The real drama of the American election is: whom exactly are Democrats voting for? Hillary Clinton’s health is in such bad shape that she is literally being shunted directly into the White House. No one is even considering replacing her with someone else – it’s just too late. There’s only one option left – to perhaps at the beginning of her administration transfer her authority over to her second-in-command, her fellow Democrat Tim Kaine. There’s been a lot of whispering about that. It’s not even really a question of whether such a transfer of power will take place – just about the timing: before or after her inauguration? The ill-famed «Manchurian Candidate» is an obvious parallel that leaps to mind.
That concept entered the American political vocabulary in 1959 from the best-selling novel of that name by Richard Condon. In the story, an American sergeant is captured by the «Soviets» during the Korean War and shipped off to Chinese Manchuria where he is brainwashed. His assignment is to take part in a sinister scheme to get vice-presidential candidate John Yerkes Iselin elected, although that politician is not the right-wing zealot he appears to be, but actually a «Communist stooge».
A film starring Frank Sinatra based on the novel was shot in 1962, with a remake in 2004. Both were very successful – hence the public recognition of the idea of a «Manchurian candidate». Strictly speaking it signifies a secret stooge controlled by outside forces, although more generally it is used to label someone who is not what he seems, or a «dark horse».
The term «Manchurian candidate» can also be interpreted to mean someone who is voted into office who is actually completely different from the candidate the voters thought they were electing. The term is most often used ironically. During Obama’s first presidential campaign in 2008, that label was often used by those accusing him of not being a native-born citizen.
The biography of Tim Kaine, the current candidate for vice president – or actually for the job of the «real» president – includes such a mysterious episode that it is easy to draw a curious parallel, although poles apart, with the today’s very specific circumstances surrounding the US presidential campaign.
In his youth, Kaine, an Irish cradle Catholic, had close ties to the Jesuits and the liberation theology they preached in Latin America. He made his first trip to northern Honduras in 1974 during his sophomore year at a Jesuit high school in order work with missionaries «to help its people». This was a time when the CIA was firmly in the driver’s seat in southern Honduras, having converted that area into its main center of operations against the leftist revolutions erupting at that time in Nicaragua and El Salvador. As Kaine himself has acknowledged, some local residents suspected him of having CIA connections, so the Jesuit priests even advised the young missionary to be wary of fraternizing with other Americans.
When describing those years he writes that this was when he became convinced that representatives of the US government were at times guilty of great wrongdoing abroad. However, if these were his genuine convictions and the first version of his life is true, then what we have is really a «Manchurian (Honduran) candidate» in the truest sense of the word. Who knows what such a man is capable of once he takes the reins, or what kind of pre-programmed agenda he will begin to pursue?
However, Kaine’s subsequent whirlwind career working for the very government that he had railed against as a young man (probably to further his own objectives) casts serious doubt upon the first version. But if the indoctrination occurred in the reverse order – not moving from the Marxists to a position of power, but from power to Marxism, then everything makes much more sense. For example, by his own admission one of Kaine’s favorite books is Washington’s Spies, and he and his wife enjoy the television series TURN, which was based on that novel about the fledgling US intelligence service and its young heroes.
However, the question of who exactly was schooling Tim Kaine during his youth – either wily Jesuits or cynical spies – remains unanswered. What can one do: these are the vagaries of history and of American political culture.
How might this story unfold after Nov. 8? People will vote for Hillary Clinton’s platform but will instead end up with one belonging to Tim Kaine – the «Honduran candidate» who, in accordance with the «Manchurian» script, is luring Hillary’s supporters with a bait-and-switch operation. For example, Clinton’s biggest base is known to be female voters. American women are very attracted to her promise of «the full freedom to plan their families» (i.e., abortion) and restrictions on gun sales. However Kaine, as a Catholic, opposes abortion and cannot abandon that position. He is also far more loyal to the Second Amendment, which guarantees Americans the right to bear arms, than is his patroness. It turns out that American women are being seriously misled.
This Democratic duo also hold conflicting positions on other important issues. Their attitude toward big business, for example, is another case in point. Although Kaine’s official biographies state that he was born into a «working class» family, in fact his father was the owner of a welding shop. That’s like saying the son of the owner of a tractor plant comes from a «family of tractor drivers». Any sort of ideas about «redistribution» in regard to big business are entirely foreign to Kaine. After all, why would the bigwig magnates who back Clinton, such as Warren Buffett and George Soros, have allowed her to preach the populist doctrine borrowed from Bernie Sanders in the final round of the election campaign unless they knew that a completely different person’s program was going to be the set in motion? One with which they are far more comfortable.
Personal charisma is also a problem – Kaine, who lost his only televised debate with his Republican counterpart Mike Pence, is not generally well liked in America, even among Democrats. Even CNN – with an audience made up of two-thirds Democrats and which regularly reports on how Clinton is running up the score in this political match against Trump – has estimated that Pence’s performance was preferred to Kaine’s by a margin of 48 % to 42 %. He does not offend women, but does make great use of them. His partnership with Hillary Clinton does not represent the first time in Kaine’s career that he has acted behind a woman’s back. He began to climb the Olympus of politics with his successful marriage to the daughter of the governor of Virginia, Linwood Holton, and would later go on to take his father-in-law’s job.
And yet, in accordance with the principle of eternal recurrence, the current status quo is reminiscent of the post-Watergate atmosphere in the US. At that time, if you remember, President Nixon had abruptly stepped down under threat of impeachment, to be replaced by his vice president, Gerald Ford. Nor had Ford been elected to his previous post, it is worth pointing out, but he had moved into that office after Spiro Agnew resigned faced with charges of corruption. As a result, a man was promoted to the executive office who had entirely managed to avoid the system of democratic elections. This was a huge blow to the credibility of the American political system, and in the current political environment the consequences could be even more severe.
The mechanism for transferring power from Clinton to Kaine could work much as it did with Ford. Kaine could first take over Clinton’s job and then appoint someone else as vice president without the need for an election. Beyond that, it’s hard to know what else could bob to the surface from his murky Honduran past. And might the need later arise to replace the «new Ford» himself, once again without the public being allowed to express their opinion?
We can be assured that the American political system will further descend into crisis should the current election campaign culminate in a «Manchurian» outcome. Democracy in America, which strives to be a paradigm for the whole world, is drifting away from its democratic ideals in a different direction … toward Honduras.