Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines infrastructure as “the system of public works of a country, state, or region,” “he resources (such as personnel, buildings, or equipment) required for an activity,” “the underlying foundation or basic framework (as of a system or organization),” or “the permanent installations required for military purposes.”
Politically, it is often considered to refer to transportation, roads, bridges and items of that nature.
“Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure,” Gillbrand tweeted Wednesday morning.
This quickly led to a barrage of mockery and criticism. Some took an absurdist approach, implying that Gillibrand’s tweet is removed from reality.
“Unicorns are infrastructure. Love is infrastructure. Herpes is infrastructure. Everything is infrastructure,” Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro tweeted.
“Brunch is infrastructure. Kendall Jenner is infrastructure. The Snyder Cut is infrastructure,” The Federalist publisher Ben Domenech said.
Others, such as Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill., and Donald Trump Jr., countered with their own real example of infrastructure: the wall along the southern border that was started by former President Donald Trump and halted by President Biden.
The Washington Examiner’s Jerry Dunleavy alleged that Gillibrand was intentionally stretching the meaning of “infrastructure” to give an excuse for Democrats to incorporate various agenda items in their infrastructure bill.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, had a similar response.
“Abortion is infrastructure. Gun control is infrastructure. Forced unionization is infrastructure. Whatever the Left wants is infrastructure. You know what’s not? Roads & bridges,” he tweeted, noting that just 5% of President Biden’s infrastructure package dealt with roads and bridges.
It was not just conservatives who criticized Gillibrand. The liberal former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann called out the senator for her use of the word.
“No, Senator. These are all vital needs. I would argue they are as important as nuts and bolts and grids and networks,” Olbermann tweeted. “But when you drain a word of it’s meaning, you damage its impact, your cause, and the value of language.”
Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg defended a broader approach. Without referring to Gillibrand’s tweet, Buttigieg stated that railroads were not considered infrastructure until they were built, and that Americans needed to now look to the future.
“There was a time when railroads weren’t considered ‘infrastructure.’ Then we built them,” he said. “Now’s the time to build the 21st century economy Americans need.”