THE GILLIBRAND ENIGMA
The first New Hampshire polling is in and Bernie Sanders is the big winner. We had a clue about that when he reported hauling in $6,000,000 in donations within 24 hours of announcing. Friends, in politics that is a great deal of money. Maybe he could have beaten Donald Trump the last time out, maybe he could not have. It turns out that the American people, particularly the “forgotten” segment of our country, were looking for an outsider. Poor Hillary was perceived as a centrist and part of the establishment and even though she got the most votes nationwide, she lost in the Electoral College. Bernie, on the other hand, was the true outsider, even within the Democratic Party where he wasn’t even a member. So, while it really isn’t provable, I think that he might have won and we might have been spared this national Trump nightmare.
Now it is four years later and Bernie is 77. Some people might hold that against him, objecting to the fact that after two terms he would be in his mid-eighties. That means that his vice presidential pick is going to be very important, what with the statistics leaning against Bernie. Recent Emerson College polling suggests that people want to see a woman in the number two spot. Bernie has some baggage to clean up from accusations that there was sexism in his last presidential run. So, who?
This may provide an answer to the Gillibrand enigma. What in heck is she doing, running for president with virtually no chance of winning? Her polling numbers are lower than a hound’s belly. Of course, she is anything but stupid. Politically vain, maybe, but stupid, no. Gillibrand knows how to shift political positions with the best of them and I suspect she is really running for VP. Remember how she got to be Senator by gubernatorial appointment with a real push from Chuck Schumer and her old friend, none other than “Senator Pothole,” Alfonse Marcello D’Amato? Hey, Gillibrand knows how to play the cards. I think that Gilly wants to be president and she has decided that the way to get there is via the VP route. Right?
I get a lot of mail from both women and men who don’t like her because of her “oust him” campaign against former Democratic Senator Al Franken. Her polling in presidential politics is frighteningly low so Bernie, assuming that it is to be Bernie, is unlikely to pick another northeastern liberal as his running mate. Not only that, since Gillibrand turned against Franken, Bernie will be asking himself, “Who needs this? She’ll end up doing it to me, too.”
There are others like Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar who could bring geographic diversity to the ticket and who have demonstrated their toughness in a way Gillibrand has not. For lots of reasons, Harris has the better shot.
It is fascinating that according to the Emerson poll, Bernie does very well with younger voters. They like his progressive politics and they don’t give a hoot about the worn out whining from the regular Democrats that Bernie is not an enrolled Democrat but an independent socialist. In fact, the poor Democrats had their shot with middle-of-the road candidate Hillary and came up short.
I don’t make any bones about the fact that I publicly announced that I was a Bernie supporter the last time out. I have interviewed him on public radio countless times and I can tell you this — you may not like him but his politics are right where they should be. When you look at issues such as universal heath care and access to college education, he is the man. So when he looks for his vice presidential running mate, it will not be a vacillating politician who goes whichever way the wind blows.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected]