Democrat or Republican, women know how to work together.
At first glance, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) isn’t the most likely person to earn praise from her Republican colleagues.
Gillibrand voted against nearly every one of President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees — more “no” votes than any other member of the Senate.
Still, in a recent interview with Rebecca Traister for New York magazine, Gillibrand showed that there’s at least one Republican senator with whom she shares a mutual respect: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).
The interview is getting attention for Gillibrand’s use of colorful language in describing what she sees as Congresses’s job, but her blunt language is a small detail in a much more revealing interview.
Gillibrand and Collins represent something important in any profession: what it looks like when women have each others’ backs.
In the interview, Gillibrand opened up about her bipartisan friendships and working relationships, touching on everything from the legislation she and Collins filed to protect seniors from fraud to the fact that Gillibrand helped plan Collins’ wedding shower a few years back. It’s a side of politics we don’t usually get to see — or at very least, a side that’s often overshadowed.
Women in the world of politics have found clever ways to work together to make their voices heard and find solutions.
“We’re here to help people, and if we’re not helping people, we should go the fuck home,” might be getting the most attention from the interview, but it leaves off the important first part of Gillibrand’s statement.
The full quote is actually this:
“I know Susan’s worldview is similar to my worldview. Which is that we’re here to help people, and if we’re not helping people, we should go the fuck home.”
That first sentence matters. It’s an example of a technique called “amplification,” a strategy used with great success by women in the Obama administration, in which they deliberately repeat each others’ points in meetings, giving credit to the woman who originally made it, to ensure they were not ignored or overlooked.
In the New York magazine interview, Gillibrand made sure to give Collins credit by name for sharing the view that the government’s purpose is to help people (though we can’t be sure whether Collins would have phrased it quite the same way).
In 2012, The Daily Beast wrote about how women in the Senate regularly meet for bipartisan dinner parties as a way to build strength in numbers and develop cross-party friendships in the process. In 2013, the group of 20 senators gathered and devised a plan to avert a government shutdown. In 2017, now with 21 senators in their ranks, the women are still getting together, still demonstrating the value of women taking care of women — even when they don’t always agree.
“So when it comes to helping one another, we’re just more ready to do it. We want each other to succeed and find a path forward because we really leave the partisan politics at the door,” Gillibrand explained in an interview with BuzzFeed.
Whether it’s female staffers amplifying each other’s voices in meetings or hosting dinner parties to keep the government afloat, the truth is that women get things done — especially when they have each others’ backs.
The state of politics these days is just a tiny bit polarized, and depending on your own political leanings, the politician you see as a hero may be a villain in the eyes of your next-door neighbor. It’s all so very subjective and, honestly, a little exhausting.
Even so, there are occasional moments like these that can give us hope while we wander the political wilderness — moments where politicians from opposing parties can actually agree on something. These women remind us of that.