Soul-Numbing Politics: Playing the Progressive Catholic Card

Frances Kissling

Progressive Catholic electoral activity is yet another example of the dangers of mixing politics and faith.

About two weeks ago I was channel surfing and happened upon
the broadcast of the Archdiocese of New York’s Annual Alfred E. Smith Dinner.
John McCain was just beginning his remarks and the camera panned the long head
table. My jaw dropped as I saw the rather bulky red and black clad figure of
Cardinal Eagan sitting next to the pro-choice Democratic candidate for
president: Barack Obama. I thought back
almost 25 years to the 1984 presidential campaign when Geraldine Ferraro was
banned from the dinner because of her pro-choice views.  I remembered the 2004 Presidential campaign in
which John Kerry’s candidacy led a few bishops to announce that pro-choice
Catholic politicians were not "fit" to receive communion.  It was impossible, they claimed, to be a
Catholic and vote in favor of legal abortion.

The Era Before Kerry

The attempt of some
bishops to apply sanctions under church law to policy makers who vote
pro-choice and the rejection of this strategy by most bishops exposed the long time Achilles heel of church
pronouncements about abortion politics. Of course, the position of the church
on the act of abortion was relatively clear: abortion was wrong in all
circumstances, objectively sinful. If certain conditions were met, the person
who procured the abortion and those who performed the procedure automatically
excommunicated themselves.  But what
about Catholics who neither had nor performed abortions, but supported of its
legality? This included people like Supreme Court Justice Brennan, Senators
Kennedy, Leahy, Mikulski; members of Congress Pelosi, de Lauro, Kucinich, and Catholics who voted these politicians into office. Were they
subject to sanctions and if so which ones?

Almost all church lawyers said "no."  Canon law was narrow and precise and the
canon related to abortion did not apply to these people. Bishops may be
frustrated by the fact that these elected officials visibly thwart the policy
agenda of the institutional church — but how Catholics vote is not genuinely
subject to excommunication or exclusion from the sacraments. Of course, the
governing system of the church is feudal; each bishop is a little prince in his
diocese and can arbitrarily break church law with impunity.

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From Mario Cuomo to John Kerry and now Nancy Pelosi and Joe
Biden, Catholic politicians have made sometimes eloquent, sometimes awkward
cases for why support for legal abortion was consistent with church teaching.
All formally said they accepted church teaching on abortion even when they did
not understand what it was or adopted a somewhat disingenuous understanding for
convenience or casuistic purposes. But they either claimed they had to protect
the right of those in other religions that did not have the same teachings to
practice their religion, or they had to uphold the constitution. Or most
recently, they explain that they believe the best way to prevent abortion is to make it less
necessary, by supporting family planning, economic benefits for women who carry
pregnancies to term and more humane adoption. 

For the most part these tactics worked. Formal sanctions
were almost never imposed. Most Catholic institutions were careful not make
trouble: they did not give honorary degrees to pro-choice Catholic policy
makers, most parishes did not invite these politicians to make speeches on
church property and pro-choice Catholic politicians did not receive awards.
Once in a while, there was an eruption that filled the newspapers. Until 2004, academics,
priests, and influential lay people hid their heads in the sand and said
nothing to defend these policy makers when such eruptions happened in the
liberal Catholic community. They had learned from the 1984 presidential
campaign, when a number of leading Catholic scholars, 24 nuns and four priests
defended Geraldine Ferraro in a full page New York Times ad, that if the church
was going to go after anyone it would go after theologians and nuns and
priests.  The nuns who signed the ad
spent two years fighting Vatican attempts to
get them kicked out of their orders. The theologians found that offers to speak
or teach at Catholic colleges dried up.

Frankly, in that time period the only defender of pro-choice
Catholic policy makers was Catholics for a Free Choice. Of course, at Catholics
for a Free Choice we were frankly and fearlessly pro-choice. And we made no
bones about the fact that we believed it was not only legitimate for Catholics
to believe that abortion should be legal, we also believed it could be and was
moral in a wide range of circumstances. We were out there both politically and
theologically. Our primary loyalty was to the women who face unintended or
unsupportable pregnancies and to supporting their right as moral agents to
decide when abortion would be morally justifiable in their situation.  Any support we could give to politicians
needed to also protect women. There was 
no way we could throw these women to the wolves by claiming that women
did not have a moral right to choose abortion but  politicians and voters had a right to choose
to vote for legal abortion. What hypocrisy that would be!

This position was too tough for most active progressive Catholics
who were working for democratic reforms within the church or for the "big"
social justice issues like peace and economic justice. Some were pro-choice,
but just thought it would compromise their other work to speak out; others were
afraid they would lose their jobs or status, some couldn’t figure out whether
they were for or against abortion and some, a minority in my opinion, were
against legal abortion. In this sense their behavior was more circumspect than
that of Catholics whose identity and work were less connected to the
institutional church. Only a third of the Catholic Members of Congress were
adamantly anti-choice and many of the strongest supporters of
choice were Catholic legislators. Anti-abortionists, for example, were outraged
that at a time when there were only five Catholic Senators, all five voted
against the initial ban on "partial birth abortion."  Later Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan changed
his position; still later, Senator Patrick Leahy changed his.

Among all Catholics, support for the overall
right of women to decide about abortion is comparable to that of non-Catholics. These Catholics are far more progressive on
abortion than the progressive Catholics leaders who maintained silence on the
abortion issue throughout most of the political firestorms and attacks by
bishops on Catholic politicians.

Progressive Catholics Outraged at Threat of Sanctions Against Kerry

The 2004 election changed that. Progressive Catholics were
outraged at the threat of sanctions against Kerry, but more disturbed that the
sanction talk may have contributed to the reelection of Bush, whose positions on
war, poverty and other social justice issues were an affront to Catholic social
teaching and a challenge to the issues these Catholics cared about. They were
also mobilized by the Democratic Party’s newfound interest in religion and
some wanted to be part of the action. In the wake of the 2004 election they met
with Party leaders and joined with progressive evangelicals like Jim Wallis and
others in early efforts organized by the Center for American Progress to engage
center-left religious leaders in support for the Democratic Party and its
social justice agenda.

The progressive evangelicals and Catholics involved in
these efforts were skittish on the Party’s support for abortion rights, but over time independent faith groups developed and found a "middle ground" position: express moral disapproval of abortion and suggest progressive economic approaches to reducing the number of abortions. This strategy has been implemented for the past for years by two Catholic groups that emerged –
Catholics United and Catholics in Alliance
for the Common Good. These groups advertise their acceptance of the church’s
position against abortion and contraception. In the case of Catholics in Alliance, they go further
and say they are for legal protection for the unborn. At the same time, they strongly
promote the idea that Catholics can vote for candidates who are solidly pro-choice.

There is no doubt that these positions are moderately useful
in convincing the very small slice of Catholic voters who would be likely to vote for Democrats except for their position on abortion (probably less than 10% of the Catholic
population) to vote for Democrats. But do these positions serve women,
especially poor women, well, and do they advance the role of Catholics in
reforming the church?

Do Progressive Catholic Groups Advance Church Reform?

The most recent indicators that these groups are more of an
obstacle than a prod for church reform and women’s reproductive choice can be
found in their reactions to statements by Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden about
Catholicism and abortion.

Both Pelosi and Biden made strong statements
defending their stands on choice on Meet the Press, speaking not only as
legislators but as theologically well-educated Catholics.  In answer to a question about when life
begins Biden said: "As a Catholic, I am prepared to accept the teaching of my
church…I’m prepared to accept as a matter of faith that life begins at the
moment of conception." As I listened to Biden I thought I heard a slight
emphasis on the phrase "as a matter of faith." How elegant of Biden: he did not
claim that the idea that life begins at conception is a medical fact.

