New York Blues. Blue Dogs, That Is
It looks very likely that Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand will be chosen to replace Hillary Clinton in the US Senate. Lots of liberals are upset with Gillibrand's less than sterling record in her short stay in the House.
If Mr. Paterson was hoping to quiet the tumult over the selection process by picking Ms. Gillibrand, there were indications that he may not get his wish. Ms. Gillibrand, who has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, is controversial among some of the party’s more liberal leaders downstate.
Representative Carolyn McCarthy, a Long Island Democrat and ardent gun control activist, said Thursday that if Ms. Gillibrand got the job, she was prepared to run against her in a primary in 2010. Ms. McCarthy was elected to Congress after her husband was killed in a gunman’s rampage on the Long Island Rail Road in 1993.
Gilibrand is a proud member of the Blue Dog caucus in the House. She describes her record as "one of the most conservative in the state". Wayne Barrett notes:
She opposes any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, supports renewing the Bush tax cuts for individuals earning up to $1 million annually, and voted for the Bush-backed FISA bill that permits wiretapping of international calls. She was one of four Democratic freshmen in the country, and the only Democrat in the New York delegation, to vote for the Bush administration's bill to extend funding for the Iraq war shortly after she entered congress in 2007. While she now contends that she's always opposed the war and has voted for bills to end it, one upstate paper reported when she first ran for the seat: "She said she supports the war in Iraq." In addition to her vote to extend funding, she also missed a key vote to override a Bush veto of a Democratic bill with Iraq timetables.
Given all this, you would think I would be upset by this turn of events. But really, I'm not. I've been given some back-channel assurances that Gillibrand is more liberal than her conservative upstate district. But even if she isn't, she'll HAVE to vote that way to keep the seat in 2010. New York City contains 55-60% of the Democratic vote. She's going to have to win them over or she'll get a primary. Carolyn McCarthy is already talking about it. Every conservative vote she makes puts a nail in her coffin.
As for losing her district, we have enough Democrats in the House and can easily afford to lose the seat in the short term. After 2010, New York will be redistricted with a Democratic governor and a Democratic legislature. That seat could look very different at that point, so this may be a temporary setback. In the short term, this dilutes the amount of Blue Dog Congresscritters in the House, which is fine with me. The power of the Blue Dogs is in their numbers, and now they're sinking even further behind the Progressive caucus.
As for those who want to blame the netroots for smearing Caroline Kennedy and foisting a Blue Dog on the Senate, that's a curious rendering of "a new era of responsibility" - no responsibility for Caroline Kennedy or anyone she associates with for their actions, but FULL responsibility for random people on the Internet.
And I can't finish a post about a Senate appointment without mentioning that there shouldn't be any Senate appointments.
...and the big shift is already on.
Here's another interesting wrinkle from Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand's (D-NY) imminent promotion to the Senate: She appears to have switched her position on gay marriage from a standard "safe" Democratic stance, to now being a full supporter.
Empire State Pride Agenda has put out a press release saying that Gillibrand has spoken to them, and they are glad to say that New York will have its first Senator who endorses full marriage equality. This is a big change for Gillibrand, who previously had a conventional Democratic position of endorsing civil unions and non-discrimination laws, but not being for gay marriage.
To be sure, Gillibrand's voting record on gay rights was not anything that could be called bad. There weren't too many votes on gay issues in the last two years, but she did vote for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, as well as the hate crimes bill.
She wavered on gun control in her press conference too, vowing to work with Carolyn McCarthy on various issues. New York liberals actually have power in this environment, and Gillibrand knows it.