Times have changed, and the search for Tulsi Gabbard has changed with them. Do you remember that spunky, naïve, and hideous young man who set foot on the campaign trail early in the morning on the Fourth of July? Three days later, he was sitting with Tulsi Gabbard, asking her why the media ignores her, why the country should defend Julian Assange, and why Donald Trump has failed to keep his promise to end these “stupid regime-change wars”.
Well, that was four months ago; since then, the media has paid only fragmentary attention to Gabbard, and then only as a punchline to Hillary Clinton’s crude, idiotic joke; Assange is dying in HM Prison Belmarsh, losing thirty pounds since April and displaying all the symptoms of mental decay; and least surprisingly, the American government continues to ensnare itself in any number of foreign intrigues, its suicidal theft of Syrian oil being only the most recent example.
And the only presidential candidate who warned us against any of this might not make the next televised debate. By the time you read this sentence, she will have less than a week to play another round of the DNC’s increasingly preposterous game of limbo, an extra-institutional ritual that lost its last justification, tenuous though it already was, with the news that Beto O’Rourke has quit the race. How sickly ironic: as the space on the debate stage expands, the path to media representation narrows. The funnel—designed, shaped, and formed by the DNC—is becoming solid at last, and only the unnaturally malleable will pass.
A scene from Jess Griffin’s house party.
Should the DNC succeed in leaving Gabbard behind, she will be swallowed up by the hard frost of a media whiteout, an unnatural force that has been brewing for years. In February 2016, Gabbard stepped down from her post as Vice Chair of the DNC to endorse Bernie Sanders in the presidential primaries, much to the chagrin of Clinton’s band of thieves. One of Clinton’s financiers curtly told Gabbard that she would no longer receive any of his (meaning, Clinton’s) support in fundraising, and Clinton’s campaign chairman was so pleased, he failed to proofread his two-word message of approval. Those thugs may be lost to the campaign trail, but their incestuous legacy of corruption endures, and they will never allow Gabbard, who failed to turn the tide in Bernie’s favor, any life in this presidential battle.
Gabbard has been left out in the cold, and her indefatigable supporters with her. We’re a week away from the next full moon, and a frigid, brooding fog is rolling over us—quite literally, as the temperatures have halved since Independence Day, and in the mornings, they fall down to a third. Her crew, her believers, huddle around the fire’s feeble flames, asking one another when the next poll will be released. In the latest poll out of Nevada, she clocked in at two percent, one point shy of the three percent needed to qualify for the next debate. Ah, but there’s another one coming out in a day or two, although the organization conducting it recorded her support at zero percent in the last go-around. Well, if that one doesn’t work out, then don’t worry: there’s still time left . . . right?
Another scene from Jess’s house party.
Admittedly, this necessary obsessing over the polls is a new experience for me. In 2012, I was one of Ron Paul’s most devoted supporters, and I was frustrated daily by the bipartisan media’s refusal to acknowledge his existence, much less his candidacy, but I never worried about him qualifying for one of the debates. It was never a question, not as long as he polled above one percent nationally, which he always did. He appeared in every debate, and he was given maddeningly little time to speak, but he always made it. He was always presented to a viewing audience.
The University of New Hampshire in Durham.
Yet, we still slammed the corporate media—or “the mainstream media”, as it was known in those days—for its relentless crusade. A silent crusade, which we referred to as “the media blackout”. I have heard that time resurface this year, though it is applied not to Gabbard’s campaign, but to Andrew Yang’s. The Yang Gang complains, not unrightfully, that their man has received only superficial media coverage despite the undeniable interest in him, especially on the Internet. He is given remarkably little time to speak in the debates, about as little as Gabbard, as this is inexcusable in light of his bypassing several higher-profile candidates nationally. There is no justification for the media conglomerates giving more time to an afterthought, a rejected afterthought, like Cory Booker when Yang is standing right there. Besides: as an interesting candidate, Yang would likely have a better chance in the general election than Booker, or Kamala Harris, or Amy Klobuchar, or Julian Castro.
