging a walkout following Tuesday’s roll call vote when Clinton secured the nomination. Now comes another opportunity Wednesday night with Kaine.
“I’m sure that there will be something,” Bergstrom said, “that will at least give the world a sense of where we stand on how we feel with Tim Kaine’s nomination.”
Gabriel Debenedetti and Daniel Strauss contributed to this report.