Kirsten Gillibrand is a human being who admits mistakes

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During a CNN town hall, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) explains why her position on issues such as immigration have changed.

Posted: Apr 10, 2019 8:30 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: 29684

Reported Deaths: 1103
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds238239
DeSoto148616
Madison126734
Jones110449
Neshoba98171
Lauderdale90079
Rankin88812
Forrest85142
Harrison84210
Scott76215
Copiah59216
Jackson58416
Leake57019
Holmes54441
Wayne53513
Lee53218
Oktibbeha53226
Washington5319
Warren49618
Yazoo4936
Leflore48049
Lowndes47212
Lincoln44334
Lamar4407
Grenada4325
Pike40712
Monroe38830
Lafayette3774
Attala35823
Sunflower3467
Newton3389
Covington3345
Panola3256
Bolivar32114
Adams29318
Simpson2833
Pontotoc2736
Marion27011
Tate2709
Chickasaw26918
Claiborne25610
Jasper2566
Winston2546
Noxubee2538
Pearl River24832
Clay24710
Marshall2173
Smith21611
Clarke20524
Coahoma1916
Union1919
Walthall1804
Kemper17714
Lawrence1701
Yalobusha1677
Carroll16411
Itawamba1348
Humphreys1329
Calhoun1284
Tippah12811
Hancock12613
Webster12610
Montgomery1242
Tallahatchie1224
Jefferson Davis1094
Prentiss1023
Greene1018
Jefferson993
Tunica933
Wilkinson929
Amite892
George783
Tishomingo741
Quitman730
Choctaw724
Perry654
Alcorn631
Stone571
Franklin412
Sharkey340
Benton300
Issaquena91
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 41362

Reported Deaths: 983
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson4802152
Montgomery3947103
Mobile3904134
Tuscaloosa218842
Marshall168010
Lee130237
Madison12717
Shelby117623
Morgan10475
Walker90524
Franklin87814
Dallas8689
Elmore86414
Baldwin8289
Etowah70713
DeKalb6945
Butler62328
Chambers61227
Tallapoosa58369
Autauga56012
Russell5190
Unassigned50323
Lauderdale4736
Limestone4660
Lowndes46321
Houston4614
Cullman4354
Pike4175
Colbert3836
Coffee3702
Bullock3679
St. Clair3472
Barbour3452
Covington3437
Escambia3326
Calhoun3225
Hale30621
Marengo30011
Talladega3007
Wilcox2898
Sumter28412
Clarke2726
Dale2680
Jackson2632
Winston2463
Monroe2312
Chilton2282
Blount2261
Pickens2226
Marion21413
Randolph2019
Conecuh1977
Choctaw19512
Bibb1861
Greene1838
Macon1819
Perry1621
Henry1313
Crenshaw1253
Lawrence1050
Washington1047
Cherokee857
Geneva780
Lamar751
Fayette671
Clay622
Coosa581
Cleburne361
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