Liberal reactions to Gillibrand selection

Amid a few worries, mostly positive reaction to Patterson's choice.

Published January 23, 2009 6:01PM (EST)

The Guardian's Mike Tomasky, with what may be a Freudian slip ("man years" instead "many years"), is a bit puzzled:

She's an odd choice. Two years in Congress, against all those members of the state's House of Representatives Democratic delegation with man [sic] years experience? In these cases, one smell test that ought to be passed is that a governor should be able to say "X was the best person for the job" with at least some degree of plausibility. I don't think Paterson can do that here. Even Blago could say that about Roland Burris, kinda-sorta. She was an obviously political choice: woman and upstater. Those are fair considerations of course, but when it's this obvious, it invites trouble.

Open Left's Debra Cooper mentions Gillibrand's "no" vote on TARP funding:

[She] voted against the initial TARP funds. She said, without pausing to breathe, that there should be more oversight passed by the Senate. She supported [Barney] Frank's bill and thought the letter from Summers was strong but in addition wanted "regulations of derivatives and credit defaults swaps added, and a better accounting of the banks receiving the funds"

Jason Rosenbaum at The Sentinel reflects the general consensus from the left that Gillibrand, though conservative on some issues, is more liberal than her district and, ultimately, a better choice than Caroline Kennedy:

Gillibrand is better [than Kennedy], I guess. But she’s been wrong on FISA. Wrong on Free Choice. Wrong on immigration. Wrong on gay marriage. But, she does hail from one of the most conservative congressional districts in New York, and word is she’s more progressive than she lets on. And she’s a woman (which I guess is fitting) and she’s a great fundraiser. Here’s hoping she’ll represent the entire state of New York - which means being a significantly more liberal Senator than she was a Representative.

Over at Booman Tribune, Martin Longman writes:

To be fair, Gillibrand isn't all that bad . . . her voting record is fairly moderate . . . Just because someone is part of the Blue Dog caucus doesn't mean that they vote like a southern Blue Dog. Gillibrand is going to vote a lot like Clinton did and a lot like Schumer does. And that's not all the bad.

The problem is not that Gillibrand is terrible but that we just lost an excellent chance to expand the progressive caucus in the Senate. We've been doing well lately with Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown two years ago and Tom Udall, Jeff Merkley, and Al Franken this time around. We could have benefited greatly from either Caroline Kennedy or Jerry Nadler. I'll never fully understand why the progressive blogosphere went apeshit about the possibility of another Senator Kennedy.

Gillibrand is a woman and from Upstate, both considered positives in terms of her winning and keeping the seat for some time, as the Senate Guru notes:

Overall, this is a very strong pick. Gillibrand has Congressional experience, is a strong fundraiser, further strengthens Democratic turnout in upstate counties, is young enough (age 42) to hold the seat for a long time, and has a moderate enough reputation to box out a moderate Republican from gaining traction on an electoral challenge. The downsides are the prospect of a divisive primary challenge giving a Republican candidacy political breathing room and the difficulty of holding her House seat in a special election.

The Politico's Ben Smith takes a different spin, noting what the selection means for Gillibrand's selector, New York Gov. David Patterson:

The loser, of course, is Paterson, whose strong choice is overshadowed by a process that deeply alienated one of America's most powerful political families, humiliated a friend of the president of the United States, and generally appeared utterly, needlessly chaotic -- at a time when the accidental governor is struggling to demonstrate that he has a firm grip on his power and can stand up to a powerful legislature. When the headline is "Blago Did Better," you know you have a problem.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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