The
bishops promptly issued a statement in which they asserted Biden needed to go
further. The idea that life begins at conception is not, they said, just a
matter of faith – it is a "biological
fact:" "When there is a new human organism, embryology textbooks confirm new
life begins at conception."

About a month earlier, just before the Democratic
Convention, Pelosi noted on Meet the Press that "as an ardent practicing
Catholic this is an issue I have studied for a long time. And what I know is
over the centuries the doctors of the church have not been able to make that
definition…St. Augustine
said at three months. We don’t know. The point is that shouldn’t have an impact
on the woman’s right to choose." Pelosi was immediately criticized by the arch
conservative Cardinal of Denver, Charles Chaput, one of those who had suggested
in 2004 that pro-choice Catholic voters
should not receive communion.

One would think that progressive Catholic
leaders working for the inclusion of Catholic social justice values in
electoral discourse would have been delighted at the forthrightness and
intelligence of these pro-choice Catholic policy makers — who both asserted their
duty to serve women’s moral agency (Pelosi) and to respect science and religion
(Biden) and also explained the nuance of Catholic theology which allowed them
to be pro-choice. Instead, the worst form of clericalism emerged. How dare
these Catholics "do theology"; they should stick to politics.  Chris Korzen, the spokesperson for Catholics
United, complained that "there is a
legitimate conversation to be had about how best to translate the teachings of
the Catholic faith into public policy, but as far as the church is concerned
doctrine is off limits."

What then do Korzen and Catholics United think the
role of the faithful is: obedient sheep that blindly follow the bishops? It
would seem so — he went further, saying, "When public officials make
those comments the bishops need to correct their errors." I am left asking,
"What errors? As an educated Catholic with a degree in theology are you trying
to tell Americans that something Pelosi or Biden said was a theological error?
Surely you are too intelligent to believe that Catholics cannot believe that
there is room within the teaching on abortion to allow women to exercise their
moral adulthood and decide whether abortion can ever be a moral choice."

The slavish and inappropriate obeisance that Korzen,
et.al. show to ultra-orthodox understandings
of church teaching and abortion are unfortunately not limited to that single
issue. Yes, these leaders proudly assert that they want to see abortion
criminalized (Catholics In Alliance for the Common Good website: "CIA is prolife. We support full
legal protection for unborn children as a requirement of social justice and a
matter of essential human rights.") However, they accept that that is not
likely and as an alternative they think it reasonable for policy makers to seek
to reduce the number of abortions by providing economic assistance to women who
continue pregnancies and making adoption easier. What is missing from this
prescription? In spite of the fact that about 95% of Catholics believe that
contraception is moral, these progressive Catholic  groups are so locked into the institutional
church that they cannot support the measure most likely to reduce
abortion: contraception.

This is really soul numbing politics and soul numbing
theology. It is faith in the service of the powerful – in this case good policy
makers. But it is not in service to the millions of women in the US andworld
wide who need their right to decide and to live affirmed. And it is not in
service to the people of God who need their right to do theology, to speak freely
and to dissent from damaging church teachings and policy upheld by those who
would claim moral leadership.

Progressive Catholic electoral activity is yet another
example of the dangers of mixing politics and faith.

Related Posts

Analysis Politics

The 2016 Republican Platform Is Riddled With Conservative Abortion Myths

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the Republican platform, which relies on a series of falsehoods about reproductive health care.

Republicans voted to ratify their 2016 platform this week, codifying what many deem one of the most extreme platforms ever accepted by the party.

“Platforms are traditionally written by and for the party faithful and largely ignored by everyone else,” wrote the New York Times‘ editorial board Monday. “But this year, the Republicans are putting out an agenda that demands notice.”

“It is as though, rather than trying to reconcile Mr. Trump’s heretical views with conservative orthodoxy, the writers of the platform simply opted to go with the most extreme version of every position,” it continued. “Tailored to Mr. Trump’s impulsive bluster, this document lays bare just how much the G.O.P. is driven by a regressive, extremist inner core.”

