Obama Caint Choose Kaine

by Gloria Feldt on August 17th, 2008
in Election Watch and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In Texas where I come from, “caint” is a perfectly good word. If it’s not already in the dictionary, it should be.

Definition: what someone must not do, as in “Barack Obama caint choose Virginia’s anti-choice Gov. Tim Kaine as his running mate.”

Think about it. If Obama had won vastly more popular votes than Clinton, he might have more leeway in his vice presidential choice while still hoping to keep progressive women who form the core of Clinton supporters.  But he didn’t. Clinton and Obama were nearly even in the aggregate primary votes.

If August 26, the first full day of the Democratic National Convention, were not the anniversary of women’s suffrage, and if August 28—the night Obama will accept the nomination–not the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the symbolic significance of women’s right to reproductive self-determination within the larger struggle for gender equality and civil rights for all Americans, might not be quite so sharply highlighted.

And were women—especially prochoice women—not around 60% of the Democratic voter base, had Hillary not won the majority of those women, and were women voters not so likely to be the pivotal voters who can turn the race in swing states, then perhaps Obama could consider the slap-in-the-face choice of Kaine, an early Obama endorser, as his running mate with less risk to his political future.

But it is astonishing, if not downright insulting, that Kaine’s name is even floated for the vice presidential slot, let alone being seriously considered. While the relative importance of the vice presidency has been called “not worth a bucket of warm spit”, or perhaps some other bodily fluid, still, whoever is wearing those shoes is significant. He or she is still the proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency. Recent presidents have utilized the skills of their second-in-commands increasingly—Dick Cheney and Al Gore being examples. And the vice presidential choice delivers a strong message about the president’s own priorities.

Will the Democrats make the devastating strategic mistake of believing they must put the bulk of their efforts into wooing more conservative white men while taking women for granted, as they did in 2000 and 2004? If that’s what they are thinking, then Hillary Clinton is the best vice presidential candidate hands down, based on her vote-getting performance from both of those groups during the primaries.

Do the Democrats want a popular Democratic governor of a “red” state, someone who’s successfully moved a progressive agenda despite a conservative Republican legislature? Then they’d be better off choosing Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sibelius or Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona .

But mostly, Obama should not choose Kaine because Kaine opposes a woman’s most fundamental human right to decide her own destiny by making her own childbearing decisions.  Kaine opposes a long-standing central tenet of the Democratic party platform; in fact, the platform committee just adopted its strongest pro-choice language yet. I mean, how do the Democrats think they attracted all those women they are now taking for granted in the first place?

Kaine’s statement that abortion shouldn’t be criminalized, as in this Meet the Press interview is a step in the right direction, but not nearly sufficient. Women are too close to losing reproductive justice overall, as illustrated by the Bush administration’s move to redefine contraception as abortion.  We’re not talking a minor policy issue over which there can be legitimate disputes. As Linda Hirshman wrote so compellingly in Slate, we need to consider the value of a woman’s life.

No, Obama caint choose Kaine. A woman’s right to her own life stands too close to the abyss. Obama must choose a running mate with a full-hearted belief that women are equal citizens with moral and legal autonomy over their own bodies.  Someone who, like Obama, supports the Freedom of Choice Act guaranteeing women the right to make childbearing decisions without fearing government discrimination or criminalization would be just the ticket.

Gloria Feldt is the author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. Buy the book here. Engage Gloria for a Speech or Workshop. Tweet @GloriaFeldt and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ Gloria is the co-founder (with Amy Litzenberger) of Take the Lead, a new initiative to prepare and propel women to leadership parity by 2025. Find them @takeleadwomen and on Facebook.

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