Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) had struggled to distinguish herself from a large Democratic primary field by campaigning almost exclusively on women’s rights. That has not succeeded in moving Gillibrand from the bottom of the pack of candidates with less than one percent in most polls. However, Gillibrand doubled down this week with a startling interview where she not only pledged to impose a litmus test on any judicial nominees but said that being pro-life is equivalent to being racist or anti-Semitic.
Trump also crossed this line in pledging to appoint pro-life nominees though his nominees insist that they were not asked about their view of the constitutionality of abortion. Other Democratic candidates have pledged to appoint pro-choose nominees without saying how they would confirm such views. Gillibrand is the first to say that pro-life views are the same as racist views.
In an interview with The Des Moines Register on Tuesday, Gillibrand rejected the issue of abortion as a political matter and instead portrayed it as an anti-human rights viewpoint that is disqualifying for any jurist:
“I think there’s some issues that have such moral clarity that we have, as a society, decided that the other side is not acceptable. Imagine saying that it’s OK to appoint a judge who’s racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic. Asking someone to appoint someone who takes away basic human rights of any group of people in America … I don’t think those are political issues anymore.”
Senators have long rejected the notion of litmus tests for nominees as threatening judicial integrity and independence. Indeed, many nominees refuse to answer questions about matters that may come before them.
When pressed on litmus tests, Gillibrand does not back down or deny that she would use a direct litmus test.
Gillibrand, who once ran on a fairly conservative agenda in New York, suggests that she would fight the agenda of the Trump Administration by imposing her own agenda. The reason is that her agenda is the correct one: “All these efforts by President Trump and other ultra-radical conservative judges and justices to impose their faith on Americans is contrary to our Constitution, and that’s what this is. There is no moral equivalency when you come to racism. And I do not believe that there is a moral equivalency when it comes to changing laws that deny women reproductive freedom.”
The question is whether this will now prompt other candidates to pledge a similar litmus test and declare pro-life views as indistinguishable from racism.