Sen. Tim Kaine says Charlottesville violence spawned "energetic activism" in election year

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine said that in the year after a white nationalist rally turned deadly in the city of Charlottesville, a spirit of "energetic activism" has helped turn the tide in local Virginia politics.

Kaine said that while the violence in Charlottesville was "shocking" people stood up and said, "We're not going to let our state be defined" by hate.

"It was seen most directly in the Virginia elections in November of 2017," Kaine told "Face the Nation" moderator Margaret Brennan. "We elected a statewide ticket, including the second African-American elected to statewide office, Justin Fairfax. We elected- Democrats elected more members of the lower legislative house than in any year since the 1870s. And who was elected? Of the 15 people that got elected with this energetic turnout, 11 of the 15 were women, African-American, Asian-American, Latino-American, immigrant-born, LGBT, transgender. It was a real rainbow coalition of who the Virginia of today is."

Brennan noted that Kaine's opponent in November's midterm elections, Corey Stewart, is running on the platform of "taking back our heritage," directly countering Kaine's message of hopeful grassroots energy.

As a candidate for governor in 2017, Stewart spoke against removing Confederate monuments, including the Robert E. Lee statue that prompted the violent protests in Charlottesville last year. Stewart called efforts to remove the monuments "an attempt to destroy traditional America."

"Again, look who won last year," Kaine said. "It wasn't the people who want to secede or go backwards who were winning elections. Charlottesville was a shock. And what I think it has created is an energy of people of goodwill standing up and saying, 'There will not be hate. Hate will not define who we are. We're on a path to progress, and we're going to stay there.'"

Asked if the issue of identity politics is something Democrats should be embracing ahead of the midterms as they seek to regain control of the House and Senate, Kaine said that equality should be America's "North Star."

"We got to be true to the equality principle. And we have to reject division and embrace equality. That's not identity politics. That's not political correctness. That's being true to the fundamental Virginia and American value that equality is the North Star we should pursue," Kaine said.

He added, "We're imperfect people. We may never get to equality in the pure sense of it. But that's got to be our North Star. And if somebody says, 'Oh that's identity politics,' or, 'That's political correctness,' you just say, 'No, if we're not for equality as a nation, what are we?' Of course we are. That's the very foundation of who we are."

  • Emily Tillett

    Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital