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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.

Cases: 341862

Reported Deaths: 7533
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23783441
DeSoto23180283
Harrison20365329
Rankin15307290
Jackson15087251
Madison10917227
Lee10674179
Jones8969169
Forrest8621159
Lauderdale7839243
Lowndes7016151
Lamar696289
Lafayette6535124
Washington5589139
Pearl River5141152
Bolivar4949134
Oktibbeha491698
Panola4766112
Warren4709127
Marshall4691106
Pontotoc446273
Union432579
Monroe4322137
Neshoba4268181
Hancock423788
Lincoln4171116
Pike3650113
Leflore3619125
Tate352888
Alcorn349574
Sunflower347194
Adams340588
Scott340176
Yazoo338575
Copiah323468
Simpson322090
Itawamba314180
Coahoma313385
Tippah304768
Prentiss297863
Covington291883
Leake284675
Marion283681
Wayne276143
George270551
Grenada268888
Newton261564
Tishomingo239370
Winston236584
Jasper229548
Attala225973
Stone225337
Chickasaw218760
Holmes199274
Clay196754
Clarke186280
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181232
Smith178935
Yalobusha171340
Walthall145348
Lawrence141626
Greene139734
Amite136943
Noxubee134835
Perry133238
Montgomery132244
Carroll125931
Webster121032
Jefferson Davis116234
Tunica113427
Benton106225
Claiborne105031
Kemper102329
Humphreys100133
Franklin87723
Quitman84619
Choctaw82319
Wilkinson77732
Jefferson71128
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
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