And yet I am perplexed by my own unenthusiastic reaction to her campaign, as much as it overlaps with the public consensus. As the warmer media reception to Jay Inslee proved, climate change is enough to be a single-issue platform. Why not women’s rights? Part of this maybe has to do with the stunt-like nature of Inslee’s campaign—he was always pretty clear about his expectations around his candidacy, in a way that felt righteous and endearing. Inslee was also seen as selfless—it’s easier to think of climate change as a universal issue, not a personal one (however many times one can say women’s rights are human rights). More of my confusion: I always took Gillibrand’s run for president more seriously than Inslee’s, at the same time I docked her campaign for never quite distinguishing her agenda from the other candidates’, many of whom took similar aggressive stances on family leave and reproductive freedom. I evaluated her, in other words, as I would the real contender I expected she would be. But I had to try to reconcile her obvious seriousness with shallower reactions on my part: Annoyed that her debate performance felt a bit cloying—she seemed to be constantly interrupting other candidates and blowing through her allotted speaking time. Did she do it more than others? Did that matter more than the fact that I felt she did?…

So ultimately, here’s what I think really happened: Kirsten Gillibrand was hurt by sexism, yes. But in singularly attaching herself to a political disaster of an issue—a moral, legal, procedural morass we are still fighting over nearly every aspect of how to think about—she refused to let us work around it. Sexual assault and harassment are issues of crucial importance, and there are few things that the nation has discussed more since the election of Donald Trump. They’re just nowhere near enough—as yet—to determine a president.