Senator Kirsten Gillibrand(D-NY) has been helped and hurt by being underestimated throughout her political career. She was not expected to win her first congressional race, but she did. When she was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the unexpired term of Hillary Clinton, many thought she would be unable to win the seat on her own. But she did - and ten years later she is one of several U.S. Senators (including two other women) running for president in 2020.
The national political press is currently infatuated with the candidacy of Senator Kamala Harris(D-CA). Politico, an opinion leading publication in Washington, D.C., declared last week that Harris had clearly grabbed the early momentum with her campaign launch and others described her as the one to watch. But in an environment where voters are looking for authenticity, it would be a mistake to overlook Gillibrand. During three days of campaigning in New Hampshire this past weekend, she came across as genuine, honest and unafraid to offend if offense was the price of telling the truth.
She endorsed the idea of Medicare for all and said she is fine with replacing the current healthcare system she says is controlled by profit making insurance companies who put shareholders ahead of patients.
When a doctor sitting in the front row told her that idea would put him out of business and force him to layoff his 10 person workforce, she disagreed directly and explained why she thinks he is wrong. There was no waffling. When she was done, even the doctor acknowledged, she could be right. A solution will require everyone to think differently, she said.
In a room of politically active Democrats eager for candor, Gillibrand delivered.
The Democrats running in 2020 face a key strategic issue: How to address the presidency of Donald Trump? So far a few have decided to handle Trump by ignoring him and focusing on policy differences. Others in the party argue the only way to succeed against Trump is to get in the mud with him.
Gillibrand seems to have found a middle path. She sees the president himself as an issue that requires a solution. An issue that cannot be ignored. She forcefully argued he is deliberately ripping the country apart, destroying America's reputation with foreign powers and weakening the nation at home and abroad. Strong emotion crept into her voice as she made these points. She sees Trump as a threat to the country that must be removed.
During a short walk on Main St. in Littleton, Gillibrand was more than capable of interacting with voters directly and for as long as she felt necessary. She was not being handled or told what to do by staff. She had no need for protection from real people. This too will be a plus in a race about authenticity.
© Dean Pagani 2019