Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Corporacrats: Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar (and that's just the women)

Too many of the guys to list in one post, but we'll get to them soon enough.

What say we open with the junior senator from the Empire State?  She made the rounds on all the Talking Heads programs this morning.  Did you watch any of them?

Cartoonist Jim Margulies captures her 'all things to all people' pandering better than anything I could write.  (It could have just as easily been Kamala Harris; but we'll get to her in a minute.)

More than any other candidate, Gillibrand carries the #MeToo flag for women, a badge of distinction and somewhat of a cross to bear for the crucifixion of Al Franken.  I'm not one who holds it against her; Franken behaved badly for many years.  What we laughed at in the Eighties and Nineties isn't funny at all now, and he shouldn't have made a habit out of grabbing constituents' asses at photo ops with him.  He earned his fall from grace.  His resignation was on him, not on Gillibrand.

I could blog about her Wall Street groveling or her decade-old gun flip-flops -- today's WaPo, from Taegan Goddard, has your thirty-second summary -- but Gillibrand's biggest shift has been her ... shall we call it, evolution on immigration.  Andrew Kaczynski at CNN, with the Tweet thread below and the long read here.  It's detailed and even-handed (IMO).

Read both entirely (OK, skip some of the Twitter comments).  Here's an excerpt from the end of the piece, presenting her conversion in the most favorable light.

In January 2009, Gillibrand was appointed to replace Clinton, who had been confirmed to be President Barack Obama's new secretary of state. Her appointment was met with backlash from New York-based immigration activists.

El Diario Nueva York
, one of the largest Spanish language newspapers in the state, published a cover story on Gillibrand. The headline "Anti Inmigrante," ran under a photo of then-congresswoman. The newspaper's editorial board called her "an unfortunate selection."

Gillibrand sought to quell the concerns by meeting with immigration groups. After meeting with activists, Gillibrand announced that she supported several more liberal positions on the issue, like a moratorium on raids until comprehensive immigration reform was achieved.

The meetings seemed to work.

"We saw a very positive shift in attitude in the way that she looks at immigrant constituencies," said Chung-Wha Hong, former executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, who met with Gillibrand, to the New York Daily News at the time.

New York Assemblyman Peter Rivera was going to have a press conference announcing his "total opposition" to Gillibrand before it was canceled after aides to the new senator reached out. Rivera soon announced he no longer saw her as anti-immigrant.


Gillibrand moved in the Senate to support policies advocated by the activists, including in March 2009, when she signed on as a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act.

Gillibrand was asked about her past positions in a 2018 interview with 60 Minutes, where she said, "I just didn't take the time to understand why these issues mattered because it wasn't right in front of me. And that was my fault. It was something that I'm embarrassed about and I'm ashamed of."

She added, "I just think as I've gotten older I've learned more about life and sometimes you're wrong. And you've gotta fix it. And if you're wrong, just admit it and move on."

So is she a chameleon or a thoughtful, deliberative pol?  Someone who revisits her thinking on the basis of new information or enlightenment, or on political expediency?

I think if you're the kind of person willing to give Tulsi Gabbard a second chance, then you'd have to be intellectually dishonest not to do the same for Kirsten Gillibrand.  As for me, they're both near the bottom of my list.

-- So where does that leave Kamala Harris, the ultimate identity politician in the 2020 race?  She is heavily rumored to be announcing this weekend.  She checks all the boxes: daughter of a Tamil Indian mother (a breast cancer research doctor) and a Jamaican American father (a Stanford University economics professor).  No hardscrabble background, that.  She stands a full five feet two inches tall; an attribute she seems to have camoflaged fairly well to those of us who only glimpse her occasionally on teevee.  (Other famous people at that height include Kelly Ripa, Reese Witherspoon, Prince, Shirley Temple, Alyssa Milano, and Eva Longoria.)  She's also been engaged in working both sides of the Democratic political street for some time now.  For example, Harris claims to support M4A, but ...

Her record as an LA prosecutor and as California AG has been well-scrutinized, and she comes up short.  At the end of this post just over a week ago, I wrote:

Kamala Harris was on Colbert, said "she might" run for prez, is gutted vetted as her side of the story regarding the 2012 settlement for bad mortgages in California -- the cause of the Great Depression in 2008 -- gets spun back over her.  It's long, a bit in the financial weeds, and a very bad look for the junior Cali senator.  On top of her bumpy (well-hidden; look for the graf with David Sirota mentioned) record (scroll to the end, past the puffery) as a prosecutor, I have trouble seeing how she gets to the nomination.  Tough-on-crime and easy-on-banks Democrats pretending to be progressives doesn't sound like the winning ticket to me.

Update: Briahna Gray at The Intercept, under the headline "Can a Prosecutor become President in the Age of Black Lives Matter?"

