Even if Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is indeed ruling out a bid for president in 2020, she’s hitting all the marks signaling a populist path forward for the Democratic Party. The Senator sat down with VICE at the Wythe Hotel as a part of Northside Innovation for an hour-long conversation spanning everything from her day-to-day routine in Trump’s DC to how young people can help protect their healthcare. The most striking part of the conversation was the eagerness with which she criticized her party, going out of her way to point out that establishment elites have lost touch with the American worker. “Trump ran on three messages, two of which were Democratic,” she explained, detailing how the reality show celebrity coopted Senator Warren’s and Senator Sanders’ tirades against Wall St and bad trade deals. The implication, it was clear, is that the party needs to get back in touch with its populist roots. With full-throated support for a $15 minimum and paid parental leave, Gillibrand is positioning herself nicely to carry on the legacy of Sanders’ political revolution.
Yet she insisted that she was a public servant first—and thus had to compromise at times, working with the GOP to pass legislature to better the lives of all Americans. Lest her audience mistake this for Clintonian triangulation, however, Gillibrand called on the crowd to use the energy of the #resistance to push members of Congress to support progressive policies. “Use your voices on all platforms at all opportunities,” she implored, “you must speak out to protect our country.” Urging us to join our local chapter of Indivisible, the movement founded by former Democratic aides to Representatives who faced the wave of anti-Obama Tea Part activism in 2009, Gillibrand insisted that everyday people in the grassroots hold the power for change. That’s a far cry from the message of the Democratic Party under Obama, who shed the grassroots momentum generated by his campaign once he took office. Senator Gillibrand’s talk is evidence for progressives that elected Democrats are coming around to a bold vision for all Americans and not just their corporate donors. More, please.
Photos by Zane Roessell