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Gillibrand’s Great Opening Performances

Don Rose 29 March 2019 No Comment

Watching Kirsten Gillibrand’s performance at an MSNBC “town hall” in Iowa I said to myself if Hilary Clinton had been able to show the same empathy with regular people, she might have carried those lost “blue wall” states.  The whole hour was one terrific performance.

opening

   Then, Gillibrand’s declaration of candidacy speech Sunday  set me to thinking she may be the best performer of all the candidates thus far in the mix and maybe many to come. It could make her a more formidable prospect to gain the nomination than I previously anticipated.

  This is in no way an endorsement or a put-down by calling these events “performances,” but an attempt at a professional evaluation of a candidate working public events.

   My heart and politics are at the moment with Senator Elizabeth Warren and/or Bernie Sanders and I have many reservations about Gillibrand’s shape-shifting past but I think we have to examine the total appeal of all candidates and the ability to perform is a big part of the package. As I said, Clinton’s aloof, inauthentic style is likely a significant factor in her electoral college defeat.

   At the televised town hall meeting when addressing the crowd on various issues her body language and tone were well attuned to a medium-sized crowd. When addressing sensitive, emotional issues like separating children from mothers at the border her face showed the emotion, coming close to tears.

   Most powerfully, when standing face to face  with questioners, the sympathy with their issues showed clearly on her face as her body leaned ever so slightly toward them–she was like one friend listening to another. It was the physical equivalent of Bill Clinton’s mantra, “I feel your pain,” creating an authentic bond with a questioning stranger. The connection was visible beyond the spoken word.

   When Hayes brought up her past support of gun rights, her connections to Wall Street and past anti-immigrant rhetoric she easily acknowledged and apologized for past mistakes though the excuses on guns and immigrants were not fully convincing. Hayes failed to follow up, apparently satisfied and letting off the hook.

    Her declaration speech was cleverly staged in front of Trump Tower before an American flag so big that only some stripes were visible. Her voice control body language, facial expressions and hand/arm gestures were near perfect–emphatic but not overdone in the manner of Beto O’Rourke’s near-hysterical arm flapping. (Watching him I keep thinking if his arms were rotors he might helicopter himself right up to the stratosphere. No offense, Beto, but I’m still waiting for content heftier than the meringue you’re serving.)

    Gillibrand’s content checked all the progressive boxes–first calling Trump a coward, then working down through Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. She also offered the interesting idea of extending the GI Bill to young people doing national public service as well as the military. She already owns the issue of cracking down on sex assault in the military.

    I’ll be reporting on performance and content of other Dems in the scrum, but mark this one as a contender.

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Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

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