Why didn't Gillibrand take off?

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2019

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.

“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.”
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?"

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!

Final point:

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.

12 comments:

  1. "she just wasn't, and she isn't, an especially talented pol"

    So what. Neither was your demigod friend Algore or your zombie psycho-queen in 2016.

    The bosses who sponsor your zombie cult didn't want her, not in this cycle anyway, and so she had to go. And that's all there is to it.

    ReplyDelete
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  2. Gillibrand was “appointed.” OK. After which, she was re-elected, once in a special election, and then twice by her constituents in regular elections. (We’re sure Somerby didn’t mean to be snarky here...)

    Gillibrand is a terrible candidate, according to Somerby. Is this based on a thorough analysis of her policy positions and her public speaking engagements? No, it seems to be based on a single comment in a single debate.

    This puts Gillibrand in the same special category as Warren, whom Somerby also called a terrible candidate early on in her candidacy, for reasons that remain unknown.

    Meanwhile, Joe Biden misrepresents his Iraq War stance:

    http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2019/09/its-not-acceptable-for-a-presidential-candidate-to-lie-or-be-in-a-delusional-state-about-his-role-in-supporting-a-catastrophic-war

    Just Ol’ Gaffin’ Joe...

    Will Somerby ever call *him* a “terrible candidate?”

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Rarely mentioned : In the 2nd night of the 1st Dem "debates", Sen. Harris had a great line about the "food fight". Gillibrand was the leader of the "food fight", through her attempts at attention by talking over others. Compared to say Warren, Buttigieg, & others, she seemed un-presidential, desperate, & rather like a spoiled child.
    Yes, in general she was a horrible candidate. Few convictions, all pandering. A significantly worse version of Hillary.

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  5. One has to remember that Somerby's ideal candidate is someone like Roy Moore, someone he can spend dozens of columns defending

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  6. Somerby writes:

    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."


    Huh? Joe Lieberman's stock went up after his turn as a moral scold- in 2000 the Democratic presidential nominee, Al Gore, chose Lieberman to be his running mate. (Of course, Somerby would tell you Gore had no agency in the matter.)

    The Gore-Lieberman ticket lost but Lieberman remained in the U.S. senate, thereafter, because he had kept his name on the Connecticut ballot for his seat that year as a contingency. (Had the Gore-Lieberman ticket won the Democrats would have lost the senate seat to the Republican governor's appointed replacement.)

    After his election to a U.S. senate seat from Illinois in 2004, the freshman Barack Obama chose Lieberman to be his mentor- the shrewdest of choices for the aspiring young politician many pundits agreed. Even after losing the Democratic nomination for re-election to his senate seat in 2006, Lieberman won it again as a third party candidate in the general election.

    In 2008, supposedly, that year's Republican nominee for president, Sen. John McCain, gave serious thought to naming Lieberman his running mate and, otherwise, Lieberman maintained some sort of elder statesman status within the Democratic senate caucus for the remainder of his career.

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  7. To be honest, I don’t know why anyone would want to be President. Maybe it’s because, somehow, they know that they only have to make the “big decisions”, like repealing Glass-Steagall, or invade and destroy Iraq. All questions of which they essentially handed off to their “experts”, who will advise them. You know, tell them what they should do.

    Maybe it’s a from of greed for fame, historicity, for lucre (they all know how they’ll end up), maybe all of the above.

    But above all, an ego that believes they deserve it.

    Some do, despite their ego (a term with negative connotations), in terms of their aspirations. But for this fair-minded individual, only a very few merit the grade, and none of them have been Republicans since Nixon at least (though ya gotta give him props for the EPA and other assorted sundries.) No pol is all bad, especially when they see how the winds are blowing.

    Fuck, if only we had more of a parliamentary system, but we’re stuck with only two viable parties. At least then we wouldn’t be stuck with the Gillibrands and the Betos and other bought egomaniacs, not to mention the “opposition."

    Hey, you want to be President? You got that kind of ego? I’m with you if you’re Sanders or Warren. Because it all goes back to records, in terms of policy. Nobody’s perfect, but some are more perfect than others in terms of current circumstances.

    Buh bye Kirsten. We will miss ye.

    Leroy

    ReplyDelete
  8. What make a strong candidate? Here are four examples

    1. Ike. A national hero. Both parties wanted his as their candidate. He could have been elected either way.

    2. Reagan. His communications skill made him a winner. He pretended to be dumb, but was actually smart and knowledgeable about issues.

    3. Humphrey. Lots of experience in Congressional leadership and issue expertise. He was rising as the election got nearer. If the election had been a week later, I think he would have won.

    4. Bill Clinton. His ability to connect with people and to feign sincerity made him an outstanding candidate.

    IMHO no Democrat measures up to these four.

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