When it comes to Senator Gillibrand’s presidential ambitions, the number one “anti-” talking point seems to be about former Senator Al Franken. The view is that Sen. Gillibrand led the charge against Franken, a fellow Democrat in the Senate, immediately after accusations of sexual impropriety emerged. Despite the fact that Franken himself requested an ethics investigation to unravel the facts, Gillibrand pressured him to resign. Seemingly without the benefit of any due process or opportunity to defend himself.
To many progressives, Al Franken’s voluntary but coerced resignation has become the cause célèbre to reject Gillibrand’s presidential bid; and I can understand that. Franken’s progressive bona-fides were unquestionable. He was a strident voice for women’s reproductive rights, an environmental activist and a strong ally for social justice.
This is not why I will not support Kirsten Gillibrand, at least it is not the main reason.
Kirsten Gillibrand is a lifelong Democrat, but only recently has she moved to the left-of-center in politics. It is easy to forget that the dichotomism of Democrat=liberal and Republican=conservative is a relatively recent concept. Even today, the Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats in the House, of which Gillibrand joined immediate upon her 2008 victory, represents a center-right voice of Democrats who advance fiscal conservatism with a (usually) progressive social agenda.
Prior to joining the Senate, Gillibrand was far from a progressive voice. As an associate with the law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, she defended Philip Morris in a very high profile case regarding the tobacco giant’s concealment of evidence which supported that smoking caused lung cancer. She held an “A” rating from the NRA, although it is now an “F”. She supported several anti-immigrant agenda items, including supporting a law which prohibited the State of New York from issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, and a law which would have withheld federal funds from “sanctuary cities”.
Now, I can accept the idea that people can change positions upon learning additional evidence, in fact it is a sign of intelligence to do so. My issue is that Gillibrand’s evolution to the left has not seemed to coincide with any stunning revelations, other than the changing tides of public opinion. To me, this sounds more like political opportunism than an evolution of opinion, and that worries me. If this is the case, how do we know which way her positions will swing after being elected?
I am no ideological purist. I just want a president who I can count on to stand by their principles. To me, Kirsten Gillibrand does not seem like the best choice right now; not with the pool of candidates that is building with in the Democratic Party for 2020. There are so many other likely contenders with solid histories of views which more closely align with my own, why would I vote for someone who has only recently become one?
Don’t get me wrong. If Gillibrand gets the nomination, I will support her, because I will vote for anyone over Donald Trump. I’d vote for a roadkill possum or a flat can of Tab Cola over Trump. She will not be my first choice among the likely Democratic candidates, nor my second or third.
I suppose my point is this: If you don’t want to support Kirsten Gillibrand because of what happened to Al Franken, that is fine; but there are plenty of other reasons to throw your support to other candidates as well.