I’ve been saving string for a piece on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s odd makeover as a progressive, but the Times beat me to it. Here’s the link.
Gillibrand started out as a Wall Street Democrat and Chuck Schumer’s protégé. As the Times reports, in the 2012 election cycle, she ranked third among Republicans and Democrats alike in her donations from the banking and investment sector.
Today her strategy seems to be to embrace anything Elizabeth Warren is for, and then some. She’s for a tax on financial transactions, Post Office banking, and public jobs. She’s sworn off PAC money (but of course there are lots of other ways to take Wall Street money, via independent expenditures and personal donations). And she also doesn’t let anyone get to her left on identity politics.
What are we to make of this? For starters, it reflects the plain political reality that Democratic voters today are a left party, and anyone serious about running for president has to come to grips with that. That’s good news. To the extent that Gillibrand is a weathervane, this is just the weather we need.
But is this a sincere conversion on Gillibrand’s part, or posturing? Would she run left, and then fill her administration with the usual suspects for key economic and financial jobs, as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did?
Count me as a skeptic. It’s also hard to excuse Gillibrand for leading the stampede in the Senate Democratic Caucus to oust former Senator Al Franken before he even had a chance to seriously defend himself. He remains a more noble and principled public figure than she is.
Yes, history shows that politicians are works in progress. Lincoln did not find his inner abolitionist until history forced the issue. FDR started out as a budget balancer. LBJ was with the racist Dixiecrats until events gave him the chance to be a great civil rights president.
It’s possible that Gillibrand is in this category of leader, though one gags at mentioning her, Lincoln, and Roosevelt in the same sentence. It’s also possible that the American soccer team will win the next World Cup.