Finally, a Democrat worth supporting

Tulsi Gabbard’s anti-war, pro-freedom message is the best thing to emerge in US politics in years.

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill


The liberal establishment is so scared of Tulsi Gabbard that they’ve convinced themselves she’s an unwitting stooge of Russia, being pushed by Putin’s evil online robots to destroy America from within.

Yes, in the febrile, conspiracist, Russian-bot-obsessed brains of the increasingly unhinged liberal elite, Ms Gabbard, the Democratic congresswoman for Hawaii and easily the most impressive 2020 presidential candidate, is the fave of those dastardly bots whose ultimate aim is to screw over the USA. Following this week’s Democratic candidates’ debate in Detroit, in which Gabbard made mincemeat of the California Democrat Kamala Harris on the issue of judicial authoritarianism, an actual New York Times writer said: ‘Beware the Russian bots and their promotion of Tulsi Gabbard and sowing racial discord, especially around Kamala Harris.’

This idea that Gabbard – the most principled critic of military interventionism to have emerged in the US mainstream in decades – is in the ascendant because Russian bots and other evil online forces are doing her bidding is becoming widespread among centrists. Newsweek columnist Seth Abramson says ‘there’s a concerted far-right effort (possibly involving foreign actors) to bolster Tulsi Gabbard’. He based this nuts claim on the fact that, during the Detroit debate, Ms Gabbard was the most-searched name online in every state in the US. Erm, isn’t it possible that viewers who weren’t entirely sure who Ms Gabbard is, but who were impressed by her articulate takedown of Harris and other candidates, took to the web to find out more? Surely that’s a more rational explanation than the idea that a Russian troll army and loads of fascists are on the web promoting Gabbard as chief wrecker of the United States.

It’s ceaseless. ‘Russia’s propaganda machine discovers 2020 Democratic candidate Tulsi Gabbard’, declares NBC News. What all this nonsense reveals is that Russophobic conspiracy theories play a really important role for dazed Hillary-era centrists. They are now the main means through which these people try to make sense of a political world that no longer conforms to their tastes or their ideology. So just as they used the Russian-bots rubbish to explain why Trump beat Hillary, now they use it to explain why a candidate who, horror of horrors, is opposed to US military intervention overseas is proving popular with viewers and voters. Given that Gabbard’s worldview runs so counter to theirs – on war, on free speech, even on identity politics – the only way they can explain her presence in politics is as a result of foreign, fascistic meddling. That tells us far more about their own political arrogance than it does about Gabbard’s Russian fanbase.

In a sense, they’re right to be scared of Gabbard. She feels like a genuinely fresh force in Democratic politics. A former soldier who served in Iraq, and now the Democratic member of the House of Representatives for the 2nd congressional district of Hawaii, she represents a challenge both to the old militaristic US establishment and to the newer, more woke wing of the establishment.

She is best known for her principled opposition to American militarism in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. ‘We were all lied to’, she said of the Iraq War in the Detroit debate. She described the spun stories about Saddam Hussein’s WMD and connections with al-Qaeda as a ‘betrayal of the American people’. Even more stingingly, she argues that far from defeating al-Qaeda in the post-9/11 period, the US has ended up backing al-Qaeda-derived forces, especially through its support for so-called ‘rebels’ in Syria who, as Gabbard rightly says, are in fact dangerous Islamist groups.

She gets a huge amount of flak for her anti-war stance. Establishment figures denounce her as an ‘Assad apologist’. She met with Bashar al-Assad during a fact-finding mission to Syria in 2017, and ever since she’s been called a friend of dictators by pro-militarist elements in the US. Kamala Harris, reeling from Gabbard’s attack on her authoritarian record as attorney general of California during this week’s debate, raised the Assad thing when the debate was over. And yet, as Gabbard has explained numerous times, she met Assad only because she wants to gather as much information as possible, from as many sources as possible, on how destructive the West’s ‘regime-change wars’ can be. Establishment stiffs simply fear the prospect of a president who would refuse to wage war overseas. ‘Tulsi Gabbard’s Syria record shows why she can’t be president’, sniffs the Washington Post.

If Gabbard horrifies the old warmongering elites, she worries, at least, the new woke elites. It is notable that unlike other young female political representatives, most notably the so-called ‘squad’, Gabbard is rarely cheered for her background. She was the first-ever Hindu and Samoan America to enter Congress. She’s the first Hindu to run for president. But you’ll be waiting a long time for the kind of people who never stop going on about the fact Ilhan Omar was one of the first two Muslim women to be elected to Congress to congratulate Gabbard on her identity achievements.

Not that Gabbard would want praise on that basis. Indeed, she’s a critic of both identity politics and political correctness, which is precisely why the woke are so iffy about her. She lists political correctness alongside overreaching government and Big Tech as one of the great threats to freedom of speech in 21st-century America. And she says of identity politics that it is ‘being used to kind of tear people apart’ when we should be ‘remembering and recognising what unites us’.

