Hunter S. Thompson once wrote that a journalist should never endorse, especially politically, and I wouldn’t be so foolish as to argue with his wisdom, for lack of better word. However, not even the great Lono himself could conceal his enthusiasm for George McGovern in the summer of 1972, forty years before I revealed my fascination with Ron Paul’s final presidential campaign to every reader of The Citizen of Laconia. Seven years later, I am struggling to spread the word about Tulsi Gabbard’s own presidential conquest without coming across as a cheeky cheerleader. It’s not that I’m instructing my readers, few as they are, to vote for her—it’s just that I’m informing them that I really can’t imagine myself voting for any of the Democratic Party’s nineteen other options.
By way of a “for instance”, I don’t know that I would have extracted myself from bed at so early an hour on so sweltering a day, five hours after I had one too many servings of Boston rum punch, to travel thirty miles to a village that I’ve never even visited before, strictly for an opportunity to meet any of the other people pulling for the Democratic nod. Such is Tulsi Gabbard’s preternatural pull—call it the Gift of Gab—one that hasn’t roped me in since Ron Paul laid waste to each of his Republican contemporaries, even if his undeniable victory wasn’t manifested at the polling station. Yeah, I’m interested in Gabbard: the woman makes me feel politically alive, which may be all that keeps me from pouring yet another glass of Boston rum punch.
So, anyway, I took the drive to Amherst, New Hampshire—not to be confused with the village of the same name in Massachusetts; could the founders of New England have been just a little more derivative—and wandered around a couple of cute little backroads before I discovered a complete fleet of vehicles preceding an entire legion of supporters. These were the people with the banners and the signs, the people who’d comprise the majority share of the Independence Day parade for which the fine folks of Amherst had shown up for in the first place. You hear a lot these days about the indecorum of politicizing an event such as this, but those complaints become inaudible as soon as you discover that presidential candidates have honed in on New Hampshire’s ID4 parades since 1995, and maybe even since much earlier than that.
Yeah, a lot of the presidential aspirants were represented here. Not all of them, of course; this time around, we have enough candidates to constitute a rally without any supporters, but essentially all of the front-runners had people marching for ‘em. Gabbard, obviously; Bernie Sanders, too, which is probably a given in all of New England; Elizabeth Warren, who’s a New Englander, too; Kristen Gillibrand, whose boosters try to convince you that she’s the only woman in the running this year; Cory Booker, who was represented by the Winne-bago (get it? huh? huh?); and Beto O’Rourke, who wants you to know that, despite his catastrophic showing in the debate, despite all the odds, you’d “Beto believe it!”
However, Gabbard was the only one of these candidates who actually attended the parade, walking with her fans throughout the parade as if it were nothing at all for a presidential candidate to stand with her people. Gillibrand made an appearance at the very end, so close to the close of the event that I didn’t even recognize her when I saw her. Amy Klobuchar was there, too, but she made sure to keep herself aloof, wandering away from the parade for sustained and very awkward stretches. If you wanted to meet Gabbard, then you had plenty of opportunities, whether you were walking in the parade or sitting on the sidelines and watching the procession.
It was pretty surreal, seeing Gabbard go out and shake hands with everyone, even the people who were wearing red caps reading, “Make America Great Again”. It’s very hard to generate that kind of neutral energy in these hyperactive political times—one man tried to start a fight with me when he saw that I was marching in support of Julian Assange—but the Gabbard campaign has made a sincere effort to connect with conservatives. Tulsi Gabbard’s military career—her recent military career, at that—makes her a complicated target for the hawks, whereas it ought to giver her a clear advantage over her contemporaries in the Democratic Party. Conveniently, the media has elected to bypass this problem by ignoring her completely, the aim of which is to prevent her from making “the cut”—the arbitrarily designated cut—for the third, and quintessential, of the Democratic Party debates.
I ended up marching with a woman named Paula Iasella, who needed help displaying her banner in protest of the prosecution of Julian Assange. We had a longconversation, the most refreshing I’ve had in a while: you can’t talk to Paula without doing your homework, as she’s completely versed in the sad saga of the various media outlets that feigned support for Assange, only to bail on him when the heat came upon him.
Among other things, we talked about the despicable posturing and conspiracy theorizing of bottom-feeders like Seth Abramson. We also discussed the pipe dream, which is not to say the impossibility, of eliminating all advertising from future presidential debates. This latter issue was especially pertinent for a Gabbard rally, as the Hawaiian congresswoman faces a very real chance of being cut from the next debate, all because she hasn’t rounded up enough sponsors.
