Let's celebrate principle no matter where we find it
A few election cycles ago, a politician I greatly admired was tapped as running mate for a nominee I did not so greatly admire. What followed was a classic example of what is commonly known as the Waffle.
Prior to accepting the vice-presidential nomination, Mr. Waffle met with the presumptive nominee to discuss their respective positions and differences, of which there were more than a few. The future vice-presidential candidate emerged from the meeting and announced to the press that, after a 45 minute-long meeting, he had been convinced to reverse his position on all points of disagreement and now, wholeheartedly, supported the nominee's entire platform.
I'll take my Waffle with syrup, please.
At the time, I wasn't sure what was more disheartening: that a man I admired could so easily abandon his own convictions, or that he and his team believed it would be politically advantageous to do so. In either case, it was a sad day for integrity.
That's why I have to tip my hat to Tim Kaine for standing on principle --- as incongruous as it may be to use the word “principle” in the same time zone as any mention of Hillary Clinton.
NEITHER HYDE NOR HAIR
As of Monday morning, Senator Kaine was holding firm in his support of the Hyde Amendment, which bars taxpayer funds from paying for abortions. Needless to say, neither the Clinton camp nor abortion activists are happy.
Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue expressed her hope that the senator “will continue to educate himself” on the issue, as if ignorance is the only conceivable explanation for believing that the government should not sponsor abortions.
Not surprisingly, critics have attacked Tim Kaine from both sides, asserting that he is either compromising his values by joining the ticket with Mrs. Clinton or betraying Ms. Clinton by not disavowing his support for Hyde.
Apparently, popular wisdom has decreed that if you don't agree with others on everything then you can't agree with them on anything.
Which, of course, is pure nonsense.
By the time this sees print, it's quite possible that the senator will have recanted under pressure. But as of this writing, Mr. Kaine seems to understand what should be obvious: that principled people can disagree, that two people rarely agree on everything, and that a person can in good conscience join forces with a candidate whom he sincerely believes will lead the country in the right direction despite the occasional difference of opinion.
Even if Mr. Kaine has to subjugate his own personal predispositions regarding one issue, he can still be a good soldier and follow orders if he genuinely believes that a Clinton presidency will serve the greater good.
In fact, such a partnership could prove beneficial. The groupthink that characterizes our political clubs today demands such zombie-like conformity of thought that it's refreshing to witness a little healthy dissention. When members of a group are able to debate issues without fear of censure by an ideologically repressive majority, when they are free to suggest perspectives that may be out of lockstep with the party line, then there is opportunity for real problem-solving, real progress, and -- dare I say it -- real hope and change.
GREATER THAN THE SUM OF OUR PART
It's been done before.
In her book Team of Rivals, Pulitzer Prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin describes how Abraham Lincoln brought all three primary rivals into his cabinet after winning the presidency. By forging an alliance with New York Senator William H. Seward, Ohio Governor Salmon P. Chase, and former Missouri Attorney General Edward Bates, Lincoln solidified a fractured party and laid the foundation for successfully meeting the dire challenges to come.
Indeed, one of the most persistent criticisms leveled against Barack Obama is that he surrounds himself with acolytes who insulate him from the real world and only tell him what he wants to hear. That the Democratic party is able to tolerate an alliance possessing even a whiff of multiformity may be the most hopeful news of the entire election cycle so far.
So let's hear at least one cheer for Tim Kaine and his willingness to hold firm on something. And maybe half-a-cheer for Hillary Clinton for allowing a whisper of dissension to survive among her ranks.
All that being said, I know what you're thinking: does this mean I'm voting for Clinton-Kaine?
When pigs fly.
But if we can acknowledge when our adversaries get it right, then we can earn more credibility when we point out where they get it wrong. When that happens, perhaps we can begin to have more genuine political discourse and less political diatribe, which would be a welcome change and a desperately needed step forward.