Q & A Race

What We Talk About When We Talk About Black Unwed Mothers: A Q&A With Tanya Fields of the BLK Projek

Regina Mahone

Fields drew attention during a recent live-streamed conversation between bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry, when she asked about the tearing down of Black unmarried mothers by other Black women. Rewire spoke with her about being a woman of color leader, stereotypes placed on Black unmarried mothers, and more.

On November 8, hundreds of viewers were introduced to Tanya Fields during the Q&A portion of a live-streamed event with bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry, when Fields asked about the tearing down of Black unmarried mothers by other Black women. One of MHP’s Foot Soldiers, Fields runs the BLK Projek, a food justice initiative in the South Bronx.

Last Friday, I had the chance to talk to Fields about her organization and her experience being a woman of color leader in that field. We also discussed the stereotypes placed on Black unmarried mothers, and what’s missing in the reproductive rights movement’s conversation about barriers to access. Below is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.

Rewire: Having created a number of community initiatives to, ultimately, improve your life and the life of your children, you are a leader in your South Bronx neighborhood. What has your experience been like as a woman of color leader?

Tanya Fields: In the South Bronx neighborhood, I don’t think my experience has been any more unique than any other women of color who have done work here. I mean the South Bronx is definitely a place where you see patriarchy play out. I think that if you talk to many of the amazing woman of color leaders here, like Kelli Sepulveda of The Point and Karen Washington, I think we would have very similar experiences of what it’s been like doing work in the South Bronx.

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Now, being a woman of color doing food work on a national and a citywide scale has been interesting because of how all of these things overlap, and how you see them play out. Folks on the Internet have said that I’m too big or made comments about my skin color or my hairstyle (I wear my hair in locks). The good food movement is often times very much seen through a normative white lens. We’re having discussions about it now [among leaders] in the movement, and a lot of folks are much more open to having the discussion, but I am still every day pointing out to someone their privilege. 

Rewire: What about that experience surprised you?

TF: I was very surprised when [people judging me on how I look] started happening, but I should’ve been less naive. I’m a woman. And any kind of woman in any kind of public space should know she is going to be judged regardless of her ethnic background, her race, or her nationality. If you are a woman, then our patriarchal society says your looks are up for discussion.

It was surprising to me to be talking about starting a mobile market, or a veggie truck, and to hear somebody make a joke about the fact that I don’t eat enough vegetables. Or, you know, saying, “She should start eating what she’s preaching.” That was hurtful, on a human level.

Then I realized why I am doing this work. I realized that not only am I responsible for getting better access [to healthy food] for my community and communities like mine. But I’m also responsible for dispelling myths about this idea that’s been force-fed to us in this country that stick-thin equals healthy. And that if you’re a larger bodied person you could not possibly be healthy. And that Black people don’t care about health. And that poor Black people don’t care about good food.

Rewire: I really love what you said on Melissa Harris-Perry’s show last week about how your children are not your circumstance and that they’re live human beings, and if we don’t nurture them, along with all other children, we’re going to see ourselves in some deep stuff in the next 20 years. With public benefit programs being cut left and right at both state and federal levels, what “stuff” are we looking at?

TF: We’re going to be looking at more children with learning disabilities who are not performing in a way that they need to, and more economic disparity because lawmakers are making it impossible for people to be able to actually climb their way out of poverty, whether they have children or not.

This idea that you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps—that’s a bunch of bullshit. I wish people would stop saying that. After you get off the phone with me, I want you to get down on the floor and try to pull yourself up by your shoelaces. I’m telling you it’s physically impossible. You cannot do it. If you try to pull yourself up by your shoelaces, or your “bootstraps,” without the aid of a chair or putting your hand on the floor, it won’t happen. So even this euphemism that we keep giving to people itself is not physically possible. Why do we think it would actually be possible for people to help themselves out of poverty without some sort of systematic changes, some legislative changes, or without institutional changes? It is the systematic barriers, institutional barriers, and legislative barriers that are keeping people in poverty!

