Posts Tagged ‘senator’

Democrats: Stand By Your Woman

Monday, December 25th, 2017

By Bob Gaydos

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand ... leading the way

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand … leading the way

So I wrote a column saying that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been beautifully positioned — by a combination of Donald Trump’s fear of self-confident women, the rapid emergence of sexual misconduct by prominent men as a social issue, the newly demonstrated political power of women of color, and her own intelligence, commitment and ambition — to run for president in 2020.

Here’s a sampling of comments I received:

— “She’’s done, as far as I’m concerned, and I voted for her. What she did to Al Franken for her own benefit is a disgrace. She needs to be primaried, and voted out.”

— “Never vote for her.”

— “Horsefeathers.”

— “Another Democratic hypocrite just like the rest of the party.”

— “Just another Schumer loser and certainly a disgrace for NY.”

— “I think almost every single politicians in New York is corrupt. For example, was she part of Hillary Clinton’s 100 member leadership team? If so, that kills it for me right there. … I mean Bernie Sanders ended up supporting Hillary, but he had to, I think. He has my vote in 2020, and my undying allegiance.”

Of course there were the usual trolls who can’t spell or comment without being vulgar — the world the Internet has legitimized. There were also some positive comments about Gillibrand, but that response was markedly muted, with Democrats in my and Gillibrand’s home state of New York apparently sharing the uncertainty of Democrats nationally as to what to make of this outspoken junior senator who had just called on the groper-in-chief to resign.

The reaction of David Axelrod, one of Barack Obama’s chief advisers, was typical: “There should be rigorous pursuit of these kinds of charges, but right now there are no rules. She’s been a leader on the issue [of sexual assault]. But the danger for her is looking so craven and opportunistic it actually hurts her.”

Someone identified as a top Democratic operative was quoted thusly: “If you cared about the Democrats and 2018, you would be calling for hearings [for Trump]. When you call for resignation, you’re jumping the gun. I’d rather have congressional candidates being asked, ‘Do you support hearings?’ Calling for resignation is not really what’s best for the party, but it’s good for her.”

So, bad for her or good for her? Gillibrand isn’t waiting for Democratic “operatives” to decide.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the senator provided some insight into her thinking: “I take calculated risks. I measure. I assess risk very intensely. And then I make a judgment. When you play tennis as a kid, you’re going to win sometimes and lose sometimes, and you learn how to behave well under both circumstances. Such a great life lesson because if you’re not afraid of losing, you’ll take a risk — like running for office.”

Including president.

My impression is that Democrats typically have difficulty recognizing opportunities that offer themselves and even more difficulty uniting behind a candidate, whether they agree with all her views or not. It’s almost as if winning elections is not that important. Republicans, of course, have demonstrated that they are capable to a fault of standing behind a candidate regardless of his lack of character, intelligence, knowledge of government, or emotional stability, perhaps even to the eventual demise of their own party.

But that’s the Republicans’ problem. Many Democrats seem to be inclined to try to make a problem of Gillibrand’s synchronistic moment. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that she’s a woman and she’s talking about a subject many people find difficult to talk about frankly and publicly — sexual harassment in all its forms, from subtle to blatant.

That the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump did not prevent him from becoming the Republican presidential candidate, never mind winning the campaign for the White House over a clearly more-qualified female opponent, may well be due in large part to unspoken attitudes about gender and sex and politics and how to behave when they all come together.

Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 popular vote among white women, running against a card-carrying misogynist. The usual complaints voiced about her were that she was too ambitious or not trustworthy. But Trump was all ambition and a congenital liar. He was also an admitted sexual predator. But so was Bill Clinton, although it took some time and an impeachment for his admissions to come forth. And through it all, Hillary stood by her man. You could almost hear Tammy Wynette singing it: “You’ll have bad times; he’ll have good times; Doin’ things that you don’t understand …”

As a man occasionally guilty of sexist remarks, I nonetheless venture to say that I have noticed that women have a way of remembering things. “She attacked all those women who were used by Bill and now she wants to be president? I don’t think so.” The women voters stood by their man, just like the song says, “ ‘Cause after all he’s just a man” … allowed to be ambitious and untrustworthy.

That time is no more. #MeToo and the Women’s March and generations of women who have grown up liberated beneficiaries of other women’s struggles — women not trying to behave like men or needing to be silent about sexual abuse in order to succeed — have changed the political landscape. Gillibrand, 51, is one of them and she understands the changing dynamic.

One of the trickier challenges in talking or writing about the recent flood of sexual misconduct allegations is how to differentiate among the various behaviors — Harassment? Groping? Unwanted touching? Suggestive talk? Sex for a promotion? Assault? Rape?

Gillibrand makes it simple: “Let’s say the line is here, and it’s all bad,” she said at a women’s conference, to cheers. She is someone willing and able to lead the much-needed discussion. Indeed, she has led a bipartisan effort to rewrite the rules in Congress on dealing with sexual harassment charges. The current system relies heavily on delay and legal hush money.

Democrats need to take Gillibrand and women’s issues — including Bernie Sanders’ key issue, economic equality — seriously. They are all connected to the issue of men in power using and abusing their positions to get sex in exchange for “helping” a woman’s career or at least not hurting it. In essence, of using power to “keep women in their place.”

I understand that a lot of Democrats feel that Sanders was robbed of the Democratic nomination and that he would have beaten Trump. I agree. But Bernie in 2020? Look, I think he would be a good president. Heck, with all modesty, I think I would be a better president than Trump. But I’m four months older than the Vermont senator, who will be 80 in 2020. I hate ageism, but I’m also a realist. If Sanders runs, I’ll vote for him, but I think being president of the United States is a younger person’s game. In today’s world, perhaps a younger woman’s game.

(The author has been a registered independent voter for more than 50 years.)

Hillary, Beware the Cloak of Inevitability

Friday, June 12th, 2015

By Bob Gaydos

Hillary Clinton, why does she want to be president?

Hillary Clinton … why does she want to be president?

Having been dragged into the 2016 presidential debate a year early by the unexpected candidacy of George Pataki, I feel obliged to acknowledge the presidential ambitions of another “New Yorker,” Hillary Clinton.

Unlike Pataki, a Republican who carries the baggage of a man looking for a political party to support his aspirations, Clinton has long worn the cloak of inevitability as the Democrats’ likely candidate in 2016.

She may not want to get too comfortable with this bit of political apparel.

History suggests why. In 2008, the so-called conventional wisdom made Clinton a heavy favorite to capture her party’s nomination. All she had to do, it was suggested, was relax and let nature takes its course. After all, she had a well-respected Bill by her side in a reversal of roles, all the money they had amassed since he left the White House, a long list of wealthy Democratic donors and she had even won an election to become New York’s junior senator.

What more did she need?

As it turned out, a few things: 1.) a populist message with which voters could identify; 2.) a campaign persona that projected sincerity, clarity, energy and the possibility of real change; 3.) a little warmth; and 4.) a way to defeat Barack Obama, who, it turns out, had plenty of the first three.

In 2008, the inevitable was overcome by the unexpected.

Enter Bernie Sanders, 2015. The conventional wisdom — and even major news media, who should know better — are writing him off as an eccentric, under-funded, liberal — socialist even — senator from a small, New England state.

All of which is true, except for the eccentric part.

Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, is running for the Democratic nomination for president. Unlike most of the Republican presidential candidates, he is no crackpot. He has a dedicated — and rapidly growing — constituency, fueled by the most synergistic form of communication yet created by man — social media.

In 2008, Barack Obama had it. In 2015, Bernie Sanders has it in spades. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites offer a non-stop, 24/7 recitation of Sanders’ positions on issues that resonate with so-called average Americans:

Protect Social Security and Medicare. Don’t raise the retirement age. Raise the minimum wage. Decrease the wealth gap by taxing the rich more. Overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that allows the super-rich to control elections. Fight global warming. Make college affordable, not a road to lifelong debt. Rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.

Furthermore, Sanders recently introduced legislation that strikes at the heart of Republicans’ so-called dedication to family values. His Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act would guarantee 10 paid days of vacation for employees who have worked for an employer for at least a year. Sanders is also co-sponsoring, with New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, The FAMILY Act, which allows 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave. This could be used to take care of a newborn, a seriously ill family member or to deal with serious medical conditions. Republicans are nowhere on this.

Sanders has also publicly criticized Clinton for not taking any position on President Obama’s TPP trade act, which Sanders has strongly opposed for its lack of transparency and a provision sidestepping congressional approval of new agreements.

This is not the agenda of a crackpot.

One of the knocks on Clinton has always been that she seems to feel entitled, that she should get people’s votes just because she is Hillary. That she should be New York’s senator just because. That she should be the first woman president of the United States just because.

Perhaps prompted by Sanders’ energetic campaign, which is drawing crowds and money to his cause, Clinton has called for universal voter registration — a knock at the numerous Republican efforts to limit voting rights in the name of fighting voter fraud, a phony issue. It’s a populist issue, but not one on the front burner.

Mostly, her campaign seems to be focusing on setting up a coast-to-coast organization to recruit workers and attract votes and money for the campaign against whoever the Republican candidate may be. That’s because the Clinton team doesn’t expect much of a challenge from Sanders or former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination.

O’Malley is also no dunderhead. He would shine among the GOP field of dreamers. Like Sanders, he has an air of believability. Sure, it takes a lot of ego to run for president, but beyond the ego — even the sense of entitlement — many voters like to feel the person who gets their vote really means what he or she says and will work like hell to make it happen.

Then-Sen. Obama projected that in 2008. Young voters, women and minorities especially rallied to his side. In 2012, he had a record that was strong enough to validate that commitment one more time.

So the question is, what would a second president Clinton stand for? Would Hillary be a second coming of Bill? In some ways, that might not be bad, given his management of the economy. But Hillary is no Bill, at least when it comes to campaigning. She can’t realistically change her personality, but she can articulate some views that demonstrate an awareness of the issues of concern to many Americans. Sanders has spoken on some, but women’s issues appear to be there for Clinton to claim. Also bias. Immigration. And she needs to challenge Sanders on the others if she disagrees with him.

Like any Democratic candidate, she enjoys the luxury of not having to appease the ignorati of the right, who distrust science, detest non-Christians, deny evolution and dismiss the poor. She is free to say what she really believes and, if it is in line with Democratic Party principles, she can do so without fear of losing primary votes. But she’ll need to take that comfortable cloak of entitlement off and show that she’s interested in more than wooing major campaign donors and renovating the family quarters in the White House.

Why does she want to be president?

Clinton has said, much to her regret, that she and Bill were broke when they left the White House. No one believed her, but, good for them, that’s apparently not a problem anymore. Her problem appears to be that every time she sets her sights on the Oval Office, some man gets in the way. First Bill, then Barack … now Bernie? B-ware, Hillary.