Shlaes For Senate? One Hell Of A Good Idea

At The Dogcatcher Project is a piece with a terrific idea for the Republican Party, whether it ultimately results in action or not. At issue is the 2012 election cycle, and what the GOP is going to do about picking off Kirsten Gillibrand, New York’s junior Democrat senator who makes Mary Landrieu look like Ayn Rand.

Adam Brickley, the author of the piece, sets the scene…

New York’s Democratic Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is the archetype of an unaccountable “stray dog”. She has NEVER faced serious opposition for her Senate seat in either a primary or general election – and since she keeps a low profile, her egregious flip-flopping on the issues goes largely unnoticed by her constituents. In a state known for brash, well-publicized politicians, New Yorkers would probably respond “Kirsten who?” when asked about their junior senator. That has to change.

The GOP needs a high profile opponent who will force Gillibrand to explain herself – and given her record we don’t think she can. The only question is who can do this while raising the money to compete in expensive New York.

Brickley offers a terrific suggestion – author, columnist and economic expert Amity Shlaes. Shlaes is best known for the best-selling book The Forgotten Man, a history of the Great Depression told from a modern conservative perspective; it is quite possibly the best work ever done on the period.

Here is a set of clips of Reason Magazine’s Nick Gillespie interviewing Shlaes on the book back in 2007, including her description of how she came across the title and a great discussion of the economic conditions of the time (and how the government altered them)…

She’s a little wonky, but she’s engaging and she knows her subject extremely well. And she understands economics. Gillibrand? Not so much. The debates in such a race would be ugly.

Brickley notes that while Shlaes might be a long shot, she’s the right kind of candidate in a deep blue state – if you can’t win, at least be smart and provocative and win the argument, because it might set the foundation for a better electorate down the road.

But this isn’t really about merely beating Kirsten Gillibrand, this is about getting a Senator from New York with character, gravitas, and serious policy credentials. Shlaes has those things in spades. As a leading economic historian of the Great Depression, she would bring a wealth of knowledge to the Senate at a critical time in our economic history. Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, and with our economy stuck in a rut, a depression expert can eloquently ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the 1930s. Shlaes is also an expert commentator on current affairs via her Bloomberg News column, and she has universally acknowledged gravitas on all things economic.

Where Gillibrand is nebulous, low profile, and populist – Shlaes is blunt, urbane, clear as crystal, blisteringly smart, and serious as a heart attack. It’s a match made in heaven…at least if you’re a Republican (if you’re a Dem the matchup is rather hellish).

Brickley thinks Shlaes could compete financially with Gillibrand since conservatives all over the country would chip in for her in small amounts. Whether that’s correct or not would probably depend on things like Fox News and talk radio appearances in which she makes provocative and intellectually sound arguments (which she does regularly in her Bloomberg column).

It would, in any case, be refreshing and productive if Shlaes were to take Brickley’s advice and mount a campaign for Gillibrand’s seat. There is a wealth of strong conservative and libertarian thinkers out there these days; perhaps more now than at any point in the history of the movement, and Shlaes is one of those voices. It’s long past time that many of them make their way into electoral circles rather than just exercise punditry. And if she can’t win, she can at least articulate conservatism – which is a worthy endeavor in its own right.

It wouldn’t hurt the sales of her next book, in any event.



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