America does not care about poor children, no matter what color they are. I’m not saying that to be controversial. I’m saying it because it’s the truth. Because you can’t say that you do, and then cut food stamps. And then poor parents have to make choices about whether they’re going to feed their kids or themselves.

Rewire: Do you have any thoughts on the idea that’s so pervasive in our culture today that Black women are responsible for their own poverty?

TF: I don’t want to get into it. And not because I think you’re being too personal. Melissa Harris-Perry said in her conversation with bell hooks that people like stories. It does not matter how many times people put up different speeches of me speaking, or show my work, there’s a significant amount of people who will continue to reduce me down to the woman who has four kids and three babies’ daddies, who is now pregnant again, and who ain’t married. They don’t give a shit about anything else I’ve done. The only trope they want to hold onto is that I am some poster child for poverty. That I am what’s wrong with Black America.

Half of this country is in poverty. Dual-parent homes, married families, all of that—they didn’t create poverty. Corporate welfare is creating poverty. And legislation is creating poverty. I didn’t create poverty.

They are comfortable in that trope because they get to have a scapegoat. And when you’re talking about a racist, sexist, patriarchal society, [that’s] just easier.

Black people are not immune to doing the same type of damage that right-wing Republicans would. We absolutely need to blame the conditions we find ourselves in as Black people on somebody. And the single Black mother is an easy one to blame it on. People have totally bought into this idea of the “welfare queen,” which was propaganda made up out of the Reagan administration.

So all I can do is exist and teach my daughters and my sons to be tremendous, and that their very existence is revolutionary. Every time that they accomplish something and they are successful, they are revolutionary. They are the legacy that [shows] Black women do not create poverty.

Rewire: So tell me about the BLK Projek and how it’s helping to address these issues in your community.

TF: The elevator pitch is that the BLK Projek is harnessing the local good food movement to create economic development opportunities for marginalized women and youth. In laymen’s terms, we really just want to get better food in our communities and make sure that those who are the most impacted are the ones who benefit from the economic opportunities that it would bring. We’re working on two big projects right now.

I’m tremendously proud of myself. After running the organization for three years, this last year we were able to raise close to $100,000 through organizational funding, an IndieGoGo campaign, and individual giving. We’ve also had a conference that was attended by over 300 people. We got them to come out to the Bronx. More than half of the audience had never been to the Bronx before, because like many folks they had some negative predispositions about what it means to live in the Bronx, or to go to the Bronx.

One of our two projects is a bus to deliver healthy foods in our community, which we turned into a clean-energy vehicle. We got a $10,000 grant to put solar panels on it. We converted the engine so that it runs on used vegetable oil, because in a community like ours sustainability is important.

My community is next to the largest food distribution center in the world. We get 16,000 diesel food trucks every day, with three major highways running through our community. And that food does not come into our community. But we do reap all of the negative impacts of having those things, including epidemic rates of asthma and high rates of childhood obesity. It was really important to us that we make sure that this vehicle be a responsible, clean-energy vehicle.

We are working with local farmers and growers in rural areas, like Corbin Hill Farm and Wholeshare, to bring food into our communities at reasonable prices. We’ll take EBT. We’re going to work on making sure we can take WIC farmer’s checks as well. And we want to create jobs through this program. Our bus driver is from this community. My program coordinator is from this community. The people that we will hire to pack the bus will be youth from the community. And then we just want to continue to grow that so that we can get to a point where we can pay living wages and make sure that people here really feel invested in the food that comes into it.

And then our second project: We are in the process of registering a city-owned lot, with GreenThumb, because we are going to work with Sustainable South Bronx and turn it into an urban farm.

That’s how we’re addressing the issue of food access in our community, by creating open, green spaces where folks can become educated, grow food, and have a relationship with the land, or just have a safe space to come into where they will not be criminalized for simply existing. That space will support the mobile market, which provides better access to folks as well as some economic development opportunities. And then from there, I kind of feel like the stratosphere is the limit. I think there are so many other things that we can do. And my hope is that I can train some young woman from the community in the next four to five years to take over the organization.

