Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been floated in progressive circles as a Hillary-in-waiting for 2020. Just this past October, Vogue published a glowing profile of her: “2020: All Eyes on Kirsten Gillibrand,” read the headline. Newsweek asks, “Will Kirsten Gillibrand become the first woman president?” while The New York Times says she’s got “chutzpah.”
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Gillibrand has risen to special prominence in the national conversation. Having called on Al Franken to resign and her sudden condemnation of former President Clinton’s past sexual improprieties, feminists are looking to crown her their new queen. “She is exceedingly direct and genuine for a politician, especially when speaking about sexual assault in the military, say, or paid family leave, both core issues for her,” Vogue writes of her.
People need not be fooled. While certainly not lacking in shrewdness, for Gillbrand, political positions are like Elizabeth Warren’s Native American heritage; they’re completely fabricated and used as leverage to bolster her career. Her record of shape-shifting and — to borrow from Obama — “evolving” on positions has become so glaring that even MSNBC had the temerity to call her out on it.
That was back in 2013, though. Rest assured, progressives will be eyeing that glass ceiling when Gillibrand’s hour approaches in 2020. Lest we forget, here are 10 instances of the New York senator flip-flopping her positions throughout her journey from Blue Dog Democrat to Deep Blue Berner.
1.) Her “Blue Dog” leanings. They tout her as a progressive now, but it’s not as if Gillibrand’s foray into the political arena began with waving rainbow flags and pumping power fists. In their gushing profile, Vogue played off her first political victory in 2006 as some kind of genius maneuvering of progressive campaigning: “She won the House seat in a two-to-one Republican district,” they wrote.
That might sound astonishing if one omits the fact that Gillibrand never campaigned as a progressive. Quite the contrary. She claims to have “evolved” since those days, but that doesn’t hide the fact she waved her “Blue Dog” leanings around like a badge of honor. Once in office, she joined the more conservative-minded Blue Dog Coalition, and supported policies that were downright Trumpist by today’s standards. We’ll get to those in a moment.
As noted by MSNBC, Gillibrand began her “evolution” after being appointed to Hillary’s Senate seat in 2008 as pressure quickly mounted from the state’s left-leaning elite. The last references to her as an “ostensibly non-liberal Democratic congresswoman” and a “conservative Democrat” were in 2009.
2.) Her co-sponsored bill punishing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel. Though Gillibrand has publicly voiced her opposition to the BDS movement, her credibility took a hit earlier this year when she pulled support for an anti-BDS bill she previously co-sponsored that would impose penalties on companies that participate in international boycotts of the Jewish state. Amidst political pressure, Gillibrand claimed the bill violated free speech in concert with the ACLU.
“I am going to urge the authors of the bill to change the bill, and I will not support it in its current form,” she said.
Even the prominently left-wing NY Daily News called her defense “b.s” for misleading the bill’s substance. Here’s how they put it:
Organize a pro-BDS protest; take out a pro-BDS advertisement; write a pro-BDS Op-Ed.
What is illegal, and has been 1977, is when U.S. corporations essentially conduct their own foreign policy by participating in unauthorized international boycotts organized by foreign countries.
Meaning, if Arab governments, as part of an effort to compile a blacklist of those doing business with Israel, demand U.S. companies report their dealings there, the law would prohibit them from responding. With civil — never criminal — penalties attached.
The law, enforced by the federal Office of Antiboycott Compliance, has been reauthorized several times. It has withstood challenges in the courts. It is wholly constitutional.
The long-overdue tweak would simply clarify that it is not only the Arab League boycott of Israel that can trigger such penalties, but boycotts organized by the United Nations and other multinational groups.
The bill was largely bi-partisan and said nothing about imprisoning people who engaged in BDS speech, protest or advocacy. After immediate backlash from AIPAC, Gillibrand emphatically stated that she opposes the BDS movement but could not lend support to the bill she helped co-sponsor.
3.) Her fiscal responsibility. Gillibrand has certainly come a long way from her days of supporting the Bush tax cuts and opposing the bailout. Though Anna Wintour still seems convinced that the New York senator stands for the “socially liberal, fiscally pragmatic” type of Americans, Gillibrand’s record on fiscal responsibility has tanked to dismal levels since taking over for Hillary. As noted by National Review, “the National Taxpayers Union gave her a grade of F in 2016, and her score of 19 out of 100 was actually two points lower than Chuck Schumer’s.” Citizens Against Government Waste rated her “hostile,” awarding her only 6 points out of 100.
4.) Her bi-partisanship. From reading the Vogue profile, it is clear that Gillibrand wants to have it both ways: play off her “Blue Dog” past of reaching across the aisle while voicing a fierce progressive message of little compromise. This fits with a previous Salon description of her as “a hybrid politician who has remained conservative enough to keep her seat while appearing progressive enough to raise money downstate.” Whatever bi-partisanship principles that Gillibrand held, they have been jettisoned into the abyss alongside Hillary’s emails.
