A decade ago, Washingtonian pundits were buzzing about how New York's junior Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, might someday eclipse her onetime mentor, Hillary Clinton, to become the most powerful woman in the Democratic Party. But in the years since, the senator has seen her public profile shrink remarkably after her 2020 presidential campaign fizzled before it even got off the ground. She still holds one of the most powerful elected positions in the country, but whatever she had been trying to prove with this strategy, it has clearly backfired.
Because New York has a new celebrity politician who is younger and (arguably) better-looking than Gillibrand (even if her political chops aren't up to par). And the message to Gillibrand from her Democratic colleagues is getting increasingly emphatic: either step it up, or step aside and get ready for AOC to launch and win a primary campaign for the Senate seat just like she did when she challenged Joe Crowley for his seat in the House.
And a few of them have been mouthing off to the New York Post:
"There are any number of state lawmakers, local officials and members of the delegation –including AOC — who could mount a very, very credible challenge and quite likely beat her,” the ex-staffer said, adding that his once vigorous former boss now seemed “bored” in the Senate and is missing in action statewide.
"It wouldn’t at all surprise me if there were truth to the rumors that she’s not planning to run, but instead is on the lookout for an administration position or a cushy private sector job," the insider added.
Another complained about Gilibrand being "invisible".
"I see [senior NY Sen. Chuck] Schumer all the time. I never see Gillibrand. I don’t know why New York only has one senator," sniffed one Democratic state senator.
And these aren't just anonymous whispers. At least one prominent Democratic strategist was willing to let the NYPost attribute his criticisms to him directly.
Longtime city Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf agreed: "AOC can beat Kirsten Gillibrand. AOC will raise the money. She can beat her because Kirsten Gillibrand is the invisible senator. She has done very little to cement that incumbency and the electorate is angry and she has done nothing to address the issues that matter — which are COVID, crime and job loss in New York State."
It's not just her colleagues who are criticizing Gillibrand. There is cold hard data to support the assertion that her legislating has been short of effective. According to GovTrack, Gillibrand was among the least effective senators in the previous Congress, ranking 39 out of 45 among Democrats, with not a single “substantive” bill she proposed becoming law. She also missed more than 15% of votes, the ninth-worst record among her Democratic colleagues.
To be sure, it's not like AOC is a shining beacon of legislative rectitude: we're talking about a politician who deflects by simply accusing critics of being "sexually frustrated".
All she has accomplished during her time in office is a lot of talking on social media, but not much actual legislating.
We suppose that would make her an appropriate replacement for Gillibrand.