Naked Politics Blogger
Early last Sunday, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand- the up and coming, charismatic senator from New York- spoke with little equivocation in her insistence that she would not run for President in 2020. In her response, she put any speculation to bed. For now.
Yet the senator, who has been coined as “Clinton-lite” by critics, continues to top prediction polls for 2020 nominations. Like Clinton, she began her career in corporate law, and then succeeded Clinton as New York senator following her appointment as secretary of state. These similarities have led many political commentators to believe that the DNC are pitting another pro-business centrist to run for president.
The similarities, however, end there. Gillibrand’s stance on many ‘socially progressive’ issues- such as gay marriage and restrictions on big business- often shift her closer towards Bernie Sanders rather than the centrist position adopted by Clinton, who opposed legalising gay marriage for nearly a decade until 2013. She has also been the frontrunner in re-introducing the Family Act, which aims to guarantee the existence of a federal fund to “provide up to 66 % wage-replacement for 12 weeks in the event of a serious personal or family medical emergency”.
Her politics is progressive and unique in its nature. Her small-town links (through her seat on the Senate Agricultural Committee) combined with her cosmopolitan background allow her to attract a broad swathe of support; a tool which will likely aid her in gaining the trust of republican voters disenfranchised by a Republican party swiftly moving further to the right. Judging her solely through the scope of Clinton would be a discredit to her- both as a politician and a person.
If the Democrats are approaching 2020 with the aim of limiting Donald Trump (or another candidate like him) they need a radical facelift. The fraudulence of Trump who ran on the sentiment of ‘Anti-Wall Street’, yet has a cabinet with the largest tally of Goldman Sachs representatives in presidential history, calls for someone who is far removed from corporate America. Being the first ever senator to publish her personal financial disclosure goes some way to malaise similar worries in regards to Gillibrand, but having already gained the title of Clinton’s successor by the media is weakening her stance.
Clinton’s ties to big business were her achilles heel in the election, pushing many voters reeling from the effects of the 2008 financial crisis towards Trump, a plutocrat in disguise who promised to bring Wall Street to justice. If Gillibrand- or other democrats like her- are going to have any chance at abating the vitriol and rhetoric of ‘The Donald’, they will need to forge their own path in the party. This line has to be distinctly one uniquely distinct from the ‘establishment’ corporate-line that was dogmatically adhered to in the previous election.
2020 is the last chance for the Democratic Party to reinforce its message as the representative of left-wing politics in America. If it fails to do so, it will push fringe voters towards other third-party representatives, and those on the centre towards the Republicans. This is sure to further embolden their stance as the current champions of American democracy, holding both the presidency and the senate. Democracy relies on numerous checks and balances to limit those in power, one of which is the existence of a strong opposition. If the Democrats fail to learn from their failures in the candidacy of Clinton, a nominee who invested over $48 million in her campaign alone, it represents not only a loss for the party, but for democracy too.
If Gillibrand is the nominee, it is therefore important that her centrist politics is framed in a way so that is not seen as irrevocably tied to ‘big business’. Aided by Russian intelligence, Clinton’s chances of clinching the election were beset by the Trump team’s own exploitation of her corporate past, and measures must be put in place so that the 2020 nominee- whoever it may be- is not at risk of the same fate. The Democrats need a fresh face in American politics, not an attempted rebuffing of a failed past. Let’s hope that Kirsten Gillibrand, or another prospect like her, fits the bill.