The Johnny Cash Loving Tim Kaine–The Kenneth Surin Column

The Johnny Cash Loving Tim Kaine–The Kenneth Surin Column

Johnny Cash, singing at Folsom Prison, California. See

by Professor Kenneth Surin, Duke University

As was the case with the Republican National Convention last week, I can’t bring myself to watch its Democratic counterpart. American presidential conventions are the nearest thing to televised professional wrestling—they are fakery at the top, in the middle, and at the bottom, counterfeit in every possible way.

But in the age of “hyper-reality” (see last week’s blog) this is inevitable. Even European political conventions, so staid for decades because resolutions were actually debated and voted upon, now outbid the puke-inducing annual Eurovision song contest when it comes to saccharine contrivance.   Balloons, streamers, confetti, light shows, and celebrity appearances have taken the place of the earnest debates and votes.

Again, as a disclaimer, although 2017 will be my 30th year as a US resident, I’m not a citizen, and so can’t vote in elections.

If there is something jaw-droppingly awful about Trump the “post truth” politician– his inability to take coherent positions and not care a jot about this, his reliance on supermarket tabloids as sources of information, the visceral gusto with which he attacks his rivals (“Jeb is low energy” pretty much summed-up, and ended, the dynastic presidential aspirations of that hapless individual and the Bush family), his lascivious pawing-away at his obviously discomfited daughter on the convention stage, his bullying, his unrelenting self-centredness, and so on—all this has made him the first successful nominee of the right entirely to be disowned by its establishment.

Dubya Bush was not in sight at the RNC, nor was John McCain (hardly surprising, since the draft-dodger Trump had called him a “loser” for being a PoW in Vietnam), nor was Mitt Romney, nor were his closest rivals in the current Republican campaign, except for Ted Cruz, who attended solely in order to give Trump his middle finger of a non-endorsement.

By contrast, Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, is America’s first completely robotic politician to succeed at the highest levels. The leaden Romney almost beat her to this designation, but he was thin-skinned at vulnerable moments, and clearly lacked the metallic carapace possessed by this Clinton.

Tim Kaine jamming at the Floyd Country Store, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. See

Tim Kaine jamming at the Floyd Country Store, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. See

Sexism being the force it is; a thin-skinned woman politician would stand no chance of succeeding in a US presidential campaign– Hillary Clinton would never receive the slack given Romney for his prickly outbursts.

At the same time, while just as self-serving as Trump, Clinton, unlike him, is in no way improvisational and off-the-cuff. The email revelations about her surrogates’ attempts to undermine the campaign of Bernie Sanders shows she leaves little to chance.

Trump’s vice-presidential candidate had to be a relative nonentity– no upstaging the presidential contender this time, in a repeat performance of Palin-McCain, when a visibly aggrieved McCain was forced to play second-fiddle to the Alaskan diva as she basked in her 15 minutes of fame.

Clinton however has sought “expanded appeal” in choosing Kaine. Kaine is a Catholic staunchly against abortion (and thus may pull in some evangelicals), capable of speaking a little Spanish, a harmonica-playing neoliberal centrist unlikely to rock the Clintonite apple-cart loaded with goodies from Wall Street.

Kaine, from “purple” Virginia, is renowned for his “ability to reach across the aisle”, unlike the vinegary Clinton. Virginia Republicans have always said they could “work with him”. Kaine is clearly on Clinton’s ticket because of his appeal to moderate Republicans and independent voters who have no stomach for Trump (and who yet remain suspicious of the visibly corrupt and freeloading Clinton).

The sole factor uniting the divided Republicans at this point is animus against Clinton.

By choosing the seemingly down-to earth and affable Kaine– who shows-up regularly in blue jeans with his harmonica to bluegrass and country music jams in the Appalachians, to be her running mate– Clinton effectively is saying to voters that he is someone, “Republican lite” like her, they should prefer to Trump. After all, on the face of it, the former missionary Kaine has the credentials of an angel compared to shady Donald and devious Hillary.

Without saying this aloud, Kaine thus provides an alibi of sorts for Clinton who, sexual adventurism aside (Bill is known to take care of that side of the family business), matches Trump step for step in the dirty linen stakes.

The email leaks of how the Democratic Party machine, controlled by Bill and her, set out to destroy the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, exceeds anything Trump could have done to his Republican rivals. Her surrogates are now blaming Putin for the leaked emails, which may be akin to David Cameron blaming Putin for Brexit……

Kaine’s choirboy and missionary background is going to have to do a huge amount of obfuscatory PR work on behalf of his boss! He’s essentially there to provide a patina of moral symbolism (“Mr Decent Guy”, etc.) for her, and in so doing highlight her Republican opponent’s shortcomings.

Apparently Kaine’s favourite harmonica solo is Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues”, an odd choice perhaps for a politician unwaveringly on the side of the plutocracy, and who signed-off on executions when governor of Virginia, even though he said he was “personally opposed” to the death penalty.

But we live in postmodern times, so no one should bet against Tim pulling out his harmonica and serenading Hillary with this song when the DNC ends in Philadelphia in a few days!