Gillibrand drops out

On Wednesday afternoon, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced she would drop her run for the presidency. In a three-minute announcement video, she recapped her campaign for president, and wrote on Twitter:

“Today, I am ending my campaign for president. I am so proud of this team and all we've accomplished. But I think it’s important to know how you can best serve. To our supporters: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Now, let's go beat Donald Trump and win back the Senate.”

She has her New York Senate seat through 2024, so that last note is not about her OWN election, but her efforts to help her party. So, as with all the candidates who leave the race, let’s look back at some highlights from Gillibrand’s campaign.

Her first big policy was about campaign finance reform. She called it the Clean Elections Plan, but the terminology that jumped off the page was the phrase “Democracy Dollars.” The proposal was to give citizens vouchers which they could use to donate to candidates if both the candidate and the voter opted into the system. It was a smart way to flip the script on campaign fundraising, and she proposed to pay for it with a tax on corporate CEOs who had excessively high paychecks. The vouchers were called Democracy Dollars, and other candidates have also endorsed similar proposals.

Next up, Gillibrand was among the first in this field to explicitly say that as president, she would only appoint judges who support the Roe v. Wade decision. That’s not an unusual position in this field, but she wrote a whole article about it back in May, and it fits in with a series of her other proposals related to women’s rights and reproductive rights. Later that same month, she announced her Family Bill of Rights, which included a set of progressive policies around pregnancy, birth, adoption, home nursery care, maternity and paternity leave, and affordable child care.

In June, Gillibrand called for legalizing marijuana nationwide, as part of a criminal justice reform platform. The plan also called for expunging all nonviolent marijuana-related convictions. She has a bunch of other plans too, and there’s a link in the show notes to her extensive policy platform, which was conveniently published on Medium.

Probably the biggest break-out moment for Gillibrand came in early July, when she spoke about white privilege at a campaign event in Youngstown, Ohio. A clip of that went viral on Twitter, and I’m going to play it again here. But first I do need to read the question she was responding to, which is partly cut off in the audio clip. A voter asked:

“I hear you saying there is a lot of divisive language coming from Republicans, coming from Trump, and that we are looking for ways to blameeach other. But the Democratic Party loves to throw around terms like ‘white privilege.’ This is an area that, across all demographics, has been depressed because of the loss of its industry and an opioid crisis. What do you have to say to people in thisarea about so-called white privilege?”

And this is the audio, with the end of that question included. Listen in:


After the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Gillibrand appeared at a gun safety forum in Iowa sponsored by Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety. At that forum, she called for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to call the Senate back from recess to vote on two gun safety bills that had already passed the House. Here’s that clip:


McConnell did not call the vote.

And finally, on Wednesday last week I reported that Gillibrand publicly said she would accept a Vice President spot, or frankly ANY spot in public service. That’s consistent with her many discussions about her faith and what she sees as a calling to service. Here’s that clip, and the Washington Post’s Robert Costa speaks first. Listen in:


As the exits the race for president, Gillibrand is one of just a few candidates who had any shot at picking up a spot in the October debate—and that was a long shot. She got one qualifying poll in this cycle out of the necessary four, and had not yet crossed the donor threshold. That donor thing might be particularly notable—it’s likely that Gillibrand was running low on money, and made a strategic decision to stop spending. Remember, she funded her presidential race in part with money transferred from an existing Senate fund from the last Senate election cycle. It would be smart to try to retain some of that for 2024.

So, Gillibrand is out of the presidential race, and she is back to work in the Senate. She has said that she will endorse another candidate in this race, but as of deadline today I have not yet heard who that will be.

The September debate lineup is confirmed

Okay, just to be clear, the DNC confirmed today what I said yesterday about the September debate—there will be ten candidates and they will debate together on one night. Cool, so why am I telling you this?

Well, it gives me an excuse to quote John Delaney, who went on MSNBC and compared the DNC to Thanos, a Marvel comic book villain whose evil goal is to eliminate half of all living beings. He attempts to achieve this goal using a magical glove that can do that if he snaps his fingers. Delaney said, referring to the DNC:

“They’re kinda like Thanos, snapping their finger and trying to get rid of half the field. Right? That’s really kinda what they did.”

Okay, that’s it. You just needed to know that that actually happened.

