June 4, 2019

Gillibrand’s Town Hall and 2020 Prospects

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Despite a soaring national profile in the U.S. Senate, [Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)] has failed to achieve liftoff as a presidential prospect. She has not broken 2 percent in a single national poll since officially declaring her candidacy in mid-March, and her 0.4 percent average in the RealClearPolitics aggregate of surveys places her behind the likes of Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard and even geeky long shot Andrew Yang.” Politico

On Sunday evening, Gillibrand joined ‘Fox News Sunday’ host Chris Wallaceas part of a town hall event in Dubuque, Iowa. Fox News

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From the Left

The left wonders if Gillibrand still has a path to the nomination, and applauds her town hall performance.

“In the two years leading up to her 2020 run, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spent millions of dollars building up a network of online and grass-roots donors who could power her coming presidential campaign. But after Ms. Gillibrand’s big announcement in January, her expensively laid plans unraveled as those potential contributors all but vanished… Her campaign says she is connecting one voter at a time in coffee shops and living rooms. But in a celebrity-fueled climate dominated by mass media and viral moments online, it is not clear such a pathway exists in 2020.”
Shane Goldmacher, New York Times

“The modern media environment favors the flashy over the wonkish. For example, when Trump compared Democratic challenger Pete Buttigieg to Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Newman, it produced 26 percent more media mentions than Gillibrand's Family Bill of Rights…

“She was the first Democratic presidential candidate to offer a 100-day plan for boosting families, the first to offer a comprehensive abortion rights plan, the first to release her tax returns, the first to swear off using hacked information in her campaign, and one of the few to propose giving voters money to spend on the candidates of their choice. None of that has translated into anything close to a first-place showing in the polls. Nor has it garnered much media attention. But from the back of the pack, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York is building her campaign on ideas.”
Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News

“A New York senator who’s long made gender equity a core plank of her political identity (and now her 2020 candidacy), Gillibrand delivered a town hall appearance that only underscored the importance of this message. One exchange, in particular, illustrated the need for greater representation in politics. At one point, Wallace pressed Gillibrand to explain a tweet… emphasizing that the future was female and intersectional. ‘What do you mean our future is female?’ he asked. ‘We want women to have a seat at the table,’ Gillibrand replied. ‘But what about men?’ Wallace asked, seemingly suggesting that her message could imply some kind of exclusion, a common fear that’s been expressed about movements that advance people who have historically been underrepresented in different fields…

“‘They’re already there! Do you not know?’ Gillibrand hit back, prompting laughter and cheers from the audience… Seventy-seven percent of the House and 75 percent of the Senate is still comprised of men, and the US has yet to ever elect a woman president. To suggest that men don’t already have a seat at the table would mean ignoring those facts. Yet as different groups work to address existing gaps, it’s prompted concern among some people who’ve traditionally dominated certain fields. Gillibrand’s response confronts such fears head-on.”
Li Zhou, Vox

Yet some have noted “the limitations of a perceived niche candidate, even one representing a high-profile social movement that helped fuel voter turnout less than a year ago… Four senators running for president — Kamala D. Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Gillibrand — all cite their success in winning statewide elections as proof that a woman can reach heights no woman has before. All rail against sexism and gender pay gaps. All press for a woman’s right to choose. The issues on which Gillibrand hoped to build her campaign — reproductive rights, paid family leave and gender pay equality — are no longer distinguishing ones. Now, they are mainstream, invoked by female and male candidates alike…

“As one New York-based strategist put it… ‘It’s one thing to emphasize the woman part when you’re running against all men. It’s another thing when you’re running against a lot of very qualified women who are also moms and more.’”
Chelsea Janes, Washington Post

Finally, while “Gillibrand has made abortion the central issue of her presidential campaign… public opinion on specific abortion policies is still mixed, including among Democrats… Roughly two-thirds of Americans say abortion should generally be illegal in the second trimester, and more than 80 percent say it should generally be illegal in the third trimester—numbers that have held steady since the 1990s…

“The crucial swing states that helped Trump secure victory over Clinton—including Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida—have only razor-thin majorities supporting abortion in all or most cases… These voters could really matter: Some moderates and conservatives who were initially uncomfortable with Trump specifically point to the third presidential debate, when Hillary Clinton endorsed third-trimester abortion, as the decisive moment that solidified their reluctant support for Trump. Given the way the current Democratic primary is shaping up on this issue, that dynamic could conceivably play out again in 2020.”
Emma Green, The Atlantic

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is critical of Gillibrand’s candidacy and town hall performance, highlighting her seemingly opportunistic changes in policy positions over time.

