Commentary Media

Sex, Career Women, and Country Music: A Conversation About ‘Nashville’

Lauren Kelley & Sarah Seltzer

Recently Sarah Seltzer and Lauren Kelley sat down to talk about feminism, fashion, and fame on Nashville, and why the show is so darn compelling.

Nashville is a television drama that debuted on ABC in October, chronicling the life and career of country music stars Rayna James (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere). Recently Rewire contributor Sarah Seltzer and Rewire Managing Editor Lauren Kelley sat down to talk about feminism, fashion, and fame on Nashville, and why the show is so darn compelling.

Lauren Kelley: Hey Sarah! Let’s talk about one of our current TV obsessions, Nashville.

Sarah Seltzer: Hi Lauren! Despite its fluffy pop star exterior, this is a show that’s created by someone with genuine feminist bona fides, Callie Khouri of Thelma and Louise fame, and starring another recent heroine of reproductive rights on television, Connie Britton, aka Tami Taylor from Friday Night Lights. I think you can see the feminism creeping in at the edges of this show, or at the very least a certain woman-centric point of view. Do you detect any traces of real ideological edge in this primetime soap, or is any impulse in that direction tempered by the need for big ratings?

LK: Ah yes, our Lord and Savior Connie Britton. There are many reasons to love her and the characters she plays. On Friday Night Lights, Britton, playing Tami, has that great series of scenes where she’s persecuted by anti-choicers for discussing abortion with a teenage student. Britton plays those scenes with so much compassion—not to mention frustration at the anti-choice activists (“Come on, y’all”).

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As for Nashville, I think you’re absolutely right about feminism “creeping in at the edges.” The show very much passes the Bechdel Test. It’s about strong-willed women, Rayna James and Juliette Barnes, who are super career-focused. They’re vocal about what they want out of their careers, they negotiate hard, and they’re ambitious. There are plenty (plenty) of sub-plots about the men in their lives, but the show is first and foremost about two women who are successful music stars, trying to navigate the industry.

And in real life, Britton seems pretty badass. You read that New York Times Magazine profile of her, yes? I loved hearing about how hard Britton advocates for her characters to be authentic and not clichéd portrayals of middle-aged women.

SS: Yes, the Times profile indicates that Britton has exerted a lot of influence over her character. She clearly doesn’t want the “Is she over the hill” question that dogs her character, the middle-aged, mid-career country star Rayna James, to be about her looks as much as her fame and success, which is a lot more interesting direction to take quite frankly.

LK: And we can’t ignore how much the show delves into “having it all.” The Rayna character is trying to balance work and family, as many people do. Yes, it’s frustrating that the “having it all” conversation is so often about women, but what’s somewhat refreshing on the show is that Teddy, Rayna’s husband (played by Eric Close), has similar concerns. I appreciate that the show’s creators gave his character a lot of parental responsibility. That’s rare to see on-screen, which is pretty pathetic.

SS: You know, I think that is the exact struggle female viewers want to see. I’ve noticed it more and more on nighttime TV, and I think of this show as being part of a trio with The Good Wife and Scandal—they are all populated by these stunning career woman protagonists with messy, transgressive romantic lives but with a primary focus on the workplace ups and downs. I think it’s a show that is designed for the female gaze in every way, even the way the female characters are styled.

LK: The clothes on Nashville remind me of something I once heard Mindy Kaling say in an interview, about how there’s a class of clothing items that women wear primarily because other women like them—things like sequined tops, which are all over the place in Nashville. We can argue about the merit of caring about things like that, but I think there is some nugget of truth to what she says, and it’s on display in Nashville.

SS: The fashion items on all these shows are designed, like the men, for lust. They all share a quality of being put together but edgy and feminine—they are real “message outfits.” And the bevy of attractive men coming in and out who are all somewhat hung up on the female characters. It’s a fantasy, with fantasy complications!

Do you think the show has a positive attitude towards female sexuality? In Khouri’s Thelma and Louise, even though Brad Pitt’s character steals Geena Davis’ character’s cash, the sex they have is so revelatory for her that her rendezvous with him is seen as an important development in her life overall. But I’d also say that most men in her work tend to let the women around them down, and Nashville is no exception. So she’s a sex-positive but man-skeptical feminist, maybe?

