Why the Democrats are talking about Tulsi Gabbard

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FOR EVIDENCE OF how stupid the Democrats still are about finding a presidential candidate who can defeat Donald Trump, consider the uproar over Tulsi Gabbard. The four-term congressman from Hawaii, the first Hindu American elected to the House of Representatives, is an Iraq war veteran who has at times been described as a rising star in the party. But this year, competing in a field full of hopefuls to become the Democratic nominee, she appears to be little more than a minor runner who was destined to be knocked out early.

On several measures Ms. Gabbard looks weak. She only averages 1% in national polls; gamblers on online betting sites will give her a 2% chance of being nominated. Eleven Democrats raised more from donors than she received in the third quarter. She failed to qualify for the third Democratic debate in September and is unlikely to enter the fifth in November. In the three televised debates she attended, she spoke very little. Her most notable policy is opposition to American involvement in what she calls “regime change wars.” But she is widely portrayed as an apologist for America’s enemies and has been forced to deny that she is a “Russian asset”. What she is famous for – meeting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2017; She has since spoken out for war criminals – unlikely to surprise many voters.

So the fact that Ms. Gabbard has gained a lot of attention in the last few days, especially thanks to Hillary Clinton, is good news for the conference. Mrs. Clinton, apparently referring to Ms. Gabbard, warned earlier this month that Republicans are “grooming” an incumbent Democratic primary candidate to run as a third-party spoiler. party in 2020. She said that Russia, by spending on social media activities and more, would be more than happy to support such a candidate, if that would help keep Mr. Trump in office . In that context, she also attacked the Green Party candidate in 2016, Jill Stein, calling her a total “Russian asset”. In fact she tried to ‘ to blame the environmentalist for her own loss to Mr Trump.

That has fueled an argument that has benefited Ms. Gabbard – who is more than happy to stand up to the “establishment” Democrats that Mrs. Clinton represents. In the 2016 primaries Ms. Gabbard supported Bernie Sanders, a leftist outsider. The congresswoman has highlighted sharp divisions that remain among Democrats, responding to Mrs Clinton by calling her the “queen of thugs, including corruption “. She appeared on Fox News and criticized the way the Democrats were conducting their impeachment inquiry. All of that will please the Republicans. Ms. Gabbard has also said she will not run for Congress in 2020, so she can focus on her presidential bid. Some believe she is open to a third-party run next year.

Ms. Gabbard has adamantly said she is not interested in one. But politicians can change their minds. And she is at least open to creating close relationships with some partners abroad. After presenting herself as a proud Hindu early in her political career, she forged close ties with Hindu nationalist politicians in India. She is proud to present her most prized personal possession – a copy of the Bhagavad Gita – to the prime minister, Narendra Modi, whom she praised. And among the most enthusiastic donors since her political career began are members of the Hindu nationalist movement in America, several with close ties to India’s ruling party.

But it’s hard to see why any self-confident Democrat would consider Ms. Gabbard a real threat. Third-party candidates don’t necessarily hurt Democrats any more than they hurt Republicans. The idea that Ms. Stein’s Green votes really cost the Democrats victory in 2016 does not stand up at all. It is true that Mr. Trump won the Midwestern swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin with a narrower margin than the Green votes cast in those states. But it is wrong to think – as some commentators have – that all those Green voters, otherwise, would have supported the Democrat. The biggest problem in such states for the Democrats was how many of their traditional supporters stayed at home (or bowed to Mr. Trump) rather than voting for Mrs. ph Clinton, who they saw as a flawed candidate. It was low voter turnout for the Democrats, not the candidacy of the independents, that cost the Midwestern states to the Democrats.

What may be more important about the spat, then, is the way it illuminates divisions among Democrats. Voters on the left of the party may stay home if they feel that party leaders have unfairly silenced dissenting voices, such as Ms. Gabbard’s, just as some ‘ feel that Mr. Sanders was treated unfairly in 2016. The big test for the Democrats is to find a way to settle. on a candidate without disturbing the wing of the party. If the supporters of the party remain focused on opposing Mr. Trump that will be easier. The more Democrats reopen past squabbles, or issue warnings about third-party opponents, the more likely the resentment will pile up.

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