Her commitment to challenging PC and its strangling of open debate extends to criticising then president Barack Obama for his refusal to use the phrase ‘radical Islamic terrorism’. We should never cower from using the word Islamic in relation to Islamic terrorism because ‘it is important that you identify your enemy, you know who they are, you call them by their name, and you understand the ideology that’s driving them’, she said. Such moral clarity is rare in a time when politicians lamely insist that Islamist terrorism ‘has nothing to do with Islam’, as if such clipped, self-censoring utterances are ever going to solve anything.

Gabbard also dislikes Big Tech’s enforcement of PC speech codes online. Social-media giants have become a ‘threat to our freedom of speech’, she says. Their drowning-out, or outright banning, of both radical right and radical left voices is a threat to open debate, she says, and even ‘controversial’ and ‘distasteful’ views should enjoy freedom of expression.

Her anti-authoritarianism was on full display in her showdown with Kamala Harris this week. She dragged Harris for her record as Californian attorney general from 2011 to 2017. During that time, thousands of people were incarcerated for marijuana possession (and yet Harris effectively admitted that she herself has smoked dope), numerous people were kept in prison for unnecessarily long periods of time, and Harris withheld evidence that would have freed someone from death row. Gabbard’s confrontation with Harris won her many new fans and also helped to puncture the shallow identitarian cheering of Harris that has been happening on Twitter and elsewhere for the past few weeks.

Gabbard is a candidate worth supporting. She wants the US to reject identitarian division and ‘reclaim patriotism’, she wants an end to American wars, she likes freedom of speech, and she’s not afraid to call Islamist terrorism by its name. If I was American, I’d vote for her.

Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


William Brown

7th August 2019 at 1:17 pm

A Dem with principles?

Wow – I thought they’d all been collectivised by the woke Borg.

She’ll not last a minute within that nest of identitarian vipers.

Modest Phrontist

4th August 2019 at 10:40 am

So if I have this correct. The far-right are boosting Tusli, so that makes her a fascist, and so are Russian bots, and Russia is bad cos *communism* (far left) or something, right? So that makes Tulsi, what? A Far Centrist (*Follow F.A.P on Twitter the Far Centrist Party). I go by this rule of thumb, is the OpEd writers of the NY times don’t like her, and stale old Clintonists don’t like her, then she is doing something right. I too would vote for her.
It’s worth noting I think, that Trump would sh1t a brick if he had to go up against her during the election debates, she would destroy him, he would completely unravel, as It is my belief that she wouldn’t play by his rules, whereas morons like Harris, in the absence of any real principles or integrity ‘will’ absolutely play his game and hope she plays it better. With this in mind, you have to wonder do the ‘Squadist’ element of the Democratic party have any ‘real’ ambition to win against Trump, or are they happier playing out this virtuous sh1t in the background, knowing they will never have to deliver on any of their promises, but can still bitch and moan about it and keep their ‘virtuous, good person’ status. Much like Corbyn in Britain

Thomas Smith

3rd August 2019 at 7:23 pm

Nothing to disagree with here, except–she is a Democrat!

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 8:30 pm

Hi Thomas.

I promise you to try my hardest…you know l love a joke, but at this stage I’d really like you to know that I’d hope that we are able to talk about things like adults.

Ummm, seeing that I’ve been the one between us so far that has been the …one culpable of disrespect…towards you….by me…..anyway, l can certainly respect that you wouldn’twant to talk to me, and l won’t hold that against you.

God bless you , Thomas.

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 8:37 pm

If it’s possible within your heart to forgive me for the ..really bad and vile accusations that l made towards you, then I’d really appreciate being able to talk about these kinds of issues with you.

I doubt that we we’d ever see eye to eye on barely anything, but I’d much prefer that we had good feelings between us. You must think I’m a turd, and rightly so. Pls iignore me if you like. I promise you that l won’t feel bad about you. You’ve already gained my respect, and you know exactly how.

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 9:08 pm

…anyway, my question is this, if you are able to find it within your heart to trust me that l won’t ever troll you anymore…

Ms Gabbard seems like a nice lady to me,…I’d really be interested in knowing what you have against her.

We are obviously so far apart that it’s irrelevant. And will never probably be able ro agree on everything in this world.

I just hope that we can be friendly despite this, and we would love to reach the stagevof respect with each other that we could be cool.

We are so different, and will disagree on everything. I’d just love to be ablevto chat with you, and I’m actually pretty sure that you’re a good enough person to forgive me for me for being an arsehole towards you.

I hope so, anyway.

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 7:04 pm

I’m forced to self-censor on a self-proclaimed free speech site.

Can someone please explain to the lokes of Beta No’Zeal how hypocritical this is?

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 7:06 pm

( three bits of free speech currently under moderation.)

Can someone outside of the officevpls confirm whether this is gay or not?

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 7:08 pm

Neil McCaughan.

They’ve made a free speech enemy.

Apart from how gay this is, could you please tell them that it’s pretty gay?

Hana Jinks

3rd August 2019 at 6:39 pm

Everyone commenting btl, then l advise to stay really tuned over the next few weeks.

They’ve been provoking me for months, …..this seems like a laugh..

This is no laugh. As everyone is about to witness…

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