The Opportunism of Kirsten Gillibrand

In an uncomfortable late-night segment on Stephen Colbert’s show yesterday evening, New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat, announced her intention to explore a run for president. Her announcement came as little surprise, though her decision to inaugurate the campaign by calling herself “a young mom” caused some confusion.

Gillibrand’s launch immediately stirred up renewed controversy over what had happened in the winter of 2017, when she was the first prominent Democrat to insist that then-senator Al Franken (D., Minn.) should be called upon to resign over allegations of sexual harassment.

Some on the left remain suspicious of Gillibrand over this stand, calling her “opportunistic.” Billionaire Democratic bankroller George Soros has already said he would never support Gillibrand for president, accusing her of going after Franken, whom he admires, to improve her electoral chances. Other progressives, meanwhile, have hailed Gillibrand for pushing Franken out and insist that she remains a real contender for 2020.

Those who think of her as an opportunist are closest to the mark. What has been largely ignored in this latest rehash is precisely the calculation with which Gillibrand approached Franken’s Me Too moment.

The first allegations of sexual misconduct against Franken became public on November 16, 2017. As much as two weeks later, Gillibrand told the press, when asked whether Franken should resign: “It’s his decision.” For more than two weeks, she and her Democratic colleagues in the Senate equivocated on the issue, paying lip service to the evils of sexual assault, watching and waiting as more than half a dozen allegations against Franken slowly trickled out.
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