Having endured the agonies and humiliations of the Ron Paul media blackout, I sympathize with the Yang Gang, despite my many disagreements with their candidate. However, there is something different, something more profoundly hateful in the media whiteout to which Gabbard has been subjected. Yang does not receive nearly enough coverage, but when he is mentioned, he is usually presented as a respectable, acceptable candidate. Paul was presented as an eccentric, sometimes as a freak, but typically as a well-meaning person. Gabbard has been depicted as a terrorist. In the absence even of incidental evidence, she has been accused of treasonous dealings with the Russian government. In the presence of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, she has been accused of advocating a foreign policy of bloodthirsty imperialism, even as her fellow candidates call for the deaths of Venezuelans and Iranians through sanctions.
A scene from Eric Jackman’s birthday celebration and rally in Peterborough.
However, my favorite slander is the earliest: since the beginning of Gabbard’s campaign, she has been accused of promoting homophobia. While it is true that she did not support gay marriage in the mid-2000s, neither did any of the other people running for president, possibly excepting Yang and presumably excepting Buttigieg. On a campaign trail travelled by an elderly opportunist like Joe Biden and a former Republican like Elizabeth Warren, it is only Gabbard who has had to answer, time and time again, at multiple rallies and campaign events I myself have witnessed, these tedious questions about her previous position on a single issue. True, these questions have become less appealing to the ignorant as of late, displaced by nauseating accusations of “cozying up to dictators”, but in all instances, Gabbard’s critics exhibit a common trait: an incurable inability to educate themselves.
Ironically, these irrational objections to fictitious faults prevent any serious discussion of Gabbard, including criticism. I certainly appreciate her condemnation of the Saudi Arabian government—in fact, her description of Trump as “Saudi Arabia’s bitch” was the original reason I supported her campaign—but I would be a lot more enthusiastic about her candidacy if she were to acknowledge the terroristic atrocities committed by the Israeli government. When is she going to call out Netanyahu for his crimes against humanity? Will she ever? These are serious questions to ask, and I met a woman who has refused to vote for Gabbard because of her silence on the Israeli question, but they are lost in the muddle of unlettered indignation, as exhibited in the video below.
Embarrassing as that woman’s criticism was, it was probably much more dignified than anything voiced on corporate cable news. Today, Gabbard returned to the forlorn set of The View, where a panel of obscenely wealthy pseudo-politicos refused to admit to, much less apologize for, accusing her of treason. These toothless commentators had bought into Hillary Clinton’s dumbfounding act of defamation, in which she claimed the omnipotent Russian government is “grooming” Gabbard to infiltrate the White House. When Gabbard challenged them to offer evidence, they struggled—and failed—to conceal their own imbecility, to stop the oxygen from flooding their echo chamber.
Having failed to save face, the crew of The View could stop Gabbard only by interrupting her and talking over her. This uncivilized method was necessary to prevent Gabbard from explaining her distaste for American imperialism. There is nothing our government detests more biliously than free expression, in particular an honest evaluation of American foreign policy; for any honest evaluation would expose the grotesque cruelty and aggressive bloodletting that define our nation’s behavior on the international stage. Gabbard is trying to provide only the most basic introduction to this subject, yet her remarks—which, if I may be frank, are too mild and gentle for my tastes—paralyze every knowing engineer of the military-industrial complex. Even the women of The View, who have cashed many paychecks in defense of this hideous complex, are called to protect the source of their blood money—not unlike Trump, setting up human shields to defend Syrian oil.
The incurably repulsive Joe Lieberman.
Fortunately for the American Empire, there are far more articulate apologists willing to be paid. I met one of those malicious sophists on Sunday, November the third, at the No Labels Problem Solvers Convention in Manchester. This city, known as Manch Vegas despite the sincerest efforts of the municipal government to promote the nickname “Queen City”, is a decaying wasteland of subsidized housing, informal prostitution, and Oxycontin, and it is probably the city Trump had in mind when he described New Hampshire as “a drug-infested den”. Or maybe he was thinking of Nashua, which I lovingly refer to as Trashua.
Oh, we’re getting off-subject. Yes, Gabbard, who was officially registered as a Problem Solver earlier in her political career, spoke at a convention hosted by No Labels, an organization that calls for bipartisanship in Congress—as if we aren’t already suffering from a surfeit of that. At this stage in the game, with the political structure of our fascistic duopoly understood by all but the incurably naïve, isn’t it anachronistic as well as painfully awkward to ask Republicans and Democrats to act as one? And who better to introduce such an idiotic proposal than Joe Liberman, the man who was such a respectable ideological contrast to Dick Cheney, why, he established the Department of Homeland Security! Years later, supposedly acting as a champion of liberal values, he struck the public option from the Affordable Care Act, thereby reducing the bill, which was already hopelessly flawed at the onset, to an open credit card for the health insurance conglomerates. Liberman’s political career was defined by bipartisanship, also known as betrayal—betrayal of his constituents, who elected him in order to fix our dysfunctional system, not make it worse.