Tulsi Gabbard and I had a chance to discuss this during her appearance at the second parade, the second of three scheduled that day. This one took place in Merrimack, New Hampshire, and I came perilously close to missing it completely: the only reason I found the location was because I pulled into the parking lot of a Subway and leeched off their Internet for long enough to bring my feeble GPS back from the dead. Once I found out where the parade would commence—almost half a mile away from where I superstitiously parked my car—I made my way to the beginning of the parade. For reasons that I still don’t entirely understand, I ended up carrying the largest of her banners, the only one that actually featured her face.
Before we started marching, I had an opportunity to chat with some of her fans. Most of them were here because of her opposition to the American government’s imperialist warfare, which, if I recall, was the same concern expressed by most of the Ron Paul supporters that I met in 2012. It’s funny how almost nothing has changed since then except for the political parties of the only candidates who are truly pacifistic—and just like in 2012, the only truly pacifistic candidate is ostracized by her political party. The similarities might be amusing, if only they weren’t so bloody chilling.
Once the parade started, I immediately regretted having agreed to carry that banner. Someone had to do it, but it was a two-person operation, and for some reason, we found ourselves drifting away from the center of the action, over and over again. Fortunately, the Merrimack parade was all but defined by chaos such as this, in part because several fire engines blared their horns at almost every minute throughout the parade. Nevertheless, Gabbard’s fans tried their best to keep up a number of chants in support of their candidate, and their cheer successfully distracted me from the sunburn that was steadily forming on both of my arms.
Ah, but I was supposed to tell you about the conversation between Tulsi Gabbard and me. Despite having met hundreds upon hundreds of people within the last few hours, she recognized me from my appearance at the Amherst parade.
“Did you have a chance to get lunch?” she asked.
“Nah,” I replied, shaking my head. “I wanted to, but there wasn’t a whole lot of time between the Amherst rally and this.”
She raised her eyebrows and stopped in her tracks. “Are you gonna be okay?”
“Oh, yeah. I had some water, so I should be all set. I do a lot of running, so I’m used to punishing my body.”
“Really? I’m doing a 5K in Franconia on Saturday!”
“Ah! Are you gonna win the race?”
She smirked and shook her head. “No. I’m gonna win this race, but not that race, no.”
Not ever candidate can speak casually like that after two quick encounters, especially not in such a self-deprecating manner, but then again, there’s something inherently casual and realistic about the Gabbard campaign. There’s a conspicuous reliance on surrealist humor, presumably because, as a legitimately pacifistic candidate, her candidacy requires a surrealist understanding of the awful political reality that she’s up against. She’s facing the same carnivorous, cancerous machine that tried with all its might to devour Ron Paul—it didn’t succeed in killing him, of course, but still, it made the effort, and it is already trying to slaughter Tulsi Gabbard. No one has ever succeeded in bringing this bloodthirsty entity to a halt, but the successful effort—whenever it comes about—is certain to begin with an effort that will inspire only eye-rolling among the elite. Tulsi Gabbard is the protagonist of the most recent installment of this tragicomedy, and we can only hope that she has better success than each of her spiritual and intellectual predecessors.
The last of the day’s parades took place in Laconia, where my work in political commentary began with my part-time gig at The Citizen of Laconia—a position that seems glamorous in comparison to the ghostly work that I engage in today. We marched from one side of the city to the other, and I had a pleasant chat with Congresswoman Gabbard, but what will be the result of all of this? Have I accomplished anything by displaying my “Hands off Julian Assange” poster to the many citizens of Laconia, New Hampshire? Have I convinced even a single one of them to perform even a single minute’s worth of work to promote the cause of Assange—or of Gabbard, the only Democrat to offer the journalist her support?
Ah, I can’t despair, and I can’t give up. I have to continue doing what I’m doing, even if it means a sunburn on both of my arms. I did what I could to inform the people of New Hampshire that at least one candidate is working on their behalf, and if that contributes anything towards her booking an appearance at the third Democratic debate, then it was worth whatever aloe I will have to buy as the skin on my arms crisps over.
All right, that’s enough for now. We have another appointment with Tulsi Gabbard coming up in less than ten hours from now, and I stilhaven’t gone to sleep. To be continued, y’all.