Bennet’s open letter to the DNC

All right, now that the debate lineup is confirmed, Colorado Senator Michael Bennet posted a thread on Twitter asking a series of pointed questions for Tom Perez, who is the Chair of the DNC. While at first these may seem purely like sour grapes—Bennet didn’t qualify for the debates—he does raise several questions that really do merit an answer. I’m gonna read a few of those here. He listed 11 points in all, and you can read those all in the show notes if you like.

“Why hasn’t the DNC informed campaigns of the entry requirements and qualifying deadlines for upcoming debates 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12 so each campaign can plan its strategy accordingly and have confidence that the DNC is not moving the bar on behalf of the frontrunners’ campaigns?”

That’s an interesting point. Part of the issue when transitioning the donor and polling thresholds from the first two debates into the second was that candidates didn’t know until relatively late what targets they were supposed to aim for. So given that there will be a total of TWELVE DEBATES, it would be logical to at least lay out a framework for some of what comes next. It’s probably not smart to set those rules in stone for, say, the 12thdebate when you’re just about to host the THIRD one, but some guiding metrics would be both normal and helpful for the candidates. Okay, here’s another one.

“Who at the DNC decided which polls would be sanctioned? What was the specific criteria for allowing certain polls and not others, and why has that not been publicly disclosed? For example, why are polls from reputable polling organizations, such as Suffolk University, Marist College, and Siena College, excluded from the DNC’s approved list?”

This is part of a huge theme I haven’t gotten around to covering on this show. A few of candidates, including Gabbard, and Steyer, and of course Bennet here, have pointed out that the DNC’s list of approved pollsters is sort of hard to understand. If the DNC approved more pollsters, more candidates would be in the next debate. So this is a valid question, in the sense that the criteria itself ought to be somehow stated. Personally, I care less WHAT the criteria IS, than the fact that we know it existsand has some objective basis. Right now, it’s all top secret.

This next one is a doozy, “Was anyone who is now on the staff of a presidential campaign consulted about the debate qualification rules?” I have no idea if he has any specific campaigns in mind there, but I am curious what the answer is.

Okay, and the last question goes back to the infamous Climate Debate thing:

“Why are candidates prohibited from participating in non-DNC forums and debates that would allow the voters the opportunity to hear in-depth discussion given the DNC’s refusal to hold issue-specific debates?”

So, we’ve talked about that one quite a bit, and I will keep you posted if Perez indeed responds to any of these questions.

Steyer calls for a wealth tax

On Twitter yesterday, activist and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer wrote a brief thread proposing a wealth tax. This is a topic that has come up a lot in this cycle, most prominently from Senator Elizabeth Warren, who proposed a 2% annual tax on assets over $50 million dollars. Plus in Warren’s plan, she’d bump that up to 3% for anything ABOVE $1 billion dollars in assets. This tax acts somewhat like a property tax, except it would be applied at the federal level on all kinds of assets, not just houses and stuff.

Okay, so Steyer, who himself has a net worth well above $1 billion dollars, jumped into this discussion, writing:

“As a billionaire, I’m entitled under current GOP law to pay less on my taxes than most Americans. For years, they've claimed that if wealthy families pay less in taxes, magically, everyone else will benefit. As a former investor, I can tell you: none of that actually works.
Tax cuts for the richest Americans ONLY benefit the richest Americans. When we don't pay up, it means roads aren’t getting fixed, schools aren’t being properly funded, and too many people can’t find affordable housing.
I believe that it’s time for a new wealth tax in this country: 1% annually on the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans.
Our country gets stronger when we all do our part, not when the powerful write laws that benefit themselves at the cost of everyone else.”

He expanded on that idea in a YouTube video. Here’s a clip from that, minus the intro and the bit where he asks you to donate. Listen in:


In an op-ed for USA Today, Steyer lays out a few details, saying that his version of this tax would start on assets above $20 million dollars. That is a substantial difference from Warren’s $50 million dollar starting point at 2%, but hey, it’s all math anyway.

The reason this is notable is that you now have multiple candidates in the field pushing for this kind of tax. There are clear questions about whether it is constitutional, given that the 16thamendment gives the federal government the right to levy income taxes, but doesn’t mention this kind of asset tax.

This kind of tax has already been tried in various parts of the world, and often was rolled back due to an inability to enforce it—wealthy people found ways to dodge the tax. Americans like Steyer and Warren—and, to be fair, some notable American economists—point out that the US has vastly more resources to go after that specific, and relatively small, set of people who might try to the evade this tax. Assuming it’s constitutional, anyway.