At the New York Times, everyone gets to explain: Why didn't Kirsten Gillibrand do better in the campaign?
We'd start by offering an obvious possibility—she was a terrible candidate, and a bit of an accidental candidate at that. We don't know why such a mediocrity ever got appointed to the Senate in the first place, but she's never been a talented pol, as indeed most people aren't.
Her most ridiculous moment came in the week before the second debate. The hopeful made this ridiculous claim, as reported in the Times:
GOLDMACHER (7/27/19): Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York has accused some of her fellow Democratic candidates for president of not supporting women who work outside the home, her most pointed attempt yet to frame her struggling candidacy as the best option for women voters.Really? Some of the candidates—plural?—"don't believe necessarily (whatever that means) that it’s a good idea that women work outside the home?"
“We have Democratic candidates running for president right now who do not believe necessarily that it’s a good idea that women work outside the home,” she said emphatically on Thursday before a women’s labor event in Iowa City. “No joke.”
Gillibrand advertised the claim as "no joke," but the claim was absurd on its face.
At the debate, she made it clear that she had been talking about Candidate Biden, whom she criticized for an op-ed column he wrote in 1981. According to most reporting, the debate at which she made this presentation took place in 2019.
Beyond the chronological absurdity, almost everyone agreed that Gillibrand had misrepresented what Biden had actually said way back in his long-ago piece. She never explained who the other candidate (or candidates) were, the other hopefuls who wanted women to stay in the house all day long.
That represented Gillibrand's attempt to present herself as the candidate devoted to feminism. The fact that that was the best she could do illustrates our basic point—she just wasn't, and she isn't, an especially talented pol.
Most people aren't! But rather than accept this simple fact about Candidate Gillibrand, the New York Times has launched a long-running campaign in which various people attempt to comprehend the reasons why Gillibrand floundered.
It started on August 29 with this full-length news report in which Alexander Burns reported that Gillibrand was leaving the race. The next day, Shane Goldmacher offered this lengthy, front-page analysis piece, examining the reasons why Gillibrand's campaign had failed.
For the most part, Goldmacher repeated everything Burns said the day before. But so what? On Monday, Lisa Lerer was on the front page too, offering her own lengthy account of the reasons this hopeful went down.
As in the old joke about congressional hearings, it seems that everything has been said on this topic, but everyone hasn't yet said it. For our money, Goldmacher's report included the most pitiful statement of all:
GOLDMACHER (8/30/19): Ms. Gillibrand said in an interview that she was unsure what the missing piece of her candidacy was. “I don’t know,” she said. “My campaign may well have been ahead of its time.”We don't think that was it. It's just that she wasn't a very good candidate. Very few people are.
At any rate, the Times has now run three reports, two of them on the front page, examining why Gillibrand failed to catch on with the people. We're not sure how long they can keep this up, especially since all the reports have essentially said the same things.
We could take a guess as to why the Times ran that third piece, but you can do that for yourselves. The most striking manifestation in these tribal times was the earlier essay by Susan Matthews which appeared at Slate.
"Why Couldn’t I Make Myself Like Kirsten Gillibrand?" the headline sadly asked. Matthews, who often does excellent work, couldn't stop flogging herself over her failure to fall in love with The Official Feminist Candidate:
MATTHEWS (8/29/19): ...I am perplexed by my own unenthusiastic reaction to her campaign, as much as it overlaps with the public consensus. As the warmer media reception to Jay Inslee proved, climate change is enough to be a single-issue platform. Why not women’s rights?Earth to Matthews: Inslee is out of the campaign too! Also, family leave would be a good thing, but climate change, as people have noted, could end up destroying the world. Just wait until the commander-in-chief nukes the Greenland ice sheet!
Everyone complains that Gillibrand took all the blame for Al Franken's departure. As is required by Hard Tribal Law, this is cast as something that would only be done to a woman.
Earth to tribe: Back in 1998, Joe Lieberman took the exact same heat for going first about Bill Clinton's conduct with Monica Lewinsky. But as major anthropologists persistently tell us, our weak human brains can only remember facts and events which align with our preconceived "fictions."
Susan Matthews is sharper than Gillibrand is. She ought to be willing to say so.