Last Saturday I had the opportunity to hear Senator Kirsten Gillibrand speak. She was the first speaker in the first Harris County Democratic Party (HCDP) Presidential Candidate Speaker Series. The privilege cost me $5 with all proceeds going to the HCDP. I was anxious to see how Senator Gillibrand would differentiate herself from the other democratic presidential candidates, and had never been to an event like this before, so I figured it was worth the price of admission. I talked a friend into going with me, and we arrived early. The event was at a church, which was a bit disappointing to me, because I firmly support the separation of religion from politics and am concerned about the weakening of the Johnson Amendment. That issue aside, I completely understand how hard it is to find a venue to host such an event, so my only form of protest was to wear my shirt that calls for the separation of church and state by saying, “Build This Wall” and then having a picture of a brick wall between a graphic of a church and the capital building. In retrospect, I think the shirt is the reason that no less than 3 people who initially sat beside me in the pew prior to the start of the event moved. Turns out the “Build This Wall” part of the shirt was visible as I was seated, but the separation of church and state part wasn’t. They probably thought I was a Republican who was going to disrupt the event….
I wasn’t familiar with Senator Gillibrand, so I appreciated hearing about her background and experience. Like most of the televised town hall events, this one had predetermined people asking vetted questions. They were softball questions the candidate didn’t really answer- it was just a prompt to get her started on whatever issue or platform she wanted to tell us about. There was nothing she said that I disagreed with, and I did learn about her work with SNAP and children’s nutrition, which I wasn’t familiar with. The event started on time and was cut off at exactly one hour. Not everyone who was slated to ask questions had the opportunity to ask them, which was disappointing for the questioners, I’m sure, and for me as a listener as well.
Kirsten was asked a question about how women candidates are covered by the media and how she felt she could win the election. She ignored the sexism in the media part of the question and went into something about getting out and doing the hard work of visiting communities and listening to people, blah blah blah, or as a friend of mine is fond of saying, “blahsy blahsy bullshit”. I thought she missed an opportunity to address the misogyny inherent in campaign coverage that focuses on how she eats fried chicken.
In addition, she didn’t convince me that she had a real plan to win. She needs to do more than town hall style campaigning in order to win a national election. Especially when those town halls are not well attended. There were only about 150 or so people at the event, and at least a third of those were volunteers or otherwise involved with the event.
Bottom line: If she wins the Democratic presidential nomination, I’ll campaign hard for her to win, but she’s not my candidate of choice. I look forward to attending future events in the HDCP Presidential Candidate Speaker Series so I can get to know more of the candidates better. Until then, I’m looking forward to seeing Hillary Clinton at the JRR Luncheon.