It’s easy to dismiss and even mock the recently concluded presidential candidacy of New York’s junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand.
Despite her energy, enthusiasm and early start to her campaign, Gillibrand never parlayed her high profile role as Hillary’s Senate heir and Schumer’s protege into much more than 1 percent support in national polls against more established, better-known, better-financed opponents.
She got in a good dig at Trump in the most recent political debate, saying the first thing she’d do in office is Clorox the Oval Office.
But she never really caught fire at the debates like other young up-and-comers. Silly, desperate-sounding fund-raising efforts like “Win a Whiskey with Kirsten” (we assume sarsaparilla for voters under 21) and her condescending ploy to use being a mom as a qualification for the highest office in the land probably did her image more harm than good.
So faced with the writing on the wall after not garnering enough financial and poll support to qualify for the next debate, the plucky 52-year-old wisely set down her shot glass last week and retreated back to her current job.
But while her campaign foundered and fumbled to its inevitable end, it was not a complete waste of time and effort — not for the senator or the American people.
The eventual Democratic Party nominee would be wise to feature some of Gillibrand’s platform prominently in the national campaign.
The issues Gillibrand raised during her campaign focused largely on women and families, two constituencies that often get lost in presidential politics, which tends to focus more on other issues like foreign policy, federal spending, the deficit, the economy and national healthcare.
Gillibrand put women and families front and center in her campaign.
Well before #MeToo became a national phenomenon, Gillibrand was a leading voice in Congress — and has been a leading voice on the presidential campaign trail — in changing how sexual assault cases are handled in the military and raising the national conversation on the treatment of women in the service, in the workplace and on college campuses.
She was unfairly tarnished over Sen. Al Franken’s forced retirement from the Senate.
The popular Franken had a well-earned, well-documented, long-standing reputation for inappropriately touching women, and Gillibrand was among the few who called him out on it. If her taunting had represented the entirety of the case against him, he wouldn’t have felt pressured to resign.
Others seem to be backing away from the strong stance Gillibrand has taken against this type of behavior.
But it’s important that society and government not retreat from calling out men when they mistreat women through physical means, coercion or discrimination.
Gillibrand lent a powerful voice to that cause, and the next president, male or female, needs to make that a priority.
Gillibrand’s tireless efforts to elect female candidates to political office, which helped manifest itself in the election of 36 new female members of Congress last year, has left a deep mark on national politics that will continue to fuel support for female candidates and other minority candidates at all levels of government.
The diversity in representation that results will help make our nation more tolerant and fair to all.
Gillibrand’s campaign platform contained a Family Bill of Rights, which included a national paid family-and-medical-leave insurance program; the right for women to have safe, healthy pregnancies in part by addressing the shortage of OB-GYNs in rural areas; instilling the right to give birth or adopt a child regardless of income or sexual orientation; and ensuring that every child has access to healthcare through a national Children’s Health Insurance Program.
And Gillibrand’s been a strong advocate for women’s reproductive rights at a time when support for such rights in the current administration is being threatened.
Included in her campaign was a push for financial support of reproductive health centers in every state.
These are the kinds of issues that might get overshadowed in a national presidential campaign, but which nonetheless are vital for the quality of life for all of our citizens.
Gillibrand’s presidential bid might have failed, but that doesn’t make the issues she raised during her campaign any less important, relevant or timely.
And as such, her contributions should neither be mocked nor dismissed.