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There Is One New York Politician Who Could Be the Democratic Nominee in 2020

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I’m glad Erik recently highlighted Rebecca Traister’s superb profile of Kirsten Gillibrand. 2020 is a long way away and we don’t know what the field will look like, but Gillibrand is exactly the kind of political talent the Democrats need to be cultivating. She won a House seat in New York’s North Country — exactly the kind of swing district in which Trump outperformed Romney and McCain — but has been a strong progressive ever since being elected to statewide office, and understands where the party is going. And note as well that she was remarkably progressive for someone running in a blueish-purple House district:

The improbability of Gillibrand’s preaching skills matches the improbability of her role as a Democratic holy warrior against Donald Trump. Appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat in 2009, Gillibrand came to the Senate with a reputation as a moderate upstate hack, an unremarkable product of New York’s political machine. Yet one month into the Trump administration, Gillibrand had staked out the most defiant position among her colleagues, casting the most “no” votes against his Cabinet nominees of any senator (although she did vote for Nikki Haley as ambassador to the U.N.), earning admiration from progressives frustrated by other Democrats’ initial willingness to “work with” Republicans. When Gillibrand spoke at the Battery Park rally against Trump’s Muslim travel ban in January, chants of “Kirsten 2020!” rang out among the protesters.

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And like Sanders, she sees in left-wing populism — in affordable day care and paid leave and the expansion of Medicare as a means of addressing economic inequality — a path for red and blue America to come together. Sanders spoke alongside Gillibrand in March at a press conference in support of the Family Act, and Gillibrand is very enthusiastic about becoming a co-sponsor of Sanders’s forthcoming Medicare for All bill. “People want affordable health care,” she says. For the record, she’s not late to that party; Gillibrand supported Medicare for everyone when she ran in her House district in 2006. “It’s the solution, and it makes sense to people even in my two-to-one Republican district.”

This won’t stop some people from labeling her a neoliberal who proves the Democratic Party hates the working class, of course; as wjts puts it, the routine is familiar: “Any political position that Gillibrand has ever taken that I disagree with is her real position. Any political position that I can imagine Gillibrand taking that I disagree with is her secret real position. Any political position that Gillibrand has taken that I agree with is insincere pandering.” But it will just be a good test to identify people you can safely ignore.

I don’t know if Gillibrand will be the Democratic nominee, but I do know that if there is a nominee from New York it will be Gillibrand. The favorite dumb-cynical-that-thinks-it’s-sophisticated-cyncial assumption about the next Dem candidate is that Andrew Cuomo will be a very serious candidate. Here’s a hot tip: he’s not. He’s drawing dead. There is no constituency of the Democratic Party he appeals to more than Gillibrand except some donors, and Gillibrand’s not going to have any trouble raising money. You know how Joe Lieberman ran a farcically weak campaign as the party’s most recent vice president against a relatively unimpressive field in a party that was significantly to the right of the current one in 2004? Cuomo wouldn’t do that well. Think Rudy Giuliani, George Pataki, Jim Webb, like that. The whole idea is silly. If he considers himself a candidate this will be good for New York, but he has no chance of being the nominee. It’s not happening.

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