Before he brought Sen. Tim Kaine, the Democratic nominee for vice president, to the stage for the National Urban League’s morning plenary on Aug. 4, League President Marc Morial announced the Donald Trump campaign decided not to attend the group’s convention without explanation. And it is unclear whether the Trump campaign even ever gave an official response to the League’s invitation. Not really a breaking news story.
Meanwhile, a video produced by The New York Times called, “Unfiltered Voices from Trump’s Crowd” has been making the rounds on the Internet since it was released Aug. 3. The excerpts taken from Trump’s raucous (and sometimes violent) rallies include a man saying, “F*** that nigger,” when President Obama’s name is mentioned by Trump. Another man says, “Hang the b****,” when Hillary Clinton’s name is uttered by Trump. And these aren’t isolated incidents; this is simply par for the course at Trump events (although some suggest Trump supporters have become even more seemingly unhinged in recent days in the wake of Trump’s feud with the Khan family).
Yet, as the Trump campaign continued to spiral downward (Clinton has opened a significant lead over Trump in the vast majority of recent polls), Kaine was in Baltimore at the Urban League convention, which Trump snubbed, placidly playing the role of the benevolent attack dog for the Clinton campaign.
“The stakes in this election are just too high for too many people,” Kaine said, before beginning to methodically reinforce one of the most stark distinctions (and maybe most relevant to those at the Urban League convention) between Clinton/Kaine and Trump/Pence on the issue of race relations.
Kaine talked about his first client as a young lawyer in Richmond, Va., in the 1980s, a young Black woman he referred to as Lorraine, who was the victim of blatant housing discrimination when she attempted to rent an apartment. Kaine said he filed a fair housing lawsuit on her behalf and won. He subsequently filed dozens of fair housing lawsuits against individuals and entities in and around Richmond, which became his specialty over a 17-year legal career.
Kaine went further, bringing his wife Anne Holton into the narrative, specifically citing when she was the young daughter of Linwood Harrison, the Republican governor of Virginia, who desegregated schools in the state in the early 1970s. And Harrison didn’t simply enforce desegregation from a distance, he entered his children, including Anne, into nearly all-Black public schools in Richmond.
Kaine juxtaposed his wife’s family’s actions in the early ‘70s with the Trump family’s during the same time period. Kaine explained to the audience at the Urban League Convention that the U.S. Department of Justice was suing Trump and his father Fred in 1973 for operating 39 properties and implementing discriminatory renting practices, specifically against Blacks.
“If Hillary wins and if I win this fall…these are the values that will inform everything I do,” Kaine said.
Then he ticked off the Clinton/Kaine laundry list crafted for the urban/Black/female agenda: investing in Black businesses (especially Black women businesses), addressing inequities in education, rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, college affordability and criminal justice reform.
During Kaine’s speech, a Baltimore political operative asked me what I thought of his performance, to which I replied, he’s doing fine, right down the middle, hitting all the marks.
During the campaign to win the White House this is Kaine’s primary role: to lay out the case against Trump/Pence with lawyerly precision. If she wasn’t running against Trump, Clinton would be the most polarizing, least popular presidential candidate perhaps in history. Alternately, everybody at least “likes” Tim Kaine, the guy with the working class, Midwest roots, who interrupted his law studies to do missionary work in Honduras. Kaine is to Clinton what Joe Biden is to President Obama—the guy you send into the fray, any fray, and it’s hard to lay a glove on him.
As Kaine’s speech came to an end, his mission seemingly accomplished, he hit his final mark, “Love trumps hate.”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of AFRO’S First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.