If there’s anything you might have thought “we’d” learned from the Trump presidency, it’s that well poisoning, guilt-by-association, and reputation-destruction-by-innuendo were all thoroughly bad ideas. Evidently, this isn’t what the leaders of the Democratic Party or the Democratic Party establishment have learned. What they’ve learned is that well poisoning, guilt-by-association, and reputation-destruction by innuendo are useful instruments for the conduct of internecine warfare against ideological positions they don’t like or don’t understand.
To get the gist, read this innuendo-laced piece on Tulsi Gabbard from The New York Times, prefaced by this title and blurb:
What, Exactly, Is Tulsi Gabbard Up To?
As she injects chaos into the 2020 Democratic primary by accusing her own party of “rigging” the election, an array of alt-right internet stars, white nationalists and Russians have praised her.
That’s the essence of Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign, at least as seen by mainstream Democrats: an incomprehensible farrago of conspiracy theories, chaotic in intention, vaguely associated with the alt-right, white nationalism, and the Kremlin. The actual essence of Gabbard’s campaign: the only credible anti-interventionism on offer for the 2020 election.
Naturally, the question “What exactly is Tulsi Gabbard up to?” is not to be answered by looking into her actual views. Nor is it answered by considering the insanity of our foreign policy for the last twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years. Vietnam doesn’t come up. Lebanon doesn’t come up. Saudi Arabia doesn’t come up. Yemen doesn’t come up. Afghanistan and Iraq only come up pro forma and in passing. Israel comes up by invoking Gabbard’s phantom criticisms of a state she’s gone out of her way to praise. No, the question “What is Gabbard up to?” is to be answered by noting that Gabbard has an unsavory following of Nazi-friendly people–in the obvious hopes of eliciting the inference that having an unsavory following somehow indicates the unsavoriness of one’s views regardless of what those views happen to be. (Even the obviously non-alt-right part of her campaign is described as though there was something vaguely crazy about it.)
This is classic:
“She’s taken a series of policy steps which signal to the right that she has deep areas of alignment,” said Neera Tanden, a longtime policy adviser to Hillary Clinton who now leads the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank.
A longtime policy adviser to Hillary Clinton–Hillary Clinton, the architect of our Syria policy, the Secretary of State who insisted on operating to the right of Barack Obama on issues of warfare–is lecturing us about “deep areas of alignment with the right.” You can’t make this up.
She already faces a serious primary challenge for her House seat from State Senator Kai Kahele, a Democrat. Though his campaign is focused on economic issues, he sees Ms. Gabbard’s support from extremists as a potential liability.
“Clearly there’s something about her and her policies that attracts and appeals to these type of people who are white nationalists, anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers,” Mr. Kahele said. “To her credit she has denounced David Duke, rejected these endorsements. But it does beg the question why.”
If Antifa were running a strongly non-interventionist candidate, the Antifa candidate might well “attract” attention from the very same people. Would this prove that the Antifa candidate was a white nationalist? Would it prove that Antifa was even vaguely allied with white nationalism? Would the questions it “begged” tell us anything of importance about Antifa?
I hesitate to ask rhetorical questions about this for fear that in the current climate of opinion, half the leadership of the Democratic Party might say, “Sure!” That Gabbard has attracted attention from the alt-right doesn’t indicate, much less prove, that her candidacy bears any important relation to the alt-right. I’m sure the alt-right reads The New York Times, too. Does that “beg the question” why it does? If so, does the answer tend to suggest to any sane person that The New York Times is an alt-right publication?
Some polling research suggests that voters (idiotically) vote for candidates they regard as physically attractive. Tulsi Gabbard is by most accounts physically attractive. Now imagine that a bunch of neo-Nazis vote for her because they think she’s hot. Clearly there would be something about her that attracted these people to her. But what the hell does that have to do with anything? The luminaries of the Democratic Party are literally in the position of thinking that there’s got to be something. I mean, if the Nazis find her hot, there’s got to be something Nazi about her, right? How else do we explain her appeal?
I don’t entirely agree with Tulsi Gabbard’s views: some of them are wrongheaded, some downright offensive. But I could say that about anyone running in this election, including the “darlings” of the moment (to use the reporter’s word for Gabbard), Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Cory Booker, to say nothing of the Republicans. The real issue here isn’t so much about Gabbard as about guilt-by-association. You have to wonder about the idiocy of people who will casually hand white nationalists and the like a weapon they didn’t otherwise have: if they want to destroy anyone’s reputation, all they have to do now is pretend to support the person in question, adducing some half-assed reason for doing so. Within short order, the likes of Neera Tanden, Kai Kahele, and The New York Times will then be struck by some passing similarity that the person’s policy proposals bear to some white nationalist proposal–like, “let’s stop having pointless wars”–and declare that questions are “begged” about the person’s white nationalist/neo-Nazi/alt-right credentials.
It’s pretty sad that the Democrats are so inured to perpetual warfare that they have no idea how to size up an anti-war candidate. Gabbard is an anti-interventionist about foreign policy: I mean, what is that about? The more they take this line, the more credibility they give to the right-wing charge that mainstream news is fake news. And the more they take it, the more credibility they give to apathetic voters who conclude, with some justification, that as far as warfare and foreign policy are concerned, there is no daylight between Democrats and Republicans–just enveloping darkness wherever you look. This is their version of the McCarthyism of the 1950s: they’d rather we kept fighting wars than pause to ask why. And anyone who does ask why has to get the treatment. It’s almost enough to inspire indifference about who wins in 2020. Almost.