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Kirsten Gillibrand is a human being who admits mistakes

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New York Senator and 2020 presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand answered voter questions at a CNN Town Hall. We asked a few questions behind the scenes.

Posted: Apr 10, 2019 9:20 AM
Updated: Apr 10, 2019 9:20 AM

On Tuesday night, America was introduced to an unfamiliar woman: Kirsten Gillibrand, actual human being.

Gillibrand has been in politics for more than a decade, and her identity is more often caricatured (she's Hillary Jr., she's Tracy Flick, she's the woman who brought down Al Franken) than captured.

Her CNN town hall on Tuesday was a chance for her to present herself to the many who may have only heard about her in outline. What she filled in: that she's a person who, like all of us, evolves and shifts; that she can be deeply empathetic and flatly indignant; that she's fluent in policy and has a message of fighting greed and knitting the country back together.

In a political environment increasingly defined by overconfidence, unflinching certitude and uncompromising fidelity to a specific worldview, Gillibrand expressed caution and even remorse when she was uncertain. She said some of her decisions as a Congresswoman from a red district in upstate New York (from 2007-2009) now bring her shame -- a striking departure from the usual non-apology political justifications.

Where she was undecided or unsure on an issue -- something that came up in questions about mandatory vaccines and lowering the voting age to 16 -- she simply said so, rather than offering a winding non-answer. And when she knew, she knew: Gillibrand's policy solutions were detailed and clearly at the heart of her case. When she was asked about the role of private insurers in her vision of Medicare for All, she emphasized her role in crafting the transition section of Bernie Sanders's bill, explaining how broad Medicare benefits will essentially undercut insurance companies and naturally drive them from the marketplace.

She compared the Green New Deal to going to the moon: an exciting and perhaps preposterously ambitious plan, but one that is doable with dedication and resources -- and could even include, she said, getting to net-zero carbon.

This is the striking thing about Gillibrand: she comes across as a human being who learns, changes, and is sometimes still making up her mind. But she's also a very particular kind of human being: sharp and determined, the kind of bull-headed lawyer whose personal inclination appears to be making her case without messing around with niceties.

For a female politician in an "is she likable?" obsessed media landscape, this can be a liability.

And so Gillibrand is also trying to be liked. At her town hall, she recited a similar "thanks for your bravery" line to multiple questioners. Throughout her campaign, she has put maternity at the forefront, emphasizing her desire to make the world better and safer for her sons. Personally, I like bull-headed, get-stuff-done-and-forget-your-feelings Gillibrand.

But that's not exactly a winning persona for a woman in a sexist country, and so last night she led with Empathetic Kirsten.

And good for her. Much of her work, especially on sexual assault, has clearly been driven by empathy, it just hasn't necessarily come across in the coverage. As a senator, she led the charge on combating sexual assault in the military and on college campuses, truly owning the issue and lending her platform to vulnerable men and women. But she found herself better known for being one of several senators who called on Al Franken to resign after he was accused of sexual misconduct, and inappropriate photos surfaced of him that appeared to show him pretending to grope a sleeping woman.

Despite the fact that her decision to hold Franken accountable was exactly in line with her policy positions, many Franken sympathizers accused her of trampling his due process to put herself in the spotlight. And despite the fact that several other members of the senate also called for his resignation, Gillibrand took the heat for being an early voice.

On Tuesday night, given a chance to show a fuller version of herself to America, Gillibrand leaned into her own complications. And in doing so, she helped expand, just a little more, the idea of who a woman in politics can be.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 67649

Reported Deaths: 1912
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds5656118
DeSoto368031
Harrison253036
Madison244368
Rankin229235
Jackson228843
Jones191659
Forrest182056
Washington168942
Lee147941
Lauderdale141192
Neshoba128692
Lamar122614
Oktibbeha112739
Bolivar111834
Warren109533
Lowndes108538
Panola106214
Sunflower105425
Scott100320
Lafayette98317
Copiah95728
Leflore94765
Pike93836
Holmes90049
Grenada84921
Yazoo83312
Lincoln83241
Pontotoc8308
Simpson80330
Monroe80155
Leake79025
Wayne77421
Coahoma77213
Tate73629
Marshall7019
Marion68420
Union64316
Adams62925
Winston62316
Covington62113
George5895
Pearl River55439
Newton54311
Tallahatchie53011
Attala52325
Walthall50120
Chickasaw47019
Noxubee45912
Alcorn4345
Tishomingo4216
Calhoun4209
Prentiss41710
Claiborne40913
Smith40613
Clay39714
Hancock39514
Jasper3889
Itawamba37510
Tippah36713
Tunica3517
Clarke32626
Montgomery3265
Lawrence3228
Yalobusha31510
Humphreys29411
Quitman2701
Carroll26111
Greene25512
Perry2437
Amite2356
Webster23512
Kemper23414
Jefferson Davis2336
Wilkinson21113
Stone2055
Sharkey1995
Jefferson1957
Benton1431
Choctaw1354
Franklin1312
Issaquena262
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 99926

Reported Deaths: 1781
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson13258244
Mobile10517207
Montgomery6835149
Madison544734
Tuscaloosa423076
Baldwin365125
Unassigned363064
Shelby330936
Marshall318937
Lee270047
Morgan241118
Etowah216232
DeKalb183013
Calhoun180717
Elmore173138
Walker153964
Houston141912
Russell13872
St. Clair135418
Limestone134913
Dallas133123
Franklin128820
Cullman122712
Colbert120716
Lauderdale118919
Autauga117421
Escambia108717
Talladega104814
Jackson10144
Tallapoosa86579
Chambers84438
Dale83525
Clarke82610
Blount8124
Chilton8097
Butler76736
Coffee7646
Covington73720
Pike7087
Marion58026
Barbour5765
Lowndes57324
Marengo56515
Hale47826
Bullock46611
Winston45711
Perry4454
Washington44312
Bibb4425
Wilcox43210
Monroe4215
Pickens4049
Randolph40310
Conecuh39310
Sumter36418
Lawrence3512
Macon33914
Crenshaw3265
Choctaw28712
Cherokee2758
Henry2643
Clay2635
Geneva2631
Greene25211
Lamar2292
Fayette2125
Cleburne1271
Coosa1033
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