As we, the sycophantic public, dangle precariously between presidential election cycles, only one question keeps us attuned to the distant rumblings of potential candidates as they posture, pivot, and promenade their way to a spot in the presidential primary spotlight of 2016: could Kirsten Gillibrand leapfrog Hillary Clinton and become our nation’s first female commander-in-chief?
That’s the question underpinning Maggie Haberman’s thorough article on Politico, a site that feeds on political soothsaying the way mynochs feed on the Millennium Falcon’s power cables. We’re not far enough removed from the last presidential election cycle to make serious candidate speculation decorous, but we’re right in the temporal sweet-spot for intriguing scenarios. Everyone knows that Hillary Clinton will run, win, and lead America back to a golden age of arcade games and guiltless Big Gulps, so it’d be boring to talk about her imminent candidacy. Far more interesting to suggest a not-so-wild wild card, a Democrat, sure, and a woman, someone who seems like a fresher, more vigorous version of the center-left (but mostly center) Hillary Clinton. Some like Kirsten Gillibrand.
Gillibrand, a Blue Dog Democrat who pivoted to the left with her recent support of gay marriage and gun control, won Clinton’s New York Senate seat in 2009. She also has blonde hair, a law degree from UCLA, an undergrad degree from Dartmouth, and a knack for helping female political candidates win wider support through her PAC, Off the Sidelines. Her efforts to promote female candidates raised her profile during the 2012 presidential election, and an impressive dressing-down of U.S. military generals for their handling of sexual assault cases proved that she was tough. All of these things make it easy for observers to draw comparisons between Gillibrand and Clinton, but Gillibrand stands out from the former Secretary of State in one very important way — she’s only 46-years-old.
Clinton is currently 65, and, with another three years to go until the next presidential carousel, she’d be just shy of Ronald Reagan’s record for oldest person to assume the presidential office. If a old dude can become president, though, an old woman certainly can, but Gillibrand has the youth and momentum that makes her an appealing foil to Clinton — she isn’t just a fresh face, she’s Hillary 2.0, a potential candidate who can remind voters of a beloved older politician while still distinguishing herself as “new.”
People like new. People don’t like losers, and, for better or worse, Hillary Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic Primary in spectacular nose-diving fashion. That isn’t to write her off, only to point out that Clinton’s Secretary of State momentum can only carry her part of the way to 2016. Until then, active and visible politicians like Gillibrand will have many chances to introduce themselves to and make a lasting impression on the voting public.
Haberman’s article holds a certain fascination that transcends geeking out on political fantasies, since, when we step back and survey the landscape like sober adults, Gillibrand headlining a 2016 ticket seems highly unlikely (Clinton and Gillibrand 2016, does, however, have a nice ring to it). Kirsten Gillibrand is, for election purposes, a second Hillary, and you can bet that if she does ever run for president, some clever strategist is going to find lots of ways to get the two women next to each other on a campaign trail.
Does it bother anyone that people seem eager to get rid of the political vet for the relative newcomer, or does seeing a young(er) woman capitalize on her place in the sun give you hope that women who aren’t part of a small American political dynasty will also have a shot at the biggest job in the country? If there’s justice in presidential ticket-making, Clinton-Gillibrand ‘16 will find a home with the rest of my button collection.
Could Kirsten Gillibrand run for president? [Politico]
Image via AP, Kathy Willens