“Bipartisanship” means betrayal.
During his uncomfortably protracted appearance at the Problem Solver Convention, Lieberman explained that the problem in American politics is not an enmeshing of the two parties, or our puzzling inability to create more than two parties, but the refusal of elected officials to abandon the extremists in their camps. According to Lieberman, “the far left and the far right pressure the politicians and keep them in their bunkers”. Did I have one too many cocktails before I entered the building? How could Lieberman believe that the Democratic Party has been hijacked by the far left? Only a fool would deny the proliferation of philistines in liberal media, but in Congress, even the most progressive Democrat is, at most, a centrist. Where is this far left pressure, and how has it exerted itself on establishment Democrats like Joe Biden?
Even if we were to agree with Lieberman’s stupefying diagnosis, still we could not excuse his failure to say one word about monetary influence in Washington. I suffered more than ninety minutes of this wretched convention, and not one politician said a word about campaign finance, special interests, lobbying, or the incestuous relationship of politics and industry. No, no, no: you see, children, the trouble with our representative government is far more innocent than that. It would seem—in Joe Lieberman’s infinite wisdom, of course—that the real problem is that leftists and righties just never learned how to play nice. They never learned how to sit down with their colleagues, even those who wear a different-colored tie, and have a conversation . . . just shoot the breeze, you know? If they did, then surely they wouldn’t have a problem coming together and seeing what is right for the American people . . . such as, burning down the Department of the Treasury Building and dismantling and abolishing the American government.
“In a compromise, no one gets everything, everyone gets something, and we move forward.” Cue thunderous applause.
Wait a minute. Weren’t we talking about Tulsi Gabbard? Yeah, she mentioned something about her mother baking close to a thousand sheets of toffee to give to the other Congressmen and their staff. She’s told that story more times than I can count, and I actually ate some of the toffee at a house party hosted by Jess Griffin, one of her most enthusiastic supporters. It was pretty good.
The toffee . . .
[Oh, Jesus, Dack. You’ve been drinking again, haven’t you? -Ed note.]
Actually, that’s none of your business. But if I were to have a few drinks as we near the end of this essay, I would say that I deserved it, as I had to listen to John Delaney at the same convention. According to his good buddy Lieberman, Delaney was once a Problem Solver, too, and he took his education seriously: an algorithm recently described him as the third-most bipartisan member of Congress, and he was proud to stand onstage and say, “Bipartisanship is not a dirty word!” Lethally embarrassing, all, but it did spare me the trouble of searching the Internet to find out if Delaney is still in the race. Yes, he is still out there somewhere on the campaign trail, freezing to death so slowly, but long before any hope of viability emerges. Will he drop out, or will the campaign drop him?
[Last chance, Dack.]
All right, all right. Let’s talk about the moment when Gabbard entered the New Hampshire capitol, the one with the garishly golden dome, and made her way to the second floor. She was looking for the office of the Secretary of State, who explained to her, with as many pregnant pauses as he could accompany without collapsing beneath the weight of his own pretension, the laden history of the New Hampshire primary. According to the oversized document unfolded before him, every American President in the last several decades has won at least one New Hampshire primary . . . which is an incredibly dishonest statement, as it includes primaries for incumbent presidents, like Barack Obama in 2012. If we’re going to be that permissive in our designation of standards, then it is hard to imagine a scenario wherein a president cannot eventually win a New Hampshire primary! Are we this desperate for political and cultural relevance that we must place our hands upon the scale—
Okay, fine. That moment when Gabbard signed the paperwork and presented the check. At that moment, I thought: “Well, I guess that’s it. We’re officially jumping in the water with both feet.” Yes, after all of the chaos, all of the uncertainty, and all of the frustration, at last it is official: Tulsi Gabbard will be on the ballot in the New Hampshire primary, three months from now.
And as I finish this piece, the news breaks that she has qualified for the November debate, thanks to the latest Iowan poll. That means we’re not finished yet, not by a long shot. Goody-goody. Now, about that drink . . .
[Enjoy it. It’s halftime. And the second half is about to begin.]