Tucked away in the 66-page document accepted by Republicans as their official guide to “the Party’s principles and policies” are countless resolutions that seem to back up the Times‘ assertion that the platform is “the most extreme” ever put forth by the party, including: rolling back marriage equalitydeclaring pornography a “public health crisis”; and codifying the Hyde Amendment to permanently block federal funding for abortion.

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Anti-choice activists and leaders have embraced the platform, which the Susan B. Anthony List deemed the “Most Pro-life Platform Ever” in a press release upon the GOP’s Monday vote at the convention. “The Republican platform has always been strong when it comes to protecting unborn children, their mothers, and the conscience rights of pro-life Americans,” said the organization’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser, in a statement. “The platform ratified today takes that stand from good to great.”  

Operation Rescue, an organization known for its radical tactics and links to violence, similarly declared the platform a “victory,” noting its inclusion of so-called personhood language, which could ban abortion and many forms of contraception. “We are celebrating today on the streets of Cleveland. We got everything we have asked for in the party platform,” said Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, in a statement posted to the group’s website.

But what stands out most in the Republicans’ document is the series of falsehoods and myths relied upon to push their conservative agenda. Here are just a few of the most egregious pieces of misinformation about abortion to be found within the pages of the 2016 platform:

Myth #1: Planned Parenthood Profits From Fetal Tissue Donations

Featured in multiple sections of the Republican platform is the tired and repeatedly debunked claim that Planned Parenthood profits from fetal tissue donations. In the subsection on “protecting human life,” the platform says:

We oppose the use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare. We urge all states and Congress to make it a crime to acquire, transfer, or sell fetal tissues from elective abortions for research, and we call on Congress to enact a ban on any sale of fetal body parts. In the meantime, we call on Congress to ban the practice of misleading women on so-called fetal harvesting consent forms, a fact revealed by a 2015 investigation. We will not fund or subsidize healthcare that includes abortion coverage.

Later in the document, under a section titled “Preserving Medicare and Medicaid,” the platform again asserts that abortion providers are selling “the body parts of aborted children”—presumably again referring to the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood:

We respect the states’ authority and flexibility to exclude abortion providers from federal programs such as Medicaid and other healthcare and family planning programs so long as they continue to perform or refer for elective abortions or sell the body parts of aborted children.

The platform appears to reference the widely discredited videos produced by anti-choice organization Center for Medical Progress (CMP) as part of its smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. The videos were deceptively edited, as Rewire has extensively reported. CMP’s leader David Daleiden is currently under federal indictment for tampering with government documents in connection with obtaining the footage. Republicans have nonetheless steadfastly clung to the group’s claims in an effort to block access to reproductive health care.

Since CMP began releasing its videos last year, 13 state and three congressional inquiries into allegations based on the videos have turned up no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of Planned Parenthood.

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund—which has endorsed Hillary Clinton—called the Republicans’ inclusion of CMP’s allegation in their platform “despicable” in a statement to the Huffington Post. “This isn’t just an attack on Planned Parenthood health centers,” said Laguens. “It’s an attack on the millions of patients who rely on Planned Parenthood each year for basic health care. It’s an attack on the brave doctors and nurses who have been facing down violent rhetoric and threats just to provide people with cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams.”

Myth #2: The Supreme Court Struck Down “Commonsense” Laws About “Basic Health and Safety” in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

In the section focusing on the party’s opposition to abortion, the GOP’s platform also reaffirms their commitment to targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP) laws. According to the platform:

We salute the many states that now protect women and girls through laws requiring informed consent, parental consent, waiting periods, and clinic regulation. We condemn the Supreme Court’s activist decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt striking down commonsense Texas laws providing for basic health and safety standards in abortion clinics.