LK: Well I’ve been somewhat frustrated with one aspect of the show relating to sexuality, and I know you agree with me, Sarah: Why has Rayna not had sex with any of the many handsome men around her—the hunks who are very much there for viewers to ogle? Meanwhile (spoiler!) her much less attractive husband gets to have a mistress, and pretty much every male character on the show has tons of sex.

SS: Ah, Rayna’s sex life or lack thereof. Even though you and I joke about this, it’s actually a double-standard that is of serious concern! Rayna makes it clear that she and Teddy have had a sexless marriage for a while, too. So while the men on the show and younger pop star Juliette Barnes get to frolic between the sheets all they want, she’s kept celibate and pure—this virginal object of desire. I think Khouri should take a page from the Good Wife writers who allowed their main character to have some pretty risque sex scenes with both men in her life. They can “go there,” and it will make the show richer and more interesting. Rayna is a bit too much of a put-upon saint right now, and it makes the characters around her who are both more and less morally inclined more interesting.

LK: I absolutely agree. #Sex4Rayna! One thing that annoyed me in the first few episodes of the show was that I couldn’t tell some of the brown-haired hunks apart. That becomes less of a problem as the series goes on, but also I now see that in some ways, a lot of those brown-haired hunks don’t matter so much. They could sort of be anyone! Which is an interesting reversal from so many TV shows and movies, where female characters are too often [insert blonde woman here].

SS: Speaking of blondes, what are your thoughts on young Juliette’s sexuality? Her ease with her sexuality is seen as part and parcel of her troubled persona. But I’m not sure the show condemns her being sexually active. Her marriage plans with a chaste Christian football star fall through, and he turns out to be a jerk.

LK: On the one hand, I think it’s positive to portray a young woman who asks for and gets what she wants sexually. On the other hand, her character does fall into some traps and clichés about sexually active 20-somethings. And I worry that sometimes the writers and/or producers are thinking to themselves, “Uh oh, it’s been one whole episode since we saw Juliette without a  top on,” you know? I’m not sure what the correct balance is between those two things. But without revealing any spoilers, sometimes the show does get into some soap opera territory with regard to her sex life.

SS: I agree, and I worry that it portrays her sexuality too much as part of her damaged, had-to-grow-up-too-fast existence. Although I think that the writers must enjoy writing her as assertive and confident, and Hayden Panettiere clearly relishes the role, so the actual sex scenes read as empowering and kind of undermine that narrative. But yes, I do wish the sexuality were more healthily distributed between our two female leads.

LK: Yes, there’s some value in seeing an imperfect female character on screen. But it is too bad that the “imperfect” parts of Juliette are so often tied to who she sleeps with. And again, it’s not lost on me that the young women and all the men of Nashville get to have sex a lot, while the 40-something woman does not (so far, anyway).

SS: I think the show doesn’t mean to do that—because it’s geared towards older women in a sense. Rayna is the hero. But I think perhaps they’re being too careful and controlled with her story arcs. Let her mess up and be human!

What about the secondary female characters? Any thoughts on the mournful Scarlett O’Connor (played by Clare Bowen)?

LK: This is sort of neither here nor there, but I find Scarlett difficult to watch for her accent alone. Bowen is Australian, and her Tennessee accent is really over the top. Sorry, I just had to get that off my chest.

Also, speaking of clothes that are meant for the female gaze, Scarlett’s home and wardrobe are like an Anthropologie explosion. It’s clear what the costume and set crew were going for there.

SS: I like that her sexuality is more of a given. She has boyfriends. She sleeps with them. It is a healthy medium between Juliette and Rayna.

LK: As annoying as I find her accent, I appreciate that the writers showed her escaping from an emotionally abusive relationship. And she struggles throughout the show with having confidence to put herself out there, especially when she has a boyfriend who’s jealous of her professional success, which is something I think a lot of women butt up against.

SS: Really, a major theme in the show is women’s professional success relative to the other people in their lives, whether it’s lovers, ex-lovers, husbands, moms, friends.

LK: There there are a lot of women outshining and out-performing their male counterparts. And often being paid more and/or being the breadwinner!

SS: To add to that, Rayna is a loving but neglectful mom—again, just like Alicia on The Good Wife. Or perhaps neglectful is too harsh a word—that’s the patriarchy talking through me—but being the perfect mom is not her first priority. She tours and leaves her kids behind for long periods of time. It breaks her heart to do that, but it’s not a question for her that she will.

LK: Though I have to say, she does spend a lot of time worrying about whether Teddy will be able to care for those kids, when clearly he has cared for them countless days and weeks. But that’s societal pressure for ya.

SS: Societal pressure, and the pressure of the writers to find new conflict sources! Teddy is so dazzled by his new side woman that he’s forgotten his daughters. Tsk, tsk. That’s sort of a female revenge fantasy in and of itself.

LK: Right. Time to turn up the nagging/doting mom dial a bit!

But I have to say, I really do love this show. I don’t want to downplay how wonderful it is to see Connie Britton play Rayna, this older character who dodges many (if not all) of the show business clichés about middle-aged women.

SS: The performances are heartfelt and the songs add a surprising layer of depth to the sometimes-soapy plot lines. And it’s a show that orbits around two women’s worlds, and centralizes not just their sex lives but their business doings and artistic and creative processes.

LK: Oh the music! It’s so great. And it should be, because it’s produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett, who as it happens is married to Callie Khouri. Just listen to the original version of “Undermine,” as written and performed by Kacey Musgraves and Trent Dabbs (H/T to my friend Allison in Nashville for that one). Burnett snagged that song for the Juliette character to sing. It’s a really beautiful song.

Anyway, with a handful of episodes left this season, it will be really interesting to see how some of the show’s plots are resolved—if, in the end, the female characters do pay a high price for their ambition and sexuality.

SS: Yes, and whether the writers can keep all the chess pieces moving in a way that feels authentic for these characters. I’m not sure that Juliette and her mom’s rivalry over Dante, the AA counselor turned enabling manager, will elucidate the rivalry and angst between these two or devolve into melodramatic nonsense. Also whether the new singing cowboy character has eyes for Scarlett—or maybe for Gunnar? I do love the idea of a queer romantic subplot. I certainly hope the show gets renewed so it can work out some freshman kinks and really let these female characters fly.

LK: Agreed! Well thanks for chatting, Sarah. This was fun.

SS: Juliette and Rayna sing together, “This ain’t a feel good everything’s fine sing-along.” Which is great for the show, but the opposite of how I feel about talking Nashville with you, Lauren. I will open for you on tour anytime.

Roundups Sexual Health

This Week in Sex: The Sexually Transmitted Infections Edition

Martha Kempner

A new Zika case suggests the virus can be transmitted from an infected woman to a male partner. And, in other news, HPV-related cancers are on the rise, and an experimental chlamydia vaccine shows signs of promise.

This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.

Zika May Have Been Sexually Transmitted From a Woman to Her Male Partner

A new case suggests that males may be infected with the Zika virus through unprotected sex with female partners. Researchers have known for a while that men can infect their partners through penetrative sexual intercourse, but this is the first suspected case of sexual transmission from a woman.

The case involves a New York City woman who is in her early 20s and traveled to a country with high rates of the mosquito-borne virus (her name and the specific country where she traveled have not been released). The woman, who experienced stomach cramps and a headache while waiting for her flight back to New York, reported one act of sexual intercourse without a condom the day she returned from her trip. The following day, her symptoms became worse and included fever, fatigue, a rash, and tingling in her hands and feet. Two days later, she visited her primary-care provider and tests confirmed she had the Zika virus.

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A few days after that (seven days after intercourse), her male partner, also in his 20s, began feeling similar symptoms. He had a rash, a fever, and also conjunctivitis (pink eye). He, too, was diagnosed with Zika. After meeting with him, public health officials in the New York City confirmed that he had not traveled out of the country nor had he been recently bit by a mosquito. This leaves sexual transmission from his partner as the most likely cause of his infection, though further tests are being done.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s recommendations for preventing Zika have been based on the assumption that virus was spread from a male to a receptive partner. Therefore the recommendations had been that pregnant women whose male partners had traveled or lived in a place where Zika virus is spreading use condoms or abstain from sex during the pregnancy. For those couples for whom pregnancy is not an issue, the CDC recommended that men who had traveled to countries with Zika outbreaks and had symptoms of the virus, use condoms or abstain from sex for six months after their trip. It also suggested that men who traveled but don’t have symptoms use condoms for at least eight weeks.

Based on this case—the first to suggest female-to-male transmission—the CDC may extend these recommendations to couples in which a female traveled to a country with an outbreak.

More Signs of Gonorrhea’s Growing Antibiotic Resistance

Last week, the CDC released new data on gonorrhea and warned once again that the bacteria that causes this common sexually transmitted infection (STI) is becoming resistant to the antibiotics used to treat it.

