Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Will Cut Your Yarbles Off If She Must, But Only If She REALLY Has To.
As we've said before, we really like the cut of Kirsten Gillibrand's jib. The junior US senator from New York was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat in 2009 when Hillz became Secretary of State, and has quickly become one of the more prominent progressive members of the Senate, advocating for single-payer healthcare, calling to abolish ICE (or radically restructure it, really), and throughout her tenure, leading the fight against sexual assault abuse in the military. And while we must always temper talk of any candidate being a shoo-in for reelection with that warning from noted political pundit Our Girlfriend, "there are no sure things in politics anymore," all the political prediction people consider Gillibrand's seat "solid/safe/likely" Democratic this year. As one indicator, consider yesterday's New York Times piece noting that while Gillibrand's campaign has raised a bit under $11 million, she hasn't spent a dime on TV advertising this year -- which may just give you some hints about her plans for 2020.
Gillibrand, needless to say, says the mandatory "I want to be senator for the next six years" line as convincingly as every other potential presidential candidate does, which is also what she said in 2013 when there was speculation she was looking at a run in 2016. Then again, six years ago, she actually spent over $8 million on her Senate campaign.
For a sense of why we like Kirsten Gillibrand one hell of a lot, check out a couple of very good profiles of her, like this 2013 piece by Evan Osnos at the New Yorker (one of the better lines: "She is vanilla, but she's strong vanilla."), and this nifty 2017 Rebecca Traister profile in New York magazine, in which we learn that Gillibrand is the sort of person who realizes at 3 AM, "Oh my God, I've got to fucking order those [Girl Scout] cookies. I'm terrible!" then gets up and orders the fucking cookies, because that's what a responsible mom/Senator does (also because she also realizes that, as a US senator, you do not want to mess with Girl Scouts. It's not really about the cookies.) We're behind what Gillibrand says is her worldview of Senating: "[We're] here to help people, and if we're not helping people, we should go the fuck home." We would like that on a coffee mug.
Gillibrand's Republican opponent this year, Chele Farley, a financial industry exec who's never held office, is trying to make Gillibrand's possible presidential ambitions a top campaign issue, although we honestly don't know of many races where "my opponent is nationally known and popular, and that's terrible for [add state name here]" has ever won an election. She's also accused Gillibrand of changing her positions on two issues, guns and immigration, as a matter of political convenience, although it's doubtful the flip-flopping charge is likely to get any traction. Yes, when she was in the House of Representatives,Gillibrand once had an "A" rating from the NRA, but once she was in the Senate, that quickly dropped to an "F." Similarly, where she once called for stopping "illegal immigration," she led the opposition to Trump's family separation policy.
Gillibrand explains those policy changes as a matter of having evolved on those issues as she's become more aware of the human costs:
In February, in an appearance on "60 Minutes," she said she is "ashamed" of her previous positions. "I just think, as I've gotten older, I've learned more about life, and sometimes you're wrong," she said. "And you've gotta fix it. And if you're wrong, just admit it and move on."
As Gillibrand explained to Traister last year, those changes came from representing the whole state, not just her upstate Congressional district -- she said she hadn't just "evolved," but had been "educated" by her wider constituency, as when she met with parents of a Brooklyn girl killed by a stray bullet:
"You are literally meeting parents who'd lost their daughter, and I'm a young mother with babies and tons of hormones," she recalls, crying even now at the memory. "I was so upset that I hadn't heard their story. To know that I had not empathized with them, or not even understood the issue well enough to be a good advocate? I knew I was wrong. I knew I didn't know enough. I was just embarrassed that I hadn't taken the time to truly understand what that issue was about."
Same thing on immigration, where Gillibrand's reversal sounds a lot like a convert's "I can't believe I was ever that stupid!" story:
"My district was 98 percent white," she says. "I hadn't sat down with people to know what it feels like to live with constant racism, to live with the constant threat of families being torn apart."
That doesn't sound like a shallow flip-flop to us, but then, Yr Dok Zoom is the adopted son of a guy who was raised Babtist in Texas, briefly belonged to the KKK in college in the 1920s (he told my mom they mostly drank beer, burned crosses, and fretted about the Pope of Rome outlawing Protestantism), and eventually became an almost fanatical Catholic who voted for JFK, so we're a sucker for conversion narratives.
Now, if Gillibrand does eventually run for president, (or hey, Senate Democratic leader?), there may be primary debate questions about her being the first member of the Senate to call for Al Franken to resign over the sexual harassment allegations against him. Some say she jumped the gun and should have waited for the results of an Ethics Committee investigation, but it's consistent with her position on sexual harassment and assault across the board, and Franken himself recognized he was toast. So no, we're not going to fight that one all over again. (And can we vaguely wish you Wonkers won't, either, in the comments? We really ARE dreamers.) We rather like that she has principles on that issue, and her willingness to stick to them is a plus, sorry not sorry. If she decides the anger over that call precludes a presidential run, we think she's a hell of a senator and can do a hell of a lot of good right where she is. She cast the Senate's most "No" votes against Trump cabinet nominees, and that's a fine thing to have on her resume.
One thing for certain: Gillibrand is not inclined to abide any damn foolishness from members of the Boy's Club. Remember, she wasn't afraid to call bullshit on Senate men who warned her to avoid "getting chubby," and when Donald Trump very presidentially called her a hoor last year, she slapped that Tweeting machine out of his hands, metaphorically speaking. As one of her aides told Osnos in 2013,
For her, Option One is light and sunshine, Option Two is cut your nuts off.
Can we get that on a coffee mug, too?
Most recently, Gillibrand this weekend announced she'd withdraw from a debate with Farley because the debate was sponsored by Spectrum News cable TV stations; Spectrum is a subsidiary of Charter Communications, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 is striking against Charter. Gillibrand said in a statement she wouldn't cross "a de facto picket line" just to be in a debate, and added that if another sponsor picked up the debates, she'd happily debate Farley (This is a smart move for her, even regardless of the union thing, because people in NY, especially those who are my parents, really hate Spectrum and enjoy pretty much any reason to proclaim that Spectrum is the worst. -- Robyn) . Farley called Gillibrand "chicken," but that would be a much more credible accusation if the race were closer -- we'd call it supporting the union.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.