From the Right

The right is critical of Gillibrand’s candidacy and town hall performance, highlighting her seemingly opportunistic changes in policy positions over time.

“Gillibrand, the tip of the spear for the #MeToo movement in Congress, Senate successor to Hillary Clinton and one time doyenne of the Wall Street bundlers doesn’t have enough donors to meet her party’s standard for participation in its first debate later this month. She’s still short of the 65,000-donor mark, a population not much larger than that of little Dubuque, here at the intersection of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. So what on earth is she still running for?...

“When Gillibrand, like her colleagues Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, started getting ready to run for president they didn’t know a lot of the things now shaping the race. They didn’t know that Joe Biden really was that popular among black voters. They didn’t know that seven senators would be running. They didn’t know that Democrats would go gaga for the 37-year-old mayor of the fourth largest city in Indiana. These are not people who got to where they are by being squeamish or for lack of ego or ambition, so what do you expect them to do except slog on.”
Chris Stirewalt, Fox News

She just seems too much like Hillary Clinton, and voters who want Trump to lose are probably not going to pick someone who reminds them of the person to whom Trump did not lose. Let me be clear: I do not mean that they are alike simply because they are both women… there was literally a 2010 Vanity Fair profile titled ‘In Hillary’s Footsteps: Kirsten Gillibrand,’ and the same cannot be said for other female candidates — such as Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren, both of whom are doing fairly well, especially compared with Gillibrand.”
Katherine Timpf, National Review

At the town hall, “when asked about gun violence, given the recent shootings in Virginia Beach, Gillibrand said, ‘the NRA is the worst organization in this country.’ She then implied the NRA is okay with selling guns to terrorists: ‘They care more about their profits than the American people, they care more about selling guns to someone on the terror watch list or with a grave mental illness or who has a violent criminal background.’ Gillibrand then laid out a three-step plan for reducing gun violence, including: universal background checks; banning bump-stocks, assault rifles, and military-style weapons; and creating federal anti-trafficking laws. None of these steps could have prevented the Virginia Beach shooting.”
Chrissy Clark, The Federalist

The NRA is a non-profit, it doesn’t sell guns, and the NRA backed background checks at the point of sale to prevent criminals from purchasing firearms. The ‘terror watch list’ issue had more to with that being an unadjudicated (and vastly overused) status developed by law enforcement without any recourse to due process. Even some of the people who develop those lists think it’s potentially dangerous to counterterrorism efforts to conflate its use with gun control. Also, Gillibrand accuses the NRA of torpedoing the banning of ‘bump stocks,’ used in the Las Vegas massacre, when Donald Trump himself banned bump stocks last year…

“When she represented only ‘my rural upstate district,’ Gillibrand was more than happy to wave the NRA flag. When it came time to run for statewide office, Gillibrand changed her position to suit her political needs. And now that she’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination — and taking flak from progressives over appearing on Fox — the NRA is now ‘the worst organization in the country.’”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“If you believe in gun control, fine. Stick to it. Defend it. If you believe in the Second Amendment, fine. Stick to it. Defend it. But pick a side and stick to it. I'm not saying people can't grow and change their point-of-view but this is straight up political pandering. She didn't just alienate one side. She's alienated everyone.”
Beth Baumann, Townhall

In addition to the Second Amendment, her stance on immigration has flip-flopped since joining the Senate. Gillibrand has referred to Trump’s immigration and border security policies as racist on multiple occasions, despite previously promulgating identical positions — she contended in January that those same positions were not racist when she supported them. She later reversed her position on allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers’ licenses only a day after she announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 2020.”
Molly Prince, The Daily Caller

Gillibrand is attempting “to find the overlap between aggrieved soccer moms who voted for Hillary Clinton but can't get with Elizabeth Warren's breathless cronyism, abortion absolutists who spar with intersectionalists on the basis that they sideline feminism, and #MeToo activists who are mostly in it for the political points. All of this is to say that Gillibrand doesn't really have a constituency.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

On the bright side...

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