I really feel like part of my calling is also to continue to get my ass kicked because I chose to be the voice for women who feel like they don’t necessarily have a voice. There are so many tropes and stereotypes about low-income mothers, about single mothers despite their income, particularly mothers of color, particularly Black mothers. It’s hard enough being a Black woman in American society. Go ahead and have a baby and not be married, and everything that’s wrong in the world is your fault. And under these auspices—like your community looking at you with disdain—you must raise healthy, happy children, when the legislative policies and institutional structures make it difficult for you to do so. On the left and on the right, when we have conversations about single mothers, we have conversations about poor women. Lawmakers will have everybody at the table except poor women, except single mothers, as if we’re some sort of extinct species they can never get a hold of.

We are very comfortable continuing to hold up single mothers either as an abject version of poverty that deserves our charity and who is a consistent victim—and that’s not my narrative, and not the narrative of my grandmother and my aunts and folks that have raised their children to be well adjusted, happy, and successful—or making you some living-high-on-the-welfare hog, who doesn’t care, has low self-esteem, is chronically uneducated, and doesn’t know what birth control is. It is maddening.

There needs to be more spaces where folks are allowed to advocate for themselves and be seen as whole individuals, and no different from anybody else. You know, we talk about veterans, and they are deserving of our sympathy when they are not treated well because they fought for this country. When we talk about single mothers, we talk about them with the most disdain even though they are raising our children who will go on to become adults who are supposed to lead our country. And we treat them like they are deserving of nothing.

Rewire: How do you go about changing that narrative, that trope, that single story of Black women?

TF: It’s not me alone. There are lots of women. One of the first blog posts that came out after the New School event was on this blog called Beyond Baby Mamas, and the author [Stacia L. Brown] wrote a really articulate piece that talked about me, but also talked about a lot about single mothers in general. That we come in all the shapes, colors, and sizes, educational levels, experiences, and we are all complicated, multi-layered people. Us having children doesn’t stop that. There are already women who are having these conversations.

I think what really needs to happen, much like anything else in this country, there needs to be a person, a group of people, who are consistently out there with messaging and communication projects, continuing to create platforms for folks to organize around. Because it’s more than just, Oh I want to be seen as a human being. That’s the beginning of it. Being seen as a human being means then we create legislative policy that does not take food out of the mouths of children. The largest amount of food stamp recipients are children, so when you cut food stamps, you are taking food out of the mouths of babies. How do we as a country do that? It’s because we don’t see these types of children as valuable as other children.

Rewire: Around the country, states are taking away women’s access to reproductive services. This is something Black women have been facing for decades. What is missing from the conversation when the reproductive rights community talks about restrictions to access?

TF: We talk about reproductive rights, but we don’t talk about reproductive justice. Yes, women should have the right to access all of these services, but what about the fact that the very industry of gynecology was built on using Black women as guinea pigs against their will? And what about the fact that when we talk about reproductive rights and reproductive justice that many times we’re only talking about birth control and we’re only talking about abortion, but we don’t talk about the right of a woman to carry her baby to full term and to receive the types of things that she would need to have a successful birth?

Why is it that in the Black community, in an industrialized country, we are seeing high rates of infant mortality? There are whole groups of people who are not being represented, and there’s this idea that it’s just the college-age young woman who wants to be able to go to Planned Parenthood to get birth control, that she is the one who is most at risk. We have this conversation around everything that’s wrong with the Black community (i.e., me, an unmarried mother with multiple children and multiple fathers of those children), but we don’t have the conversation for the women who did not feel like they had a choice to have children, or who have found themselves in predicaments where they are having more terminations than they might be willing to be comfortable around, or the young woman who ends up pregnant because she wasn’t able to get quality access to birth control or education around her baby and reproductive organs. We’re not talking about those young women, and we’re not talking about those older women. We leave them out as usual—it’s one of the intersections of racism. We leave them out of the conversation.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Republican National Convention Edition

Ally Boguhn

The Trump family's RNC claims about crime and the presidential candidate's record on gender equality have kept fact-checkers busy.

