Politics & Policy

The Gillibrand Moment

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill, December 12, 2017. (Yuri Gripas/Reuters)
She has few longstanding convictions, which explains her growing political clout.

Donald Trump used Twitter today to take a shot at Kirsten Gillibrand, the New York senator who has swiftly moved from calling for Al Franken’s resignation to calling for Trump’s.

Vogue was right to title its recent Gillibrand profile “In Hillary’s Footsteps,” because Gillibrand has mastered the same playbook as so many successful Democratic figures, like the Clintons, who get ahead. Play conservative locally, or in tough general elections, then become more liberal in high office. Be good to gun owners and religious people, and tough on the border. Then abandon all that later. Gillibrand’s two guns under her bed will be just as non-consequential as Obama’s belief that “God is involved” in marriage (therefore it can’t be extended to gays); Hillary’s opposition to driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants; and, I suspect, Justice Elena Kagan’s support of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and Kagan’s White House memo advancing the position that religious liberty meant landlords could discriminate against gay or unmarried couples. That was all positioning. Sometimes you do what you have to do, especially when you want to be the first person that upwardly mobile white liberals think about when considering a political donation.

Republicans, having elected “converts” to the pro-life cause, most notably Donald Trump, will have little standing to criticize Gillibrand’s reinventions. They may even be baffled when, in a general election, she highlights all her former Blue Dog positions again.

But Trump’s tweeted charge that Senator Gillibrand “would do anything” to get his donations — that is, to get ahead — was a charge made by liberal Democrats first. She is winning them over and still attending Bible Studies on the Hill. I suspect she’ll be sitting on a formidable pile of cash soon. My early guess is she has a very good shot at succeeding Donald Trump as president. The lesson of American politics after 2016 is that longstanding convictions are for total suckers. So, yes, it is Kirsten Gillibrand’s moment.

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