Hillary has chosen Virginia Senator Tim Kaine as her running mate. One of the things you’ll hear over and over about Kaine is that he’s a nice guy. You hear that about Donald’s running mate Mike Pence, too–but the difference is that Kaine is actually a nice guy, while Pence just plays one on TV.
Hillary has oft said that she believes politics needs more love and kindness, and that she’s trying to run a campaign that centers both. So it makes perfect sense to me that she’d choose as her running mate a man whom I’ve read described as a nice guy in a dozen or more articles in the past few days.
(I’ll also note that competence has been central to her campaign as well, so it’s also unsurprising that the rollout of her running mate was handled with both care and dignity, unlike Donald’s humiliation of his finalists.)
Kaine, I’ve read, is “vanilla nice“–he’s “humble-but-sturdy” and “squeaky-clean.” A “steady hand” with unassailable ethics. He’s “personable but unassuming.” He charmingly burst out laughing on Meet the Press when asked about his reputation for being boring.
“I am boring,” he said with a grin. “But boring is the fastest growing demographic in this country!”
This is indeed a very likable fellow. And his record largely indicates a guy who likes and respects people he’s elected to serve: He has 100% ratings from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL; 100% rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence; 100% rating from the Human Rights Campaign; 100% rating from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; 100% rating from the American Public Health Association; and so on and so forth.
Coincidentally, I’ve also read a raft of articles about how nice Pence is reported to be. Pence is “Midwestern polite.” He’s “likable.” He knows how to be “both kind and ruthless.” Heck, even Indiana Democrats like Mike Pence!
“In person he’s very amiable, he’s really friendly and engaged,” said Ann DeLaney, a former chair of the state Democratic Party and the legislative director for former Gov. Evan Bayh. DeLaney, who was an occasional guest on Pence’s radio show in the 1990s, said Pence’s personal and political political positions struck her as an “odd dichotomy.”
That’s a very polite way of saying that Pence is kind to people in person, but things get a little dicier when he’s, say, making the decision to erode the rights of entire groups of people with the mere stroke of his pen.
Then, Pence isn’t so much “nice” as “cruel and unapologetic.”
I was born in Indiana, and I’ve lived in Indiana most of my life. And I can assure you that Hoosier Hospitality is a real thing. Hoosiers are, as a rule, incredibly nice and generous. Many of them will even give you the shirts right off their backs as they call you a slur directly to your face.
I’m being facetious–but only slightly. The thing about being “nice” is that it’s not really the same thing as being decent, or empathetic, or compassionate. “Niceness,” and its cousin “civility,” are used to cover a whole raft of sins.
Like being the kind of guy who will take away people’s rights, but doing it with a smile on his face.
I don’t personally know either of these men. All I have by which to assess them is their records. I hear that both of them are nice, but only one of their records looks like one that seems to represent a legislator who cares about marginalized people. People like me.
If Hillary chose Tim Kaine, in part or in whole, because he’s a “nice guy,” because he gets what it means to want to be someone who injects more love and kindness into politics, I’m on board. I’ll take all the love and kindness I can get.