Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is actually a politician? OMG!

According to the Daily Beast’s Ciro Scotti, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is the wrong horse for Democrats to back in 2020 (not a direct link). How so?

She’s ambitious. And driven by ambition, she’s “too transparently opportunistic to be a viable candidate” because she picks her positions based on political calculation rather than gut feeling. And this is a fatal flaw in the 21st century: “The word that defines the zeitgeist is ‘genuine,’ and one big reason Trump retains a core of support is that whatever you think of him, what you see is what you get.”

As the Caterpillar said to Alice, this is wrong from beginning to end. Taking it bit by bit:

Anyone who runs for president is ambitious.

This would seem obvious. It’s the most powerful position in the country, perhaps the world, and only one person can be president at a time. Unambitious people ain’t gonna make it. Nevertheless, “ambitious” is a standard template for politicians pundits dislike. John Kerry was “too ambitious.” Al Gore would “lick the floor to be president.” Criticizing Gillibrand for ambition says more about Scotti than her (and may be just plain sexist, her being an ambitious woman).

Politicians tack with the winds — that’s part of politics.

I’d love to vote for a politician whose personal beliefs exactly matched mine. But I’ll settle for one whose polices match the ones I want, and Gillibrand may qualify (it’s way too early for me to pick). That’s how politics works.If someone supports those policies solely because the Democratic Party is trending leftward, I can live with that. Clinton in 2016 was way to the left of where she was in the 1990s, because the party (and by and large the country) has shifted left. She’d have done a much better job than “genuine” Trump.

“Genuine” doesn’t define the zeitgeist.

The Daily Howler website has grumbled for years about how pundits make being “genuine” or “authentic” a big issue. It sounds like a reasonable metric but it’s very subjective. Hilary Clinton having been tagged as phony and inauthentic years ago, pundits simply assume everything she does is phony. When Clinton said in one interview that her favorite childhood film is The Wizard of Oz — one article on HuffPo insisted she was lying: why else would she claim to like a movie millions of people liked as children? She’s so — inauthentic! Conversely Bush II, the Yalie who reinvented himself as a plain-spoken Texas man of the soil, was accepted as “authentic” so his tastes were too. By contrast,  I have never seen any particular evidence voters care, except when pundits browbeat them about it (Don’t Vote For X He Isn’t Genuine).

And what exactly is genuine about Trump? He promised an increased social safety net and an improved, more affordable Obamacare but he ain’t doing shit for either of them. He’s bounced around on gay rights, depending on his audience (that would seem to be tacking) and backed off from his birtherism when it got politically inconvenient. He denies things he’s said or done just a few days before (he didn’t support Moore gosh no, and he hardly knew Steve Bannon). Trumpites aren’t responding to some abstract authenticity — what draws them is that he’s authentically racist and sexist. That’s a lousy template for Dems to follow. “Genuine” is also the cover some people offer for Trump’s incoherence — the media hate him because he’s fresh and outspoken — but that’s no template either.

But I’m sure we’ll see more criticism of Gillibrand along these lines, that danged ambitious, uppity woman.

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