Someday, when the shattered pieces can be reassembled, when the chaotic, absurd, and bittersweet history of Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign is written, there will be several chapters set in the halcyon days and nights of the summer of 2019. That was the carefree beginning of the primary season, when every one of her supporters was still confident, when all of us had a reason to believe. Through a sustained focus on the glowing optimism of the campaign’s origins, the reader shall be suitably susceptible to the brutality of the second act, when the Democratic National Committee, the cancerous corporate media it feeds, and the masses of the herd who are sacrificed unto it pool their ugliness together and upend their bilious concoction unto Gabbard. Her supporters remember that cold shock of sludge, which hit them at the same time that summer turned to winter—there is no autumn in New Hampshire, nor on the campaign trail—and that promise, turned nostalgic, was buried under snow, that electrifying hope halted in frost.
Might we dispense with the romanticism? “Hope is a term invented by politicians to keep their disciples in line.” So observed Pier Paolo Pasolini in 1975, a few months before he was murdered, possibly on the orders of the Italian government. I’ve never forgotten his cold wisdom, even at the crest of my excitement for Gabbard, but it didn’t resonate during this primary season until, at last, it became undeniable—to me, if not to the candidate’s more sanguine supporters—that the DNC had finally vanquished her campaign. When was that, exactly? When was this pyrrhic victory, in which the Democrats congratulated themselves for sabotaging themselves, officially announced? It couldn’t have been on December the 8th, when Gabbard attended a holiday parade in Merrimack: I walked in that parade, and her supporters were still so happy, even though the temperatures sunk below thirty degrees.
We began at the strip mall, sandwiched between Bernie Sanders’s posse and Pete Buttigieg’s. “Be nice to the Pete people!” Tulsi advised as we slinked along the highway before turning toward the local elementary school and wrapping it up on Baboosic Lake Road. If this route sounds familiar, it’s because it is: the Gabbard campaign walked the same exact route in the Fourth of July parade. I walked in that parade, and met her on that day, a chaotic day characterized by massive crowds of people tripping over each other in the New England heat in a frenzied effort to meet the candidates. Kristen Gillibrand marched in New Hampshire on that day, and so did Amy Klobuchar, and even John Delaney. In the five months since, Gillibrand has withdrawn, Klobuchar has scowled her way to the finals, and Delaney has yet to accept the sobering reality of his own impotence. He’s still in the hopeful stage, still living in summer while the rest of us are in the thick of winter.
Sofia Zaldivar never made it to the end of the campaign trail.