Why are other candidates making more headway with Democratic women than Gillibrand? Because, regardless of what one thinks of their narratives, they are at least painting on a large canvas: Buttigieg is a millennial “synthesist” drawing his platform from both the conservative (fiscal responsibility, opposition to freebies like free college) and liberal (minority rights, social justice) camps; Biden is a pragmatic centrist who stands squarely in the middle when both sides are veering off their respective extremist cliffs; Sanders is the radical social democrat who wants to turn America into Denmark (or Venezuela if you listen to his critics); Warren is a fierce opponent of crony capitalism who is striving to create a level-playing field for the little guy; and Harris is (disingenuously) trying to re-invent herself as a social justice crusader who wants criminal justice reform and equal rights for persecuted minorities.
What are Gillibrand’s big issues? Defending abortion rights, to be sure. This is a genuine vote mobilizer — except that many women mobilize in the other direction. She also proposes a “family bill of rights” that would offer national paid leave, universal Pre-K, and affordable daycare. But many of these items are implicit in the broader agenda of the other candidates; Sander-style socialism would certainly cover them. Gillibrand also wants to eliminate the wage gap and end workplace harassment and discrimination. But who does this affect most? White professional women like herself on a career path. There is not much in Gillibrand’s platform for women with different profiles — a single black mom whose partner is serving an inordinately long prison sentence for petty drug violations or a self-employed Latina who is forced to spend 5,000 hours in a classroom to learn hair-braiding before she can obtain a license to open a salon. And what about men? Who needs men!