Republicans came together in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention (RNC), generating days of cringe-inducing falsehoods and misleading statements on crime, the nominee’s positions on gender equality, and LGBTQ people.

Trump’s Acceptance Speech Blasted for Making False Claims on Crime

Trump accepted the Republican nomination in a Thursday night speech at the RNC that drew harsh criticism for many of its misleading and outright false talking points.

Numerous fact-checkers took Trump to task, calling out many of his claims for being “wrong,” and “inflated or misleading.”

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 Among the most hotly contested of Trump’s claims was the assertion that crime has exploded across the country.

“Decades of progress made in bringing down crime are now being reversed by this administration’s rollback of criminal enforcement,” Trump claimed, according to his prepared remarks, which were leaked ahead of his address. “Homicides last year increased by 17 percent in America’s 50 largest cities. That’s the largest increase in 25 years. In our nation’s capital, killings have risen by 50 percent. They are up nearly 60 percent in nearby Baltimore.”

Crime rates overall have been steadily declining for years.

“In 2015, there was an uptick in homicides in 36 of the 50 largest cities compared to the previous years. The rate did, indeed, increase nearly 17 percent, and it was the worst annual change since 1990. The homicide rate was up 54.3 percent in Washington, and 58.5 percent in Baltimore,” explained Washington Post fact checkers Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “But in the first months of 2016, homicide trends were about evenly split in the major cities. Out of 63 agencies reporting to the Major Cities Chiefs Association, 32 cities saw a decrease in homicides in first quarter 2016 and 31 saw an increase.”

Ames Grawert, a counsel in the Brennan Center’s Justice Program, said in a statement posted to the organization’s website that 2016 statistics aren’t sufficient in declaring crime rate trends. 

“Overall, crime rates remain at historic lows. Fear-inducing soundbites are counterproductive, and distract from nuanced, data-driven, and solution-oriented conversations on how to build a smarter criminal justice system in America,” Grawert said. “It’s true that some cities saw an increase in murder rates last year, and that can’t be ignored, but it’s too early to say if that’s part of a national trend.” 

When Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign chairman, was confronted with the common Republican falsehoods on crime during a Thursday interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, he claimed that the FBI’s statistics were not to be trusted given that the organization recently advised against charges in connection with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

“According to FBI statistics, crime rates have been going down for decades,” Tapper told Manafort. “How can Republicans make the argument that it’s somehow more dangerous today when the facts don’t back that up?”

“People don’t feel safe in their neighborhoods,” said Manafort, going on to claim that “the FBI is certainly suspect these days after what they did with Hillary Clinton.”

There was at least one notable figure who wholeheartedly embraced Trump’s fearmongering: former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke. “Great Trump Speech,” tweeted Duke on Thursday evening. “Couldn’t have said it better!”

Ben Carson Claims Transgender People Are Proof of “How Absurd We Have Become”

Former Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson criticized the existence of transgender people while speaking at the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday in Cleveland.  

“You know, we look at this whole transgender thing, I’ve got to tell you: For thousands of years, mankind has known what a man is and what a woman is. And now, all of a sudden we don’t know anymore,” said Carson, a retired neurosurgeon. “Now, is that the height of absurdity? Because today you feel like a woman, even though everything about you genetically says that you’re a man or vice versa?”

“Wouldn’t that be the same as if you woke up tomorrow morning after seeing a movie about Afghanistan or reading some books and said, ‘You know what? I’m Afghanistan. Look, I know I don’t look that way. My ancestors came from Sweden, or something, I don’t know. But I really am. And if you say I’m not, you’re a racist,’” Carson said. “This is how absurd we have become.”

When confronted with his comments during an interview with Yahoo News’ Katie Couric, Carson doubled down on his claims.“There are biological markers that tell us whether we are a male or a female,” said Carson. “And just because you wake up one day and you say, ‘I think I’m the other one,’ that doesn’t change it. Just, a leopard can’t change its spots.”

