‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” was the rallying cry during the Depression for which history remembers FDR. “It’s morning again in America” was Ronald Reagan’s inimitable, softly spoken re-election slogan.
But the catchphrase that will go with the, as of last week, ex-presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand to her grave is: “I’m just trying to get some ranch.”
As the Democratic junior senator from New York babbled on in an Iowa City restaurant about “the bold ideas that the base and the grassroots care about,” those were the words of a female college student conducting a Bible study upstairs as she squeezed past Gillibrand looking for something more tethered to the real world: her preferred condiment.
It was an example of how the plenty of America leads to a great deal of disinterest in politics, with people more focused on their own lives than keeping up with the various layers and happenings of government, as well they should be. (Although “ranch girl” Hanna Kinney reportedly leans left.)
But a less frivolous soundbite came from Gillibrand herself, in the last debate, conducted by CNN at the end of July. Gillibrand contended that “as a white woman of privilege … I can talk to those white women in the suburbs that voted for Trump and explain to them what white privilege actually is, that when their son is walking down a street with a bag of M&Ms in his pocket, wearing a hoodie, his whiteness is what protects him from not [sic] being shot.”
It would be hard to compose a statement more racially divisive, more prejudiced, or more sexist. Apparently, we’re to understand that suburban white women are so shallow, they need it “Gillibrand-splained” to them how it is that their sons don’t arrive home riddled with bullets.
She Can Be ‘Any Woman You’ve Ever Imagined’
But let’s get beyond the “dressing” here, if you will. What Gillibrand was, and still is, running for is not president but vice president. That is if it’s a man at the top of the Democrats’ ticket. Because there simply has to be a woman somewhere on the Democratic presidential slate this time around, four years after the Hillary loss to Trump that was not supposed to be; the group politics that rule the party of Jefferson in the 21st century demand it.
And Gillibrand has triangulated herself with a shamelessness that would bring a sly smile to the lips of her onetime friend Bill Clinton. She was appointed, not elected, to the U.S. Senate in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton, who had made a deal to be secretary of state in the administration of her primary opponent, Barack “Team of Rivals” Obama. The New York governor who appointed her himself hadn’t been elected governor, but landed in the office when Eliot Spitzer’s extramarital bad habits became public.
Gillibrand was a Democratic congresswoman representing a Republican district in Dutchess County in upstate New York, and actually boasted a 100% National Rifle Association rating. When her appointment was announced, none other than former longtime Republican New York Sen. Al D’Amato, now a mercenary lobbyist, stood conspicuously nearby. New York Democrats wanted to bamboozle New Yorkers living north and northwest of New York City and affluent Westchester County into believing they wanted them to have some token representation for once.
Upon moving across the Capitol to the Senate, her migration to the left happened faster than a knife fight in a phone booth, of course. But now, after a failed presidential campaign that didn’t burn any bridges (even with a bumbling suggestion that Joe Biden is an anti-feminist), Gillibrand the shape-shifter can become “any woman you’ve ever imagined” – whatever is needed in a 2020 running mate.
If “moderate” Biden is nominated, Gillibrand can balance the ticket by being the rabid feminist who talks down to white suburban women who voted for Trump. If South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is nominated, she can be the upstate, rural, white, working homemaker with the 100% NRA rating who provides the homosexual-with-husband some connection to the quaint, more conventional America of a bygone era. Socialist Bernie Sanders as nominee could use some of that too.
Perhaps there’s even an outside chance that a California Sen. Kamala Harris nomination could make use of a less-left white woman as running mate.
Whether it means being a Jekyl-brand or a Hyde, Kirsten Gillibrand’s just trying to get some power.
— Written by Thomas McArdle
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