There are 653 days before the 2020 election in the United States but several candidates from the Democratic Party have already announced their intentions to run. So far, each candidate’s announcement has been treated with a collective “that’s nice” from the party establishment, with one exception. When Hawaiian Congressional Representative Tulsi Gabbard announced she was throwing her hat into the ring, the response was more of a “WHAT?! NO!”
Within days, articles were circulating multiple journalism sites – including CNN, The Hill, and Huffington Post. All of these articles essentially the same thing: “Tulsi Gabbard is a homophobic jerk who has no business of running for president!”
As someone who has been following Representative Gabbard’s work over the past few years and is leaning toward supporting her candidacy, I was honestly shocked by this response – but it wasn’t unexpected. The best word to describe what has happened to Gabbard’s fledgling campaign in the last week or so is “petty.” It’s also disgusting, given the lows the establishment has sunk to smear one of its own, including weaponizing and demeaning political correctness into just another campaign tool.
How Political Correctness is Being Misused Against Tulsi Gabbard
Let me say this now: In more than 95% of all cases, I consider political correctness to be a great thing. It has helped give voice to people of color and minorities who have been regulated to the side for too long. Most of the time, I feel that the term political correctness can be seen as the 21st century synonym for respect. It is challenging many people – me included – to rethink their language and understand how it affects people, leading to opportunities for personal growth and (hopefully) a better society.
In short – it is a tool for the common good, one that is often politicized – mostly by the conservative elements in the United States. Here’s how it was used against Representative Gabbard:
In 2002, Tulsi Gabbard was homophobic. She worked to help her father, an outspoken critic of gay marriage. She defined marriage as “a sacred bond between a man and a woman.”
Oh wait, sorry that was Hillary Clinton in 2004. One second… ah – Representative Gabbard said “Marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Wait – damn it – that was Barrack Obama – also in 2004.
Do you see the point I’m making?
For the record, it’s not a defense. Representative Gabbard was wrong to speak out against gay marriage between 2002 and 2004 – but she sadly wasn’t in the minority. Nearly every voice – including the progressive, liberal ones – was unsure about gay marriage, at least in public. It wasn’t politically popular. To give context, the word “gay” was still commonly used as a synonym for “lame” or “stupid.” (I can say, with shame, that I did this.)
So, signaling out Tulsi Gabbard over these comments is troubling, as it is a misrepresentation of history. More importantly, it diminishes what should be heralded as a success story. Yes, Representative Gabbard was homophobic – but she sure as heck isn’t now.
Since assuming office in 2013, Gabbard has a 100% voting record in favor of LGBTQ rights. Her record is so strong on this issue that the Democratic Party saw fit to make her a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress. She has also received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign, one of the largest LGBTQ lobby organizations in the United States.
So yeah, highlighting her 2002-2004 crimes as an example of her current personality seems pretty misleading – a deliberate weaponization of political correctness to achieve nothing more than a political goal.
But why would the democrats want to do this to one of their own?
Why is an Element of the Democratic Party Against Tulsi Gabbard?
Who remembers the 2016 election?
(All hands go up)
Who remembers it fondly?
(Most hands go down)
2016 will hopefully be seen as a low point in American History and not a sign of the new normal. The sh*tshow between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump aside, there was another reason why 2016 is not fondly remembered, especially by many liberals and progressives – Bernie Sanders.
Senator Sanders was the biggest challenger toward Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Primary, seemingly coming out of nowhere. What began as a backyard announcement to 17 people quickly turned into a cultural movement. Sanders supporters were passionate, dedicated, and occasionally hostile toward those in the Hillary Clinton camp.
The reason? Perceived unfairness of the campaign. There was a lot of talk that – since the DNC was headed by a former Clinton campaign head and staffed with her political allies – that the contest wasn’t fair. This claim seemed to explode when the vice chair of the DNC – Tulsi Gabbard – left her post and joined Sanders’ campaign, voicing her concerns with fairness.
Leaving a job is never easy. I have been told countless times to make sure I don’t “burn any bridges.” This saying was created because, if you work in one industry, you’re likely to run into the same people over and over again. If you anger them in leaving, you put them in a position to get revenge when you come back. That’s the logic.
Suffice to say – Tulsi Gabbard burned some bridges.
Is it any wonder then that former DNC super delegate and all-around party man Howard Dean called her unfit to be president? There are many in the Hillary Clinton camp (including the candidate herself) who hold Sanders at least partly responsible for losing 2016. While Bernie is very popular now – arguably too much so to go after – Tulsi is just starting out. The right grenades now (like say, a story about past homophobia) can torpedo her chances and remind her what happens when she crosses the party, at least I’m assuming that’s the logic.
Why it’s Good that Tulsi Gabbard is Running for President
In her brief campaing, Candidate Gabbard has reminded me of an important truth, one that I often lose sight of in the Trump Presidency: Both parties are really kinda terrible. The democrats right now look almost effortlessly good as the Republicans implode through bigotry, corruption, and nepotism – but that doesn’t mean the left is a good party.
It is full of the same in-fighting, the same squabbles, and the same petty agendas that have put America in the place it is now. Is there corruption on the left – absolutely. I see it being more purged than on the right but still – we have a ways to go.
In running, Representative Gabbard can challenge the Democratic Party to be better. President Trump won’t always be here (hopefully) to make the democrats look like the morally good party. It isn’t enough to not be racist or bigoted – or driven by some mad nostalgia to return to a fictional past, at some point you have to think about the good of the nation.
It should be alarming to every democrat that the party is essentially trying to silence a dissenter – that’s not very democratic. We’re already heading toward tribalism, you see it in the Republican Party all the time. President Trump has essentially become the party, meaning no one can challenge him without being seen as damaging his chances at winning (and it’s all about winning).
The democrats can’t become like that. Challenges to be better aren’t helpful to the “enemy” – they’re good for the party. They help it evolve, change, and become better. In my mind, Tulsi Gabbard was right to call attention to a problem she saw. She was right to take a stand.
That’s why I’m supporting her candidacy, and why I hope you will too.
4 thoughts on “Why Political Correctness was Weaponized Against Tulsi Gabbard”
You handwaved a lot of Gabbards anti-gay record there … Gabbards was actively fighting any gay rights legislation, using homophobic slurs and vitriolic speeches on the floor of the Hawaