In Search of Tulsi Gabbard, Part IX: The Iowa Caucus

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The protesters prepare for Tulsi Gabbard’s press conference at St. Anselm College.

New Hampshire sleeps for three hours nightly. The bars draw the blinds at one in the morning, and by one-thirty, the streets are spotless—if a stain is defined as the human presence. At four o’clock, there’s still no steady signs of life, although you do find a few ghostly travelers who seem to carry with them some secret purpose, some unusual obligation that puts them on the road at an unnatural hour. At five o’clock, some of the cafes in the rural stretches start to open shop, and by that time, the freeways are active, if not hectic. Four, then, is the last of the forbidden hours, the final call for those who want to witness what they’re not supposed to see.

I was stumbling out of bed at this foreign time on Saturday, February 1st, feeling suspiciously fresh, despite the insufficient sleep from which I was unwillingly emerging. I had a bus to catch; it would take me to Boston, where I would catch a plane that would take me to Chicago and, eventually, to Des Moines, the centerpiece of the legendary Iowa caucus. A strange emotion, something awfully similar to compunction, flooded me as I drove, uncharacteristically slowly, to the bus station: for all of the obsessive energy I invested in the New Hampshire primary, I neglected to take real note of what the Hawkeyes were doing, for whom they were voting. The only subject of interest to me was Tulsi Gabbard’s impact—which, I have learned, is distinct from her performance at the ballot box, and which I couldn’t gauge among the Iowans, being thirteen hundred miles away from their home.

Gabbard was equidistantly removed, having unofficially folded her Iowa campaign a few months ago. She relocated most of her staff to New Hampshire, which, apparently, necessitated the exit of many volunteers whom I had come to know. Some of them moved to South Carolina, a state whose upcoming primary I know nothing about, but others returned to Hawaii, retired from the roster and from the game. Such is the inherently transient nature of political work: manic eruptions of brilliant energy before a sudden, brutal, inevitable finish. I never even had the opportunity to say goodbye to those members of the campaign staff, and once you’re separated on the campaign trail, it’s unlikely that your paths will cross again.

Onward we march, into the final days of the campaign, where everybody seeks to prove one’s commitment. In my experience, “commitment to the campaign” is defined as relentless, full-throated approval of every action that the candidate takes. This expectation of unlimited enthusiasm is not unique to Gabbard’s campaign, of course, nor is it exclusive to politics: an employee of Coca-Cola wouldn’t approve of my public criticism of the company’s products. The difference is that, while Coca-Cola holds a fixed position in its industry, a political candidate works against the clock, against the time permitted before the hour of judgment. In Gabbard’s case, the last grain of sand will hit the bottom of the hourglass on February 11th, when her impressive investment in the New Hampshire primary will finally turn. She has only a few opportunities left to convince people to go to the polls on her behalf, and the last thing she needs is criticism, acknowledgment of her imperfections.

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Your polls don’t count because they run the polls.

Certainly, criticism is unhelpful, although its practical impact on the eve of the primary, when all of the polls suggest that she will take less than twelve percent of the vote, is uncertain. Likewise, it appears her more impassioned supporters can’t decide how to respond to honest criticism: in the fall, I criticized Gabbard’s debate performance in a discussion with D. Pearce SSC, and the anger I inspired in her fans became so intense and personal that I had to permanently leave a Twitter chat group. I encountered similarly intense contempt when, a few weeks ago, I expressed my frustration with the campaign. None of it especially bothered me, but it has given me cause to wonder if there is something ineluctably corrupting to the political process. Perhaps the compulsion, be it external or internal, to pledge allegiance to the candidate, to stand by that candidate no matter what, and to defend that candidate against every critic, regardless of the critic’s intention or point, denies us our objectivity and intellectual conscience. Indeed, I have wondered: how could it not?

No one would suggest that this phenomenon of pressuring people to bite their tongue for the sake of someone else’s popularity—what Helen Buyniski calls “the spiral of silence”—is new, but it is becoming more conspicuous. Obviously, this is due to the proliferation of social media, which has permitted everyone to speak freely—and, subsequently, inspired a backlash against such freedom, some of it authoritative but much of it voluntary. Six days before I arrived at the bus stop, the news of Kobe Bryant’s death paralyzed the American people. So serious was the impact on our collective psyche, the NBA postponed its showcase basketball game and, by its own admission, granted itself more time to organize celebrities for an elaborate tribute—one which surely proved remunerative to the NBA and its broadcasting partners. Suppressed in this ubiquitous euphoria of grief was any mention of Bryant’s arrest on suspicion of rape, an event which engendered its own media frenzy in 2003. The bourgeois feminists, who are wont to seize the pulpit without an invitation, declined to critique the hagiography, to scold us for ignoring “the victim” of Bryant’s violent, misogynistic crime. Even Arwa Mahdawi, the Guardian’s predictably splenetic social critic, refused to write a word about the bygone scandal, leaving that work to the sincerely rebellious: those who have had the temerity to speak of Bryant’s past have been quickly punished, sometimes professionally and sometimes via cyber vigilantism. Noticeably, these women have not been defended by the mass of feminist writers.

For the record, Bryant was almost certainly guiltless, and his accuser inadvertently portended the problem of affirmative consent that has troubled us for the last couple of years. Nonetheless, a lack of proof does not stay the hands of the corporate feminists: can you imagine these same ideologues permitting an effulgent celebration of the life of Woody Allen, a man who was baselessly accused of child molestation? The difference between these two men is that Bryant has been sanctioned by the establishment, and therefore, no one can write disapprovingly of him without taking a serious risk. Meanwhile, Allen has been sacrificed at the altar of fourth-wave feminism—a movement that has never operated without the full support of the establishment—to help persuade the public that progress is being made. When he dies, it will be acceptable, politically as well as socially, to speak ill of him, and the subject will be safe for the so-called activists working in the mainstream press. The same could not be said of Bryant’s demise, and so, the feminists had no convenient choice but to look the other way. Some call this behavior “choosing your battles”, but I prefer to call it “selling out”, or, perhaps more accurately, “proving who you are”.

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The unsung hero of the campaign trail. I’ll be raising a glass to him on Tuesday night.

At the bus stop and the airport, and in politics, as well, who you are is where you are going. Before the break of dawn on this February morning, I was a journalist on my way to Des Moines to cover the Iowa caucuses—or so I told my fellow travelers. Most of them were elderly retirees retreating to Florida for an extended golfing trip, and all of them wanted to know if I worked for a particular publisher, perhaps one they knew. No one ever asks what I’m writing about, but everybody needs to know who’s paying me, the implication being that I’m not a “real” journalist unless my writing pays for my groceries. Sometimes, people mock me as “Mr. Journalist” or “so-called journalist” or “tenth-tier commentator”, as if the quality of my work were contingent upon its financial impact, in which case the real question would be, what are my finances’ impact upon my writing?

On February 1st, O’Hare International Airport may have been the epicenter of the media’s financial exchange. For every political journalist flying west, another reporter headed east, to Miami, where Super Bowl LIV would be fought. More than a hundred overweight fans of the Kansas City Chiefs proudly wore their team’s apparel as they marched to the terminals, departing for victory, while a small group of San Francisco 49ers supporters, most of them visibly intoxicated, followed en route to bitter disappointment. They crossed paths with some of my fellow passengers, including a small group of middle-aged women wearing buttons for Amy Klobuchar and a spectacled, well-dressed gentleman who carried “official documents” for Bernie Sanders. Politics and sports are becoming indistinct in the United States, as we learned firsthand at the New Hampshire convention, but there is no longer any reason to doubt that there is more dignity in sports, the goals of which are clearly defined and accomplished at a less tragic expense.

My only tragic expense at that morning was the $14 not-so-deep dish pizza I ordered at the airport, which was probably enough to deny me the right to poke fun at the portly football fans. I regretted it before I boarded the plane to Des Moines, and I was repentant as soon as we left the ground. The pain might have been less excruciating if I could have distracted myself with conversation, but my fellow passengers were profoundly disinterested in talking politics, or sports, or any other subject. Perhaps they were put off by the “Free Assange” sticker on my laptop, a decoration which always catches the eye of TSA employees, and which appeared to genuinely perturb the gentleman sitting to my right. He did eventually admit that he was working for a political campaign—but for a “local candidate”, one whose name I would not have ever heard. Meanwhile, the man to my left made it through almost ten pages of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before he lost consciousness. He never did lose his grip on his book, although I can’t say for sure that he made it off the plane.

We who survived the flight found ourselves uncomfortably close to the Iowa Air National Guard. This detail won’t disturb me if I ever return to the Hawkeye State, but this was my maiden voyage, and the view from my window suggested isolation, separation from the civilized world, so the last thing I needed was a military presence. They do things a bit differently in the Midwest, which can sometimes feel like a parody of New England—or, perhaps, a preview of what New England will be as the American Empire falls. Unlike New Englanders, whose brutal obstinance compels them to fight, even when resistance is plainly fruitless, Midwesterners are resigned to their hapless fate, and while that makes them easy targets for disrespect and ridicule, it also empowers them, for they know their circumstances: they know they have nothing to lose. You don’t want to mess with the wrong Midwesterner, and if it’s your first time exploring their share of the country, it’s unwise to travel without a learned native.

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Christy Dopf always brings the heavy artillery.

Fortunately, I found a capable accomplice in Christy Dopf, whose combative experience surprised and impressed me. Traumatized witnesses whisper of how she successfully overpowered a drunken buffoon at a football game, while others tell of how she smacked down a contumacious woman in a bar years ago. Her feisty expertise might have proven necessary in these alien environs, and she was kind enough to greet me when my plane landed and to escort me out of the airport safely. You can’t be too careful in these times, not when foreign policemen are collecting journalists who have declared intellectual war on the west. Accordingly, we avoided the bridges whenever we could, as rumor told of infrastructure that collapsed at a moment’s notice. Are these disasters deliberate, and if so, had any been prepared for us?

We had no plans to leave Des Moines or, God forbid, enter the farmland. That was where the real trouble was waiting, where one could feel the real aftershocks of political tension. Nobody wanted to venture out there, least of all the presidential candidates, all of whom had retreated into the city and were counting the hours until they could print their one-way tickets east. Dopf and I searched the Internet for clues on where to find these politicians, but somehow, they kept themselves hidden in Des Moines far more successfully than they did in New Hampshire. We found their volunteers and cheerleaders sitting in every café, walking down every sidewalk, but the statesmen themselves were nearly invisible—all but Bernie Sanders, whose rally in a pub an hour or so before the Super Bowl we couldn’t attend due to overcrowding. For the rest, we saw only shadows: a nearly empty tour bus for the Biden campaign, a poster for Yang rapidly losing color, and Bill Weld’s entourage in almost every store we visited.

In the Granite State, you can’t get away from these people. New Hampshire Public Radio reported thirty known presidential rallies on the Sunday ahead of the primary, but in Iowa, the atmosphere was reminiscent of an old-fashioned campaign, in which the candidate commands a pervading and ubiquitous presence, but is never seen in person, and deliberately so. This, I have noticed, happens to be the standard style of electioneering in dystopian fiction, too: you cannot escape the almighty leaders, but you cannot confront them, either. You can cheer for them, though, and that may be the safest form of surrender. After being turned away from Sanders’s party, Dopf and I found another tavern, where we watched the Super Bowl and drank exotic cocktails. A number of the Democrats purchased advertisements in the game for upwards of $5 million apiece, and several young women wearing t-shirts for Kamala Harris shouted in ecstasy as they saw Elizabeth Warren’s commercial. Later on, they screamed in disgust at Bernie Sanders’s spot, though they had nothing to say when I shouted “Tulsi Gabbard!” from across the floor.

The only person in the restaurant who indicated any conversance with Gabbard was an elderly man who seemed to have drunk himself silly long before we entered the bar. It took him several minutes to approach me, and while I described our interaction briefly on Twitter, I would like to reproduce our conversation in full. He asked if he had heard me correctly, if I was, in fact, supporting Tulsi Gabbard, and I told him I was. “You know,” he said, fighting through the wheeze to muster up his voice, which was scarcely any more than a whisper, “I’ve heard her speak a couple of times before, and I think she’d make a fine president.”

“I do, too,” I said. “You can tell who would make a good president because the media usually shuts the decent people out.”

“I might say always,” he told me, winking at me before offering his hand. I shook it, immediately feeling the weakness of his grip, and watched him return to the friends at his table. We didn’t speak or cross paths again, and I can’t imagine he actually made it out to the precinct to vote on the next night, but obviously, Gabbard sparked something in him. Obviously, her critics would revel in the chance to weaponize what I have written herein, to prove that she appeals to the dysfunctional and peculiar among us, but is this anything of which to be ashamed? Should she apologize for making a connection with the people who dream of something better, whose situations could conceivably improve? Aren’t we told that this is the reason why people ought to run for office, to alleviate the suffering of their fellow man? Why is it a stain upon Gabbard’s record that her message resonates with les misérables?

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Driver beware.

Dopf would convince me that I am not one of the wretched, but not even she could deny that I was incredibly ignorant of the caucus process. So unlearned was I in the ways of the Iowans that I truly believed that one could show up to vote at any time of day. I had heard tell of the more flamboyant features of the affair, including people standing and shouting on behalf of their favorite candidate, but I was under the mistaken impression that this silliness would fill every hour of the day, that an Iowan could show up to the precinct at his or her convenience and participate in one of any number of . . . je ne sais quoi . . . sessions, I guess. Well, I guessed wrong: there is one caucus per district, and it starts at exactly seven o’clock. If your car doesn’t start or you can’t get out of work, then fill out an absentee ballot, or something, because there isn’t any encore for this performance.

We didn’t even know where our polling location was, but the Sanders campaign was all too willing to tell us where to go. Unremarkably, we were herded into an elementary school cafeteria and left to fight for two of the few remaining seats. As an irrelevant observer lacking voting rights, I moved across the floor almost unimpeded, although one volunteer insisted on placing an admission sticker on the center of my thigh. Dopf had a much harder time entering the precinct, as she was missing from the registration rolls and was told to fill out a few extra forms. I took advantage of her absence to scope out the floor and find out where the madness would inevitably break. Nowadays, you can always count on the electorate to yield to volatility, especially in a situation where they must fight for votes. I am utterly uninterested in arguing about politics ever again—especially in this climate, wherein argument and discussion are synonymous—but because Gabbard was incredibly unlikely to pick up any votes, I expected the fires to rage between the camps of neoliberals. If that was the case, then I wouldn’t have any dog in the fight, so I could calmly put my feet up and watch as the spittle sailed and the tears trickled down.

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The blue wristbands, reduced to grey herein, indicate that you are an approved voter.

Alas, these people proved to be pretty passionless. You can’t expect much from a group of eighty-year-old women who came out into the cold to vote for Biden, nor from the millennials who stood docilely for Yang. There wasn’t even any noteworthy animosity between the Buttigieg boosters and the Sanders supporters, even though their tables were inches away. If anyone was ready for a war of words, it was Warren’s women, who looked with suspicion upon everybody else. I couldn’t understand the cause of their visible irritability at the time, but now that I’m a week removed from the caucus, I believe I understand it perfectly: unlike Buttigieg, whose campaign ascended not only recently but unexpectedly, and unlike Sanders, who could look forward to an almost certain victory in New Hampshire, regardless of what happened in Iowa, Warren had invested massively in both of these states, and she stood no chance of winning either one. Her adoring fans, in particular the bourgeois feminists, understood that time was rapidly running out, and a catastrophic outcome in Iowa could prove to be the shot that sinks her vessel.

None of which is to imply that they did anything more extreme than leer and sneer at the people who refused to join their ranks. Gabbard didn’t make it beyond the first round, as only Dopf and one other person voted for her, and so, the two of them joined the Yang Gang, though only because most of Sanders’s fans didn’t seem to know about Julian Assange. This seemed to displease some of Warren’s camp, but they said nothing. They were indignant, as they’ve been ever since Hillary perished by her own hubris, but they were not hostile. The only person with a bloodlust, the only one who wished to vanquish his opponents quite literally, was a heavyset man with whom I struck up a friendly conversation, but only momentarily. I met him as I wandered away from Yang’s table, leaving his supporters to state their case before the next round of voting. I told the rotund man that I was from New Hampshire, and we exchanged self-deprecating jokes about our respective homes: he ridiculed the “hard water” crisis plaguing Iowa and I complained about New Hampshire’s perpetually fractured streets. I told him that the New Hampshire primary would probably be much less interesting because, last I heard, Sanders still held a double-digit lead.

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The bull goose.

“Are you voting for Bernie?” he asked.

“No. I mean, I could probably be persuaded to vote for him in the general election, but I’m set on voting for Tulsi in the primary.”

His pudgy lower lip curled at the corner. “Why are you voting for Putin?” he asked. “He’s not a real big democracy guy.”

Oh, dear lord, I said to myself. Another one of these hopeless cases. “I don’t know what you mean by that,” I told him. “She doesn’t think we need to go to war with Russia…”

“So, what? We’re supposed to just sit back and let them steal our democracy?”

Here was an opportunity to state my case. “You’re referring to WikiLeaks, I take it?”

“Yeah! And buying Facebook ads, and all the Twitter bots…”

“You do realize that the NSA has never presented any evidence that Russia was behind the DNC leaks, correct?”

“What are you talking about? They were all over that! Russia hacked into the DNC and gave the material to WikiLeaks!”

“Well, it’s funny you mention that. The reason I support Tulsi is because she’s the only candidate who has spoken out in defense of Julian Assange.”

“So you like Assange, you like Putin, you like Tulsi . . . any other rapists and dictators you like?”

“Dude, you really need to stop watching CNN. There’s a massive propaganda campaign against…”

“You probably liked how Bernie’s people hacked into Hillary’s emails, too!”

“…what?”

He blinked at me disbelief. “What, are you serious? You didn’t hear about Bernie instructing his supporters to hack into Hillary’s computer and release her emails?”

“No, I didn’t.”

He smirked and rolled his eyes. “Whatever, man. You’re obviously not a Democrat.”

“That’s exactly right. I’m not a Democrat.”

“No!” he shouted. “You’re a terrorist! You were sent here by Russia, weren’t you?”

“I’m not a terrorist. The Democrats are the terrorists.”

“Oh, yeah. The Democrats are terrorists.”

“They are. War criminals like Joe Biden, and Hillary, whom you obviously love . . . aspiring war criminals, like Elizabeth Warren …”

“Whatever, man. Fuck you. Fuck you, man. You’re a terrorist.”

“Mm. Your wife must find you pretty charming, I’ll bet.”

“My wife? My wife’s right over there. Where’s your wife?”

“I’m surprised you could find a woman who will put up with your behavior, bubba.”

“Yeah? Well, it looks like you choke yourself masturbating,” he said, pointing to the veins on my neck. This is hardly the first time an ignoramus has turned to my vascular condition, of which I stopped feeling self-conscious in youth, as a rebuttal when they have no facts on their side. Brook Hines did the same thing in an argument several months ago, and just as in that situation, I knew this to be a sign of desperation.

“I’m not too concerned about what you have to say about my looks,” I said. “I mean, any time you want to talk about your appearance …”

“Fuck you, man. Fuck you. Fucking Russian terrorists. Fuck you.”

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The bull goose is still staring me down from across the floor.

At this point, his wife, or some woman who knew him, appeared and instructed him to join her on the other side of the room. She must have witnessed childish outbursts of this sort before, and just as likely, she had witnessed something even worse . . . which is exactly what was about to transpire. Just as I was returning to Yang’s table, the large man returned with a black Sharpie in his paw and a grin that suggested he was looking forward to a much-deserved meal. “Those are some seriously awful tattoos,” he said, pointing to the several scripts on my arm.

“That’s good to know,” I said. “Didn’t your wife already come to wrangle you before you got into some serious trouble?”

“If you’re not from Russia, then why do you have Russian tattoos?”

From his position, he could see three of the tattoos on my arm, one of which was German, one of which was French, and one of which was . . . English. I don’t have any Russian tattoos, on my arm or anywhere else on my body, although now I will be sure to get one in the future. We will be kind to this man and assume that he mistook the German for Russian, although, as I immediately asked him, “You seriously don’t know the difference between Latin and Cyrillic alphabets?”

“I’m gonna give you another Russian tattoo,” he said, and dragged the marker across my hand.

“You do that again, and you’re gonna draw back a stub,” I said, stealing one of my favorite lines from American Psycho. Alas, it didn’t stop him from pulling the marker over my other palm, so I asked: “Are you looking to wind up on the front page?”

“What are you gonna do about it?”

I grabbed the marker and he immediately pulled back and, for some reason, raised his left knee. In the struggle, we snapped the marker in half, and somehow, an inky smear formed on my nape. At that point, one of the caucus volunteers intervened and separated us. I felt like a child, directed to stand on one side of the room, away from the meanie, but this is precisely what the agitprop of the corporate media has engendered: a political culture of malignant immaturity marketed as civic engagement.

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“Be respectful. Be responsible. Be ready.”

We were wise to skip out on Bernie Sanders’s farewell party, as the winner of the caucus remained undeclared at the end of the night, and the results were still up in the air when I boarded my return flight to Boston. Inexplicably, it’s still a mystery today, and so it will likely remain forevermore. Caitlin Johnstone believes the DNC purposely botched the caucuses in order to conceal something they didn’t want us to see, that “something” being Sanders’s victory, perhaps. It wouldn’t be the first time that fascistic company has conspired to keep pertinent information under wraps. Where would be without Assange’s revelation that the DNC rigged the deck against Sanders in 2016? At the very least, we would be less suspicious of the institution’s internal war against Tulsi Gabbard, and we might not have thought anything of CNN’s decision to exclude her from a recent series of televised town halls in New Hampshire.

To be fair, we might have thought even less of it if Gabbard hadn’t scheduled a press conference to condemn this exclusion, one which, at her campaign’s expense, elevated an irrelevant candidate like Deval Patrick. This press conference, announced while I was in Des Moines, was scheduled for the day after my return, and I made every arrangement necessary to guarantee I would be there and stand behind her as she explained to an international audience how the corporate media has manhandled, undermined, and dismantled her candidacy—for no reason, save for her criticism of the military-industrial complex. She has endured sexist, racist, xenophobic, and religiously bigoted slander, and now, at long last, she would deliver the damning denunciation that the electorate needs to hear, but obviously doesn’t want to understand.

More than a hundred people attended this rally, almost all of them holding up signs and shouting into the cameras of the media conglomerates, “Let Tulsi speak!” I did not lead or initiate this chant, contrary to a number of reports, but I was one of the loudest people there, and the anticipation built as we awaited her entrance, which would surely follow the raucous crescendo. Unfortunately, the only person who greeted us at the conclusion of the chant was the director of her New Hampshire campaign, who informed us through a pained and visibly frightened grimace that Tulsi Gabbard wasn’t coming. I tried my best to evince no emotion, if only because the cameras were still trained upon us, but several of the other people gasped and let their jaws hang as the moment of retribution was denied. The press conference was cancelled, but too late, it would seem, for the national media still had time to journey out and film a decent crowd, the best that Gabbard has inspired hitherto. Yet, as big as it was, it was missing the most important person of all.

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Feeling speechless.

By skipping this event, reportedly because she was “interacting with undecided voters”, Gabbard missed a preternatural chance to speak directly to a dissatisfied public, to engage with people who are fed up with mass media propaganda, who are sick of being corralled into a position whereby they must stand with the candidates blessed by the establishment. We witnessed a limited rebellion against that system of extortion in Iowa, where Joe Biden, a boilerplate vestige of an anachronistic political economy, failed to generate any momentum, despite the corporate media’s insistence that he is the only candidate who can defeat Trump in November. Gabbard had a brilliant opportunity to harness that momentum in New Hampshire by speaking out against CNN’s nonplussing move to force her out of the national spotlight. She saw that opportunity, which is why she planned this event in the first place. It’s simple, which is why her no-show was unfathomable.

Those of us who attended the press conference that wasn’t couldn’t believe what had happened. Like the campaign itself, the non-event was completely misunderstood, especially on social media: I had the temerity to tweet about it and to express the shock and disappointment felt by almost all of the people in the crowd, but this was quickly misinterpreted, probably intentionally, as a petty complaint that I didn’t get a chance to meet the candidate. Anyone who has looked at my profile would know that I don’t need to “meet” Gabbard again: I don’t even know how many times I’ve met her, and one greeting more won’t make a difference. My disbelief and disappointment had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the squandered promise of the press conference, the missed opportunity to explain to the nation, and to the entire world, what they’ve been missing in their deliberate neglect of Gabbard’s conquest.

I don’t even remember walking away from the crowd, but I do remember driving home, forgetting to turn the heat on as I entered the freeway and headed north. I wondered if the corporate media would cover this event, so great was the opportunity to sully a candidate they had already buried. For some reason, my mind turned to the media’s inexorable coverage of the death of Kobe Bryant, and then, to a specific basketball game, one which I’m sure none of my readers remember. It was Game 6 of the NBA semifinals, and the Los Angeles Clippers held a nineteen-point-lead on the Houston Rockets. All they had to do was sustain their momentum and they would win the game, the Rockets would be eliminated, and the Clippers would go to the championship round for the first time in their franchise’s unremarkable history.

Instead, the Clippers gave up their lead in the fourth quarter, lost the game by double digits, and flew to Houston for a Game 7 that they would eventually lose. Hours after Game 6, with hope being in desperately short supply, The New York Times wrote a gloomy epitaph: “The confetti never dropped from the rafters, where there is not a single banner celebrating the Clippers because there is still so little to celebrate, at least for a couple of days more.”

We have another day and a half before this pursuit along the campaign trail finally comes to its inevitable end. Will we find something to celebrate at the final hour, or will we be forced to call off the search?

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