Kirsten Gillibrand is exactly the kind of 2020 candidate Democrats need

Kirsten Gillibrand, the junior United States senator from New York, has unapologetically begun her bid for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Gillibrand has already begun the difficult process of creating her own unique political lane by emerging as a leader of the #MeToo movement. In what many called a shrewd political move, Gillibrand made blunt comments about Bill Clinton and his legacy, showing that she is not afraid to throw elbows and buck the party elders. During the age of Donald Trump and dissatisfaction with both political parties, that may be exactly what she needs to do to get elected.

Some may call what Gillibrand is doing political opportunism, but what I call it is admitting publicly what we all say privately. The Democratic Party cannot aim to merely be better than the Republican Party. The bar for that is only inches from the ground. Instead, Democrats have to be willing to be critical of our own behavior and own up to our past mistakes. That may not be a popular opinion or one that makes everyone feel warm inside, but at the end of the day, as a party, we’ll be better and stronger for it.

{mosads}The notion that heavyweights in our party would pull their support from Gillibrand for her refusal “to go along to get along” will haunt the party in 2020 if it proves true. Gillibrand is one of the few candidates with the bonafide to take down Trump and bring the country back to some semblance of respectability. Kissing the proverbial ring of the Clintons to gain their support would harm her candidacy, not help it.

There is no denying that the Clintons are icons within the party, but there is also no denying their complicated history. We as Democrats cannot continue to brush the uncomfortable questions relating to the Clinton era of the White House under the rug. Of the many factors that led this country down the path that led to the election of Trump, the inability of Democrats to speak objectively about sexual harassment is one of them.

Had Hillary Clinton been elected president, it would have been even more difficult to have conversations about the #MeToo movement precisely because of the history of the Clintons attacking accusers in the 1990s. By acknowledging those uncomfortable truths, Gillibrand has taken the long view to the 2020 election and positioned herself to take on Trump in a way that very few Democrats have been able to.

If the president has proven anything since he slid down that golden escalator in Trump Tower in the summer of 2015, it is that he loves a nasty fight. He plays by his own rules and will leave no attack unleashed. We witnessed that when candidate Trump brought Juanita Broaddrick and a slew of other Bill Clinton accusers to throw Hillary Clinton off of her game before a presidential debate in 2016. Those type of juvenile and disgusting tricks will not work on Gillibrand. She has already proven that she is not afraid to throw elbows with the best of them.

If Democratic Party insiders are serious about removing Trump from office, they will follow Gillibrand’s lead and begin the uncomfortable process of cleaning out the skeletons in our political closets. As a country, we cannot afford to sit back and continue to play the same partisan games when the costs of losing are so insanely high. Many of us knew that Trump would be a bad president before he was elected, but now that he is in office, it is so much worse than anything we could ever have imagined.

If it takes angering the same people who said “Hillary could never lose” to protect our country and win back the White House, then so be it. Gillibrand’s courageous attempt to put herself on an island and risk political suicide should be commended, not mocked and made fun of. The Democratic Party should take a long hard look in the mirror to reflect on how we got to this moment in history and what our people should have done differently. Gillibrand has merely facilitated the opportunity to begin that uncomfortable conversation.

Michael Starr Hopkins is an attorney and former member of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He regularly appears on Fox News and CNN to talk about national politics. You can follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.

Tags Americans Barack Obama Bill Clinton campaign Democrats Donald Trump Election Hillary Clinton Kirsten Gillibrand Politics President voters White House

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