The idea that TRAP laws, such as those struck down by the recent Supreme Court decision in Whole Woman’s Health, are solely for protecting women and keeping them safe is just as common among conservatives as it is false. However, as Rewire explained when Paul Ryan agreed with a nearly identical claim last week about Texas’ clinic regulations, “the provisions of the law in question were not about keeping anybody safe”:

As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in the opinion declaring them unconstitutional, “When directly asked at oral argument whether Texas knew of a single instance in which the new requirement would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment, Texas admitted that there was no evidence in the record of such a case.”

All the provisions actually did, according to Breyer on behalf of the Court majority, was put “a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion,” and “constitute an undue burden on abortion access.”

Myth #3: 20-Week Abortion Bans Are Justified By “Current Medical Research” Suggesting That Is When a Fetus Can Feel Pain

The platform went on to point to Republicans’ Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a piece of anti-choice legislation already passed in several states that, if approved in Congress, would create a federal ban on abortion after 20 weeks based on junk science claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point in pregnancy:

Over a dozen states have passed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Acts prohibiting abortion after twenty weeks, the point at which current medical research shows that unborn babies can feel excruciating pain during abortions, and we call on Congress to enact the federal version.

Major medical groups and experts, however, agree that a fetus has not developed to the point where it can feel pain until the third trimester. According to a 2013 letter from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “A rigorous 2005 scientific review of evidence published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluded that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester,” which begins around the 28th week of pregnancy. A 2010 review of the scientific evidence on the issue conducted by the British Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists similarly found “that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior” to 24 weeks’ gestation.

Doctors who testify otherwise often have a history of anti-choice activism. For example, a letter read aloud during a debate over West Virginia’s ultimately failed 20-week abortion ban was drafted by Dr. Byron Calhoun, who was caught lying about the number of abortion-related complications he saw in Charleston.

Myth #4: Abortion “Endangers the Health and Well-being of Women”

In an apparent effort to criticize the Affordable Care Act for promoting “the notion of abortion as healthcare,” the platform baselessly claimed that abortion “endangers the health and well-being” of those who receive care:

Through Obamacare, the current Administration has promoted the notion of abortion as healthcare. We, however, affirm the dignity of women by protecting the sanctity of human life. Numerous studies have shown that abortion endangers the health and well-being of women, and we stand firmly against it.

Scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that abortion is safe. Research shows that a first-trimester abortion carries less than 0.05 percent risk of major complications, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and “pose[s] virtually no long-term risk of problems such as infertility, ectopic pregnancy, spontaneous abortion (miscarriage) or birth defect, and little or no risk of preterm or low-birth-weight deliveries.”

There is similarly no evidence to back up the GOP’s claim that abortion endangers the well-being of women. A 2008 study from the American Psychological Association’s Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, an expansive analysis on current research regarding the issue, found that while those who have an abortion may experience a variety of feelings, “no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.”

As is the case for many of the anti-abortion myths perpetuated within the platform, many of the so-called experts who claim there is a link between abortion and mental illness are discredited anti-choice activists.

Myth #5: Mifepristone, a Drug Used for Medical Abortions, Is “Dangerous”

Both anti-choice activists and conservative Republicans have been vocal opponents of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA’s) March update to the regulations for mifepristone, a drug also known as Mifeprex and RU-486 that is used in medication abortions. However, in this year’s platform, the GOP goes a step further to claim that both the drug and its general approval by the FDA are “dangerous”:

We believe the FDA’s approval of Mifeprex, a dangerous abortifacient formerly known as RU-486, threatens women’s health, as does the agency’s endorsement of over-the-counter sales of powerful contraceptives without a physician’s recommendation. We support cutting federal and state funding for entities that endanger women’s health by performing abortions in a manner inconsistent with federal or state law.

