Tim Kaine

image of Tim Kaine picking fruit from trees in an orchard along the campaign trail
[Photo: Michael Davidson for Hillary for America. September 1, 2016 | Dover, NH.]

I like Tim Kaine. I was an early Kaine adopter. If I'm totally honest, a big part of that is because I immediately recognized in him a particular kind of goofiness worn comfortably as a way of greeting a world that is often hard and cruel. That is a familiar posture to me. Being a person who cares hard, in a way that can crush you, if you don't balance it with silliness and cultivated joy.

I also like him for a reason that is not so intimately relatable to me, but that I nonetheless appreciate just as deeply. He models a version of manhood that is the complete opposite of that modeled by Donald Trump.

To be honest, there was a big part of me that was hoping Hillary would choose a female running mate. I was looking forward to the executive branch of the U.S. government passing the Bechdel Test for the first time.

But I understand why she chose Kaine, and I'm not disappointed. Especially as I have had time to watch him on the campaign trail and see the value of this dude—not any dude, but this dude—providing an implicit condemnation and rejection of the retrograde toxic masculinity of Trump.

Kaine is every bit as kind as Trump is cruel. His strength is not rooted in fearmongering bluster, but in optimism and an authentic regard for people and their potential.

He is not a man who foments division, but nurtures the things we all share—our hopes and dreams and desire for a better world.

He is not a man who masks deep insecurities with testosterone-fueled bragadoccio, insulting people who do not share his privileges, but walks among people he meets along the campaign trail with a quiet confidence that inspires trust, listening to them rather than shouting at them.

He is not a man who wants people to envy him because his wife is a hot piece of ass, but wants people to know he loves and respects his wife as his equal.

And he is not a man who believes you have to treat women like shit, but a man who speaks frankly about his willingness and enthusiasm about supporting a strong female candidate.

Transcript: Democratic vice-presidential nominee Tim Kaine sits at a table speaking with a Black woman and a Black man.

The woman says: "And I really respect the fact that you accepted the candidacy. Kaine says: "I'm so honored." The woman says: "And I tell you: It is going to be a historic day." Kaine says: "I said one of the reasons that I was so honored—obviously, she's super qualified and she's going to be a great president—but when she asked me, what flashed through my head is: When I think about all the strong women who have helped me, from my wife to campaign managers to volunteers to my financing, all these strong women leaders who enabled me to do what I do— If I can be a supportive VP candidate to help Hillary Clinton win—and then, you know, I've got a lot of experience, so I think I can help her govern, too—and I'll feel like, you know what? Strong men ought to support strong women, just like throughout our, you know, history—strong women supported strong men.
These are words that we will never hear from Trump. Or his running mate Mike Pence, for that matter.

Trump, with Pence at his side, is running a campaign that is making a very explicit appeal to straight white cis men who favor a very particular type of masculinity. Whose identities exist at the intersection of white nationalism and the patriarchy, which are inextricably linked, reinforcing each other in a recursive loop to uphold the dominance and privilege of white men.

Kaine, despite bearing the identity markers of the men to whom Trump is primarily appealing, does not share their interest in fiercely protecting a toxic masculinity which is harmful to women, and to men, and to nonbinary folks. His rejection of these patriarchal traditions, no less in support of a female candidate at the top of the ticket, is an important model, at an important juncture in the nation's history.

And I think he's very aware of that.

* * *

To insert the requisite caveat: I do not think Tim Kaine is a perfect candidate. For instance: I want him to move left on Hyde (and I believe that Hillary Clinton will persuade him, not just because she is persuasive, but because he has shown himself to be persuadable). But I like him a lot. And I trust him. I trust him most of all to listen, even and especially to women, which gives me a lot of optimism that he will become an even better candidate, the more voices he hears.

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