Give Gillibrand a Chance

Where Things Stand

What a week – lots more candidates have jumped in the race:

-      John Delaney has been in for a long while now.

-      Richard Ojeda– remember him? Radio silence since his November 12 announcement.

-      Elizabeth Warren– who has only formed an exploratory committee but essentially announced her candidacy on New Year’s Eve.

-      Tulsi Gabbard jumped into the race during an interview with Van Jones, which we learned about on January 11 – but has not yet formally announced.

-      Julián Castro officially announced on January 12 and is full steam ahead.

-      Kirsten Gillibrand formed an exploratory committee, but basically told us she was running this past Tuesday on the Colbert Show.


With two woman and a Latino man joining the field, we’re starting to see some of the rich diversity in the Democratic Party – one of the biggest reasons I’m proud to be a member.


Who’s up next?

-      Alright, Kamala Harris is basicallyin the race. We’re just waiting for a final announcement. Rumor is, it’ll come on MLK Day.

-      Pete Buttigeig told the South Bend Tribune that he plans to make a decision in the next few weeks.


Keep an eye on …

-      Sherrod Brown is going on a listening tour around Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Hmmmmm….. 

-      A campaign logo for Amy Klobuchar leaked on Twitter after someone found sketches at a DC coffee shop. She’s called them fake, but continues to keep the door open for a run.

-      Beto O’Rourke can’t help but be an enigma. An interview with the Washington Post this week led to criticism about his lack of substance; meanwhile, his live-blog from his solo road trip has left everyone utterly stumped about what’s going on in his head.

-      Still no word from Joe Biden– but he can afford to wait as long as he’d like. 

-      Bernie Sanders met with women who experienced sexual harassment and discrimination on his campaign in 2016 – but no other news on the 2020 front.

-      Has anyone seen Cory Booker? For someone consistently mentioned as a potential candidate, he’s been fairly quiet. This could mean he’s about to make a splash in the race – or he’s trying to disappear from the conversation.


On Kirsten Gillibrand

I never had strong feelings about Kirsten Gillibrand as a senator – but she’s grown on me as a 2020 candidate.

She entered the national political scene as a congresswoman from New York, gaining household name recognition after her appointment to fill Hillary Clinton’s senate seat after the 2008 presidential election cycle. Since then, she’s developed a strong brand as a reliable progressive – advocating for gun control, gender equality, and immigration reform. She even passes the new liberal litmus test of rejecting corporate PAC money.


But it’s worth noting that many of these were not her original policy positions. While in Congress, she maintained an A rating from the NRA and endorsed stronger border control measures – but now flouts an F rating and echoes calls to abolish ICE. She also has been accused of being cozy with Wall Street (though somewhat understandably, considering they’re her constituents). This has drawn significant media attention and could challenge her candidacy moving forward.


With that said, I don’t think this disqualifies her from a fair shot at the Democratic nomination. Obviously, we shouldn’t allow a free pass to those who claim to have “evolved” from hateful, prejudiced views that are antithetical to our values – but shouldn’t we, as Democrats, encourage our leaders to move left over time on important challenges like gun safety and economic equality? Not doing so would box out a number of candidates with great potential.


And Gillibrand certainly has potential. She has established herself as a true leader on gender equality and a fighter for survivors of sexual assault. She pushes a populist economic message and has voted against almost every one of Trump’s nominees – earning her bona fides with the liberal wing of the party. She’s a talented speaker, knows how to raise money, and – for better or for worse – doesn’t raise as many “likability” questions from the press as other female candidates have. (see my column from last week on why that’s an absolutely ridiculous conversation to have in the first place)


Her lane in this race is, according to FiveThirtyEight, courting female voters – which make up roughly 60% of the party. By focusing on gender equality issues and supporting female candidates down the ballot through her “Off the Sidelines” PAC, it’s clear that this – smartly – is her play to carve out a chunk of the primary electorate. And she has the credibility to lead in this space, too.


Her campaign is pushing dual messages: her record of legislative achievement and her image as a fighter against “systems of power that do not want Americans to have … opportunity.” In this sense, she sounds a lot like Elizabeth Warren – who has an advantage because she jumped into the race first. 


Unlike Warren, however, I feel like we’re missing a compelling story around Gillibrand. I still have questions like: Why is she the right one for this moment? What’s her vision for this country? How will she fare against Trump? These are questions she’ll have in answer – but I’m more than willing to give her the chance.


On My Mind

Impeachment has been a hot topic in the liberal world this week. A growing drumbeat from the Russia investigation – culminating in this week’s bombshell report from BuzzFeed Newsthat the president instructed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about the Trump Tower project in Moscow – has more and more Democrats speaking out about possible impeachment proceedings.


But my favorite columnist, David Leonhardt from the New York Times, published a fantastic piecealmost two weeks ago laying out a case from impeachment that is entirely separate from the Mueller investigation– focusing entirely on the fact that he is “demonstrably unfit for the office.” And he tells the story of the Trump presidency in the most concise, coherent, powerful way that I’ve ever read:


“The presidential oath of office contains 35 words and one core promise: to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Since virtually the moment Donald J. Trump took that oath two years ago, he has been violating it.


He has repeatedly put his own interests above those of the country. He has used the presidency to promote his businesses. He has accepted financial gifts from foreign countries. He has lied to the American people about his relationship with a hostile foreign government. He has tolerated cabinet officials who use their position to enrich themselves.


To shield himself from accountability for all of this — and for his unscrupulous presidential campaign — he has set out to undermine the American system of checks and balances. He has called for the prosecution of his political enemies and the protection of his allies. He has attempted to obstruct justice. He has tried to shake the public’s confidence in one democratic institution after another, including the press, federal law enforcement and the federal judiciary.


The unrelenting chaos that Trump creates can sometimes obscure the big picture. But the big picture is simple: The United States has never had a president as demonstrably unfit for the office as Trump. And it’s becoming clear that 2019 is likely to be dominated by a single question: What are we going to do about it?”


So, while we wait for the Mueller report to play itself out, I’m looking forward to seeing how Democrats on the 2020 trail talk about Trump – and whether or not they make the case about his fitness for office as they begin the journey to remove him from office themselves.

Max Magid