(Harris) is running for president as a progressive, but as attorney general of California, she criminalized truancy -- making it a crime for kids to be late for school and dragging into the criminal justice system even more disproportionately low income, predominantly black and Latino families. She’s overlooked the misconduct of her prosecutors and fought to uphold their wrongfully secured convictions. She defended California’s choice to deny sexual reassignment surgery to a trans inmate, and in 2014, appealed a federal judge’s holding that the death penalty was unconstitutional.

The list goes on and on. But in some ways the details don’t matter. The problem isn’t that Harris was an especially bad prosecutor. She made positive contributions as well -- encouraging education and reentry programs for ex-offenders, for instance. The problem, more precisely, is that she was ever a prosecutor at all.

There's also a lot of people starting to speak up about their experiences with her, and it is seemingly all negative.  She has a similar staff/sexual harrassment problem as Bernie Sanders, but he apologized for his, while she has made excuses for hers.  Her memoir, The Truths We Hold, is thin on accomplishments, as reflects her overall curriculum vitae.  Despite all of this, I expect Harris to be one of the last left standing at the end.  Nate Silver's analysis using five Democratic voter metrics -- Party Loyalists, The Left, Millennials and Friends, Black Voters, and Hispanic Latino Voters (sometimes in combination with Asian voters) -- shows her with the most upside.

Harris ... was easily the top choice in the survey of influential women of color that I mentioned earlier. So while I don’t automatically want to assume that nonwhite candidates will necessarily win over voters who share their racial background -- it took Obama some time to persuade African-Americans to vote for him in 2008 -- Harris seems to be off to a pretty good head start. And her coalition not only includes black voters, but also potentially Asian and Hispanic voters. Harris did narrowly lose Hispanic voters to Sanchez, a Hispanic Democrat, in 2016 (while winning handily among Asian voters). But her approval ratings among Hispanic voters are high in California, a state where the group makes up around a third of the electorate.

If black voters and the Hispanic/Asian group constitute Harris’s first two building blocks, she’d then be able to decide which of the three remaining (predominately white) Democratic groups to target to complete her trifecta. And you could make the case for any of the three. Harris polls better among well-informed voters, which could suggest strength among Party Loyalists. She’s young-ish (54 years old) and has over 1 million Instagram followers, which implies potential strength among millennials. (And remember, Democratic millennials highly value racial diversity.) Harris’s worst group -- despite a highly liberal, anti-Trump voting record -- might actually be The Left, the whitest and most male group, from which she’s drawn occasional criticism for her decisions as a prosecutor and a district attorney.

Overall, however, this is a strong position for Harris. As Slate’s Jamelle Bouie points out, it may actually be a strategic advantage to be a black candidate in this Democratic primary in 2020.

Here's where I amend myself from last week: dyed-in-the-wool Donks simply want to see Trump defeated.  They won't consider the shortcomings listed too severe to hold her back.  Kamala Harris is just superficial enough to pass muster with Democratic Party constituencies and skate onto the November 2020 ticket.  Whether her name appears first or second is the only thing left to be determined.  It's very early, but she's on the lead with the gents.

-- That's going to leave "Minnesota nice" Amy Klobuchar somewhere out in the cold a year from now, I'll wager.  Though her in-laws are onboard with a presidential run, and she could bring a state the Dems need (Hillary barely carried it) and the Midwest in general needs to be shored up by them after the 2016 Clinton debacle, Klobuchar shows up lukewarm on some of the issues that will generate blue enthusiasm.

She has not signed onto (Bernie) Sanders’s single-payer health care bill, commonly called Medicare for All; she said it “should be considered,” but prefers “a sensible transition” such as allowing people to buy into Medicare, or expanding it to cover those 55 and older. Her push to make college more affordable is not as expansive as the left would like. While she has denounced Trump’s border policies, she has not joined the movement to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Once more,

... I’m not quite sure how she builds a winning coalition. Klobuchar is potentially a near-perfect choice for Party Loyalists, who are liable to see her Midwestern moderation as being highly electable, especially after she won her Senate race by 24 percentage points last year in a state where Trump nearly defeated Clinton. Beyond that, though? Minnesota is a pretty white state, so Klobuchar doesn’t have a lot of practice at appealing to black, Hispanic or Asian voters. Her voting record is fairly moderate; she’s voted with Trump about twice as often as Booker has, so she’s not an obvious fit for The Left. Millennials, perhaps? Her social media metrics so far are paltry — she has just 140,000 Twitter followers, for example — although (not totally unlike Warren) she has a goofy relatability that could translate well to Instagram ...

I think mild-mannered centrism is a deal-killer for a vice-presidential contender, which is the best Klobuchar can hope for.  Almost every man or woman with a real shot at the top of the ticket is going to have a better option for their running mate.

Just my humble O, as always.

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