“It’s not as if they woke up one day and decided, ‘I’m going to be a male or I’m going to be a female,’” Couric countered, pointing out that transgender people do not suddenly choose to change their gender identities on a whim.

Carson made several similar comments last year while on the campaign trail.

In December, Carson criticized the suggested that allowing transgender people into the military amounted to using the armed services “as a laboratory for social experimentation.”

Carson once suggested that allowing transgender people to use the restroom that aligned with their gender identity amounted to granting them “extra rights.”

Ivanka Trump Claims Her Father Supports Equal Pay, Access to Child Care

Ivanka Trump, the nominee’s daughter, made a pitch during her speech Thursday night at the RNC for why women voters should support her father.

“There have always been men of all background and ethnicities on my father’s job sites. And long before it was commonplace, you also saw women,” Ivanka Trump said. “At my father’s company, there are more female than male executives. Women are paid equally for the work that we do and when a woman becomes a mother, she is supported, not shut out.” 

“As president, my father will change the labor laws that were put into place at a time when women were not a significant portion of the workforce. And he will focus on making quality child care affordable and accessible for all,” she continued before pivoting to address the gender wage gap. 

“Policies that allow women with children to thrive should not be novelties; they should be the norm. Politicians talk about wage equality, but my father has made it a practice at his company throughout his entire career.”

However, Trump’s stated positions on the gender wage gap, pregnancy and mothers in the workplace, and child care don’t quite add up to the picture the Trumps tried to paint at the RNC.

In 2004, Trump called pregnancy an “inconvenience” for employers. When a lawyer asked for a break during a deposition in 2011 to pump breast milk, Trump reportedly called her “disgusting.”

According to a June analysis conducted by the Boston Globe, the Trump campaign found that men who worked on Trump’s campaign “made nearly $6,100, or about 35 percent more [than women during the April payroll]. The disparity is slightly greater than the gender pay gap nationally.”

A former organizer for Trump also filed a discrimination complaint in January, alleging that she was paid less than her male counterparts.

When Trump was questioned about equal pay during a campaign stop last October, he did not outline his support for policies to address the issue. Instead, Trump suggested that, “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Though he had previously stated that men and women who do the same job should be paid the same during an August 2015 interview on MSNBC, he also cautioned that determining whether people were doing the same jobs was “tricky.”

Trump has been all but completely silent on child care so far on the campaign trail. In contrast, Clinton released an agenda in May to address the soaring costs of child care in the United States.

Ivanka’s claims were not the only attempt that night by Trump’s inner circle to explain why women voters should turn to the Republican ticket. During an interview with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, Manafort said that women would vote for the Republican nominee because they “can’t afford their lives anymore.”

“Many women in this country feel they can’t afford their lives, their husbands can’t afford to be paying for the family bills,” claimed Manafort. “Hillary Clinton is guilty of being part of the establishment that created that problem. They’re going to hear the message. And as they hear the message, that’s how we are going to appeal to them.”

What Else We’re Reading

Vox’s Dara Lind explained how “Trump’s RNC speech turned his white supporters’ fear into a weapon.”

Now that Mike Pence is the Republican nominee for vice president, Indiana Republicans have faced “an intense, chaotic, awkward week of brazen lobbying at the breakfast buffet, in the hallways and on the elevators” at the convention as they grapple with who will run to replace the state’s governor, according to the New York Times.

“This is a party and a power structure that feels threatened with extinction, willing to do anything for survival,” wrote Rebecca Traister on Trump and the RNC for New York Magazine. “They may not love Trump, but he is leading them precisely because he embodies their grotesque dreams of the restoration of white, patriarchal power.”

Though Trump spent much of the primary season denouncing big money in politics, while at the RNC, he courted billionaires in hopes of having them donate to supporting super PACs.

Michael Kranish reported for the Washington Post that of the 2,472 delegates at the RNC, it is estimated that only 18 were Black.

Cosmopolitan highlighted nine of the most sexist things that could be found at the convention.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) asked, “Where are these contributions that have been made” by people of color to civilization?

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.