According to findings from FiveThirtyEight, Gillibrand has become a leading figure in the anti-Trump “Resistance” movement, and has now opposed more legislation from the Trump White House than any other senator, including the likes of Bernie Sanders. She also earned the title of opposing more Trump nominations than any other senator. However, as noted by NR, the appointments were the most obscure and least controversial. The opposition was more akin to grandstanding than actual protest.
Her biggest moment of blatant partisanship came in 2013, during the Obamacare rollout. As more and more Americans were being kicked off their beloved health care plans that Obama promised they could “keep,” Gillibrand openly admitted that she knew Obama lied and pushed the legislation anyway.
5.) Her opposition to single-payer health care. Speaking of health care, Gillibrand has completely drunk the Bernie Sanders kool-aid and endorsed single-payer health care. “Health care should be a right, it should never be a privilege. We should have Medicare for all in this country,” she said in support of Bernie’s “Medicare for All Bill” earlier this year.
The shift came after Hillary Clinton’s epic defeat at the hands of President Trump in 2016, which left the Democrats leaderless and without much of a message other than “Resist Trump.” As the GOP pushed their tepid plan to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, the Democrats had no choice but to differentiate themselves. Gillibrand jumped in head first.
6.) Her opposition to gun control. Remember those “Blue Dog” days? Back then, Gillibrand’s defense of the 2nd Amendment earned her an “A” rating with the NRA. Given that she came from representing the largely rural and hunting sector of upstate New York, this made sense. But as the small town girl moved into the big city, she quickly had to change her tune.
Immediately after earning Hillary’s Senate seat in 2008, New York’s then-staunchly anti-gun mayor Michael Bloomberg took her to the woodshed for her initial opposition to gun control legislation. After eight months of co-sponsoring a bill that would block local law enforcement’s access to trace data, allowing them to track a gun’s history, the hammering from Bloomberg and his coalition of anti-gun mayors caused Gillibrand to call it quits. Within two years, her “A” rating with the NRA quickly changed to “F”.
7.) Her opposition to illegal immigration. Her previous opposition to gun control was of moderate leanings, but her opposition to illegal immigration would be downright Trumpian by today’s standards. According to The New York Times, while Gillibrand served as congresswoman representing New York’s 20th district, she “opposed any sort of amnesty for illegal immigrants, supported deputizing local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration laws, spoke out against Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to allow illegal immigrants to have driver’s licenses, and sought to make English the official language of the United States.”
Upon her appointment, as Bloomberg attacked her on gun control, Hispanic state lawmakers were blasting her on blogs and ethnic media. El Diario La Prensa, the Spanish-language daily, called her appointment “a disappointing choice” and threatened to back her primary challenger during her bid for reelection.
Like gun control, Gillibrand caved on immigration and eventually went on to become a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act.
8.) Her opposition to same-sex “marriage.” The more one probes Gillibrand’s profile, the more one sees she has a great deal in common with her predecessor, Hillary Clinton. How fitting then that she replaced her in the Senate. Unlike Bernie Sanders, who has at least shown some ideological consistency on this issue, Gillibrand once waved the flag for traditional marriage; the rainbow flag, not-so-much.
The Observer noted in 2009 that Gillibrand “had the lowest rating of all of New York’s Democratic representatives from the LGBT advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, which gave her dismal marks for her opposition to gay marriage, the repealing of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ and legislation to grant same-sex partners of U.S. citizens and permanent residents the same immigration benefits of married couples.”
On top of the gun control and immigration activists, Gillibrand now had the LGBT lobby on her back. In time, she would have her “come to Jesus” moment on the issue and morph into one of those people who say that devout Christians are “on the wrong side of history.”
9.) Her support for Al Franken. As accusations of sexual misconduct continued to pour out against Minnesota Senator Al Franken, Gillibrand refused to openly call for his resignation. At an event hosted by Politico, Gillibrand was asked if Franken should step down and she became visibly angered by the question, refusing to answer.
“I’m telling you, I’m so angry and frustrated and I’m not going to say that today,” she said. “But it is something I am very troubled about.”
Just one day later, as another accuser came forth against Franken, Gillibrand finally called for his resignation. “While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.”
10.) Her support for Bill Clinton. The revolution brought about by the #MeToo movement put Democrats in a tough bind. Not only did it force Democrats to put their money where their mouths were on sexual harassment, it forced them to reconcile with the their previous support of predatory Democrats in their own ranks. For Gillibrand, this meant admitting that President Bill Clinton should have resigned from office during the Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998.
“I think that is the appropriate response,” she said. “Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances there should be a very different reaction.”
She admitted this 20 years after the fact and with virtually no political fallout. Of course, the move was to put the heat on President Trump to also resign due to the allegations of sexual misconduct leveled against him during the election. “We should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him,” she also said.
Here’s what Gillibrand had to say about President Bubba on her Twitter feed last year:
Gillibrand is the perfect embodiment of party over principle.