There are about 350,000 cases of gonorrhea reported each year, but it is estimated that 800,000 cases really occur with many going undiagnosed and untreated. Once easily treatable with antibiotics, the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae has steadily gained resistance to whole classes of antibiotics over the decades. By the 1980s, penicillin no longer worked to treat it, and in 2007 the CDC stopped recommending the use of fluoroquinolones. Now, cephalosporins are the only class of drugs that work. The recommended treatment involves a combination of ceftriaxone (an injectable cephalosporin) and azithromycin (an oral antibiotic).

Unfortunately, the data released last week—which comes from analysis of more than 5,000 samples of gonorrhea (called isolates) collected from STI clinics across the country—shows that the bacteria is developing resistance to these drugs as well. In fact, the percentage of gonorrhea isolates with decreased susceptibility to azithromycin increased more than 300 percent between 2013 and 2014 (from 0.6 percent to 2.5 percent).

Though no cases of treatment failure has been reported in the United States, this is a troubling sign of what may be coming. Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, said in a press release: “It is unclear how long the combination therapy of azithromycin and ceftriaxone will be effective if the increases in resistance persists. We need to push forward on multiple fronts to ensure we can continue offering successful treatment to those who need it.”

HPV-Related Cancers Up Despite Vaccine 

The CDC also released new data this month showing an increase in HPV-associated cancers between 2008 and 2012 compared with the previous five-year period. HPV or human papillomavirus is an extremely common sexually transmitted infection. In fact, HPV is so common that the CDC believes most sexually active adults will get it at some point in their lives. Many cases of HPV clear spontaneously with no medical intervention, but certain types of the virus cause cancer of the cervix, vulva, penis, anus, mouth, and neck.

The CDC’s new data suggests that an average of 38,793 HPV-associated cancers were diagnosed each year between 2008 and 2012. This is a 17 percent increase from about 33,000 each year between 2004 and 2008. This is a particularly unfortunate trend given that the newest available vaccine—Gardasil 9—can prevent the types of HPV most often linked to cancer. In fact, researchers estimated that the majority of cancers found in the recent data (about 28,000 each year) were caused by types of the virus that could be prevented by the vaccine.

Unfortunately, as Rewire has reported, the vaccine is often mired in controversy and far fewer young people have received it than get most other recommended vaccines. In 2014, only 40 percent of girls and 22 percent of boys ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended doses of the vaccine. In comparison, nearly 80 percent of young people in this age group had received the vaccine that protects against meningitis.

In response to the newest data, Dr. Electra Paskett, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, told HealthDay:

In order to increase HPV vaccination rates, we must change the perception of the HPV vaccine from something that prevents a sexually transmitted disease to a vaccine that prevents cancer. Every parent should ask the question: If there was a vaccine I could give my child that would prevent them from developing six different cancers, would I give it to them? The answer would be a resounding yes—and we would have a dramatic decrease in HPV-related cancers across the globe.

Making Inroads Toward a Chlamydia Vaccine

An article published in the journal Vaccine shows that researchers have made progress with a new vaccine to prevent chlamydia. According to lead researcher David Bulir of the M. G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research at Canada’s McMaster University, efforts to create a vaccine have been underway for decades, but this is the first formulation to show success.

In 2014, there were 1.4 million reported cases of chlamydia in the United States. While this bacterial infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, it often goes undiagnosed because many people show no symptoms. Untreated chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, which can leave scar tissue in the fallopian tubes or uterus and ultimately result in infertility.

The experimental vaccine was created by Canadian researchers who used pieces of the bacteria that causes chlamydia to form an antigen they called BD584. The hope was that the antigen could prompt the body’s immune system to fight the chlamydia bacteria if exposed to it.

Researchers gave BD584 to mice using a nasal spray, and then exposed them to chlamydia. The results were very promising. The mice who received the spray cleared the infection faster than the mice who did not. Moreover, the mice given the nasal spray were less likely to show symptoms of infection, such as bacterial shedding from the vagina or fluid blockages of the fallopian tubes.

There are many steps to go before this vaccine could become available. The researchers need to test it on other strains of the bacteria and in other animals before testing it in humans. And, of course, experience with the HPV vaccine shows that there’s work to be done to make sure people get vaccines that prevent STIs even after they’re invented. Nonetheless, a vaccine to prevent chlamydia would be a great victory in our ongoing fight against STIs and their health consequences, and we here at This Week in Sex are happy to end on a bit of a positive note.

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.