Studies, however, have overwhelmingly found mifepristone to be safe. In fact, the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals says mifepristone “is safer than acetaminophen,” aspirin, and Viagra. When the FDA conducted a 2011 post-market study of those who have used the drug since it was approved by the agency, they found that more than 1.5 million women in the U.S. had used it to end a pregnancy, only 2,200 of whom had experienced an “adverse event” after.

The platform also appears to reference the FDA’s approval of making emergency contraception such as Plan B available over the counter, claiming that it too is a threat to women’s health. However, studies show that emergency contraception is safe and effective at preventing pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization, side effects are “uncommon and generally mild.”

Commentary Politics

Is Clinton a Progressive? Not If She Chooses Tim Kaine

Jodi Jacobson

The selection of Tim Kaine as vice president would be the first signal that Hillary Clinton intends to seek progressive votes but ignore progressive values and goals, likely at her peril, and ours.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, former secretary of state and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton has frequently claimed to be a progressive, though she often adds the unnecessary and bewildering caveat that she’s a “progressive who likes to get things done.” I’ve never been sure what that is supposed to mean, except as a possible prelude to or excuse for giving up progressive values to seal some unknown deal in the future; as a way of excusing herself from fighting for major changes after she is elected; or as a way of saying progressives are only important to her campaign until after they leave the voting booth.

One of the first signals of whether Clinton actually believes in a progressive agenda will be her choice of running mate. Reports are that Sen. Tim Kaine, former Virginia governor, is the top choice. The selection of Kaine would be the first signal that Clinton intends to seek progressive votes but ignore progressive values and goals, likely at her peril, and ours.

We’ve seen this happen before. In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama claimed to be a progressive. By virtue of having a vision for and promise of real change in government and society, and by espousing transparency and responsibility, he won by a landslide. In fact, Obama even called on his supporters, including the millions activated by the campaign’s Organizing for Action (OFA), to keep him accountable throughout his term. Immediately after the election, however, “progressives” were out and the right wing of the Democratic party was “in.”

Obama’s cabinet members in both foreign policy and the economy, for example, were drawn from the center and center-right of the party, leaving many progressives, as Mother Jones’ David Corn wrote in the Washington Post in 2009, “disappointed, irritated or fit to be tied.” Obama chose Rahm Emanuel as Chief of Staff, a man with a reputation from the days of Bill Clinton’s White House for a reluctance to move bold policies—lest they upset Wall Street or conservative Democrats—and a deep disdain for progressives. With Emanuel as gatekeeper of policies and Valerie Jarrett consumed with the “Obama Brand” (whatever that is), the White House suddenly saw “progressives” as the problem.

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It became clear that instead of “the change we were hoping for,” Obama had started on an impossible quest to “cooperate” and “compromise” on bad policies with the very party that set out to destroy him before he was even sworn in. Obama and Emanuel preempted efforts to push for a public option for health-care reform, despite very high public support at the time. Likewise, the White House failed to push for other progressive policies that would have been a slam dunk, such as the Employee Free Choice Act, a major goal of the labor movement that would have made it easier to enroll workers in unions. With a 60-vote Democratic Senate majority, this progressive legislation could easily have passed. Instead, the White House worked to support conservative Democrat then-Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s efforts to kill it, and even sent Vice President Joe Biden to Arkansas to campaign for her in her run for re-election. She lost anyway.

They also allowed conservatives to shelve plans for an aggressive stimulus package in favor of a much weaker one, for the sole sake of “bipartisanship,” a move that many economists have since criticized for not doing enough.  As I wrote years ago, these decisions were not only deeply disappointing on a fundamental level to those of us who’d put heart and soul into the Obama campaign, but also, I personally believe, one of the main reasons Obama later lost the midterms and had a hard time governing.  He was not elected to implement GOP lite, and there was no “there, there” for the change that was promised. Many people deeply devoted to making this country better for working people became fed up.

Standing up for progressive principles is not so hard, if you actually believe in them. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- MA) is a progressive who actually puts her principles into action, like the creation against all odds in 2011 of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, perhaps the single most important progressive achievement of the past 20 years. Among other things, the CFPB  shields consumers from the excesses of mortgage lenders, student loan servicers, and credit card companies that have caused so much economic chaos in the past decade. So unless you are more interested in protecting the status quo than addressing the root causes of the many problems we now face, a progressive politician would want a strong progressive running mate.

By choosing Tim Kaine as her vice president, Clinton will signal that she values progressives in name and vote only.

As Zach Carter wrote in the Huffington Post, Kaine is “setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.” Kaine is in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement largely negotiated in secret and by corporate lobbyists. Both Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose voters Clinton needs to win over, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren oppose the TPP because, in Warren’s words, it “would tilt the playing field even more in favor of … big multinational corporations and against working families.”

The progressive agenda includes strong emphasis on effective systems of governance and oversight of banks and financial institutions—the actors responsible, as a result of deregulation, for the major financial crises of the past 16 years, costing the United States trillions of dollars and gutting the financial security of many middle-class and low-income people.

As Warren has stated:

Washington turned a blind eye as risks were packaged and re-packaged, magnified, and then sold to unsuspecting pension funds, municipal governments, and many others who believed the markets were honest. Not long after the cops were blindfolded and the big banks were turned loose, the worst crash since the 1930s hit the American economy—a crash that the Dallas Fed estimates has cost a collective $14 trillion. The moral of this story is simple: Without basic government regulation, financial markets don’t work. That’s worth repeating: Without some basic rules and accountability, financial markets don’t work. People get ripped off, risk-taking explodes, and the markets blow up. That’s just an empirical fact—clearly observable in 1929 and again in 2008. The point is worth repeating because, for too long, the opponents of financial reform have cast this debate as an argument between the pro-regulation camp and the pro-market camp, generally putting Democrats in the first camp and Republicans in the second. But that so-called choice gets it wrong. Rules are not the enemy of markets. Rules are a necessary ingredient for healthy markets, for markets that create competition and innovation. And rolling back the rules or firing the cops can be profoundly anti-market.

If Hillary Clinton were actually a progressive, this would be key to her agenda. If so, Tim Kaine would be a curious choice as VP, and a middle finger of sorts to those who support financial regulations. In the past several weeks, Kaine has been publicly advocating for greater deregulation of banks. As Carter reported yesterday, “Kaine signed two letters on Monday urging federal regulators to go easy on banks―one to help big banks dodge risk management rules, and another to help small banks avoid consumer protection standards.”

Kaine is also trying to portray himself as “anti-choice lite.” For example, he recently signed onto the Women’s Health Protection Act. But as we’ve reported, as governor of Virginia, Kaine supported restrictions on abortion, such as Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law, which, he claimed in 2008, gave “women information about a whole series of things, the health consequences, et cetera, and information about adoption.” In truth, the information such laws mandate giving out is often “irrelevant or misleading,” according to the the Guttmacher Institute. In other words, like many others who let ideology rather than public health guide their policy decisions, Kaine put in place policies that are not supported by the evidence and that make it more difficult for women to gain access to abortion, steps he has not denounced. This is unacceptable. The very last thing we need is another person in the White House who further stigmatizes abortion, though it must be said Clinton herself seems chronically unable to speak about abortion without euphemism.

While there are many other reasons a Kaine pick would signal a less-than-secure and values-driven Clinton presidency, the fact also stands that he is a white male insider at a time when the rising electorate is decidedly not white and quite clearly looking for strong leadership and meaningful change. Kaine is not the change we seek.

The conventional wisdom these days is that platforms are merely for show and vice presidential picks don’t much matter. I call foul; that’s an absolutely cynical lens through which to view policies. What you say and with whom you affiliate yourself do indeed matter. And if Clinton chooses Kaine, we know from the outset that progressives have a fight on their hands, not only to avoid the election of an unapologetic fascist, but to ensure that the only person claiming the progressive mantle actually means what she says.