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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Column: Kaine Is Able at Sunnyside High School

    Democractic+vice+presidential+candidate+Tim+Kaine+at+an+Early+Vote+Rally+at+Sunnyside+High+School+on+Thursday%2C+Nov.+3%2C+2016.+
    Alex McIntyre
    Democractic vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine at an Early Vote Rally at Sunnyside High School on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016.

    Remember 2008? Remember those halcyon days when vice presidential candidate and human Facebook rant, Gov. Sarah Palin, inspired rabid enthusiasm? Or in 2012, when Rep. Paul Ryan, then a rising star in the Republican Party, inspired dozens of feature articles that highlighted his policies almost as much as his workout routine?

    2016 is a different beast. The two VP candidates were chosen for their inability to draw attention away from the top of the ticket, and both Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov. Mike Pence have done that in spades.

    Sen. Kaine succeeds almost too well. Both before and after his lackluster debate performance, Virginia’s most aggressively friendly son has square-danced at the very edge of the national media’s gaze. Sure, his outraged comments about FBI Director James Comey’s October chicanery get published, but no newsperson lies awake at night wondering what Tim Kaine thinks about a particular issue.

    Still, for his exhausting fun dad persona, the man’s a force to be reckoned with. He has never lost an election, serving as governor and then senator for his home state of Virginia. He was, however, chairman of the Democratic National Committee in 2010, when Democrats across the country were collectively curb stomped by the Tea Party phenomenon.

    In person, he is a marvel. His casual, conversational style does not play well on television, but to the hundreds of believers packed into Sunnyside High School’s gymnasium, his forceful calls for compassion and tolerance play like God’s gospel truth.

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    A picture went viral on conservative outlets a couple of days ago, showing about a dozen people lined up to see Sen. Kaine in Dubuque, Iowa. In reality, about 300 people attended, but the underlying message that the Virginian is not a huge draw is a recurrent one.

    One thing is for sure—Tucson ain’t Dubuque.

    More than two hours before the event began, the line snaked around Sunnyside’s sprawling campus. Police cars surrounded the area. Secret Service men, armed and armored, swaggered around, eyes darting to and fro.

    For more than one of the attendees, this will be a significant life event. Arizona has long been a conservative stronghold, so Democratic presidential candidates rarely venture to our state, let alone to Tucson, our left-leaning southern outpost. An older couple was irrationally excited to be there, braving torrents of rain and hail that sent younger voters packing to whatever shelter the campus could afford.



    By the time we had made our way through the airport-style security checkpoint and endured the prying eyes and nose of a Secret Service dog, it was still an hour before anyone of note would take the stage.

    When the introductory speakers finally arrived, the high school gymnasium was buzzing. A young man near me was actually yelping in anticipation.

    The speakers included the man Rep. Martha McSally defeated for her congressional seat, Ron Barber, as well as the man who she will likely defeat again on Tuesday to keep it, Dr. Matt Heinz.

    But the most powerful moment of the evening came when Arizona’s wounded daughter, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, took the stage. To thunderous applause, she limped onto the stage with dignity and endorsed Sec. Clinton with unexpected vigor.

    Men and women looked on with eyes shining and hands aloft, as if trying to claim just a fraction of Rep. Giffords’ grit.

    As she exited the stage, Rep. Barber motioned for more applause, but there was no reason to. With fire in their bellies and and cries of support in their lungs, the Democratic faithfuls paid loud and protracted homage to one of the finest people to emerge from the desolate panorama of Arizona politics.

    Finally, the man himself. Bounding up the stage, the happy warrior duly mentioned the introductory speakers, before launching into what was less a speech and more an amiable conversation.

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    His hand in his pocket, he ambled around the stage, touting his blue-collar cred. He was an extraordinary campaigner, flitting with ease between English and Spanish.

    With eyes downcast, he recalled his time as Virginia’s governor during the tragic Virginia Tech shooting in 2007. It was at this moment that a couple of protesters made themselves known before being hustled out of the auditorium.

    Like Sen. Sanders’ speech on the UA mall a few weeks ago, there were no surprises. Hillary’s a fighter. Trump is a catastrophe. The Obama administration did a lot of work in the right direction. These things he explained with a warm, paternal voice.

    But it was when he called for unity and compassion that he came to life. He declared that “equality will be our North Star,” and manfully excoriated the divisive forces at play in this country, today and throughout history.

    Historically, he did this in English and Spanish. While the Spanish phrases only comprised a fraction of the speech—compared to his Phoenix rally earlier on Thursday, delivered entirely in Spanish—it was still moving to see half of a presidential ticket make bilingual calls for acceptance, empathy and, above all, compassion.

    After all, todos somos americanos.


    Follow Raad Zaghloul on Twitter.


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