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Sour Notes and Sweet

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Tim Kaine

I listened to Tim Kaine speak last night and he’s surprisingly good. I think the critics who say he’s too middle of the road, to ordinary, too plain vanilla, and will bring little or nothing to Hillary’s campaign are wrong. He’s an inspired choice. His optimistic and humorous style humanizes the Democratic nominee in a way all her efforts have been unable to achieve to date. He strikes the right upbeat notes to drown out the sourness and anger Trump has been channeling.

Personally, I think the Democratic platform is awful and that Hillary’s lurch to the left is a danger to our country policy wise. But her new running mate may well change the betting on this race because he does something for her she can’t do for herself. Trump’s anger and vitriol have, until now, made him a force to be reckoned with in the 2016 race and Hillary has been unable to hit back in a way that effectively de-fangs the Trumpian beast. But Kaine, if his opening speech with a smiling and enthusiastically nodding Clinton beside him before a college crowd in Florida is any measure, appears to have something that can do that.

With Trump carrying the GOP banner Republicans like me, who are now reviled as mere “RINOs” by too many of our former Republican colleagues who have taken the plunge for Trump, no longer feel as if we have a dog in this fight. But Trump needs nearly all of us Republicans as well as a significant number of independents and maybe even some breakaway Democrats to have a chance at taking the White House. Yet winning Republicans like me over now seems out of the question for him, given his continued johnny-one-note performance as reviler in chief. The old GOP conservative coalition looks like it’s dead. Trump’s supporters have killed it.

What really turned my stomach at the Cleveland GOP convention, orchestrated and presided over by The Donald, of course, was the bitter chanting of phrases like “lock her up” directed at the presumptive Democratic nominee. We are NOT a banana republic, not yet anyway, where you imprison your opposition or aim to jail them when you win. The tone and message of that refrain was mean-spirited in a way that runs counter to modern American political sensibilities. Republican anger has now risen to such a fever pitch under Trump’s persistent ragging that it looks like the party, itself, has gone off the deep end, becoming a collection of grim, bitter people with nothing better to do with their time than seek to destroy the other side. I don’t like it when the left does that and I sure don’t like it when my side does! I’m betting many Republicans feel this way, despite the mad rush to clamber aboard the Trumpline Special as it chugs its way out of Cleveland and into the general election this Fall.

In sum, I came away from the GOP convention appalled at the mindless manipulation of the delegates which Trump so obviously arranged. He kept showing up, too, when a little discretionary time out of the limelight, to give others center stage,  would have seemed in order for any normal soul among us. Nominees usually wait in the wings, in fact, until the job of the delegates is done. But that’s not how Trump played it. He had to own the whole show from the get-go, periodically emerging from the wings, sometimes in a cloud of mysterious looking mist reminiscent of the entry accorded WWF wrestling titans as fans excitedly holler and cheer to booming music. Trump, the inveterate showman and craver of attention that he is,  just couldn’t help himself as he persistently stole the spotlight from various speakers. It was nothing if not the Trump Show.

And Republicans excitedly joined in, creating our own reality TV political convention, making this Great Man and erstwhile  WWF entrepreneur our new “hero.” But the worst of it, the truly worst, were the catcalls, the jeers and the enthusiastic shouting when Chris Christie, revealing his inner prosecutor, worked the delegates into a baying pack of frothing dogs howling for Clinton’s blood.

This is not the stuff of modern American politics. It reeks of something much, much worse yet Republicans, thanks to Trump and his minions, have now given themselves up to this mindless hatred and angry bitterness. Tim Kaine looks like he may have the antidote for that though, to the consternation of those of us on the right who had hoped for a different outcome in 2016. Trump’s already sought to brand the smiling, sunny Kaine with one of his now infamous negative knick names, adding “Corrupt Kaine” to his endlessly intoned “Crooked Hillary,” and earlier efforts like “Lyin’ Ted” and “Little Marco.” But “Corrupt Kaine”? It lacks the flair his earlier efforts had and, given its provenance (certain emoluments which were, in fact, not illegal under Virginia law), it also lacks resonance. Moreover, this whole Trumpian gambit is starting to wear thin. Who among us, other than diehard Trumpians still give any credence to this kind of name calling? We all pretty much know what it portends, that it’s Trump’s promotional technique for short circuiting rational thought about a candidate.

How stupid does the now official GOP presidential nominee take the rest of us to be as he substitutes his made-up names for real political discourse, hoping to ride such sleaze all the way to the White House? But Tim Kaine’s speech the other night, as he officially signed onto the Clinton campaign, suggests that he may well have the answer and may, indeed, be the one to inoculate the Democratic nominee against any further spread of this insidious Trumpian virus. Or perhaps it’s finally just losing its effect on us? Too much of a bad thing can wear just as tellingly as too much of the good.

About Stuart W. Mirsky

Stuart W. Mirsky, a former New York City official who last served as Assistant Commissioner for Operations in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene before retiring in 2002, wrote a column, "The Rockaway Irregular," for The Wave, a south Queens based weekly, for more than a decade (until Hurricane Sandy changed the equation). He is an original founder of the Rockaway Republicans, one of the most active Republican groups in southern Queens, and author of a number of books, including The King of Vinland's Saga, an historical novel of the Norse in 11th century North America, A Raft on the River, a memoir of Holocaust survival, and Choice and Action, a work of contemporary philosophy addressing the implications of relativism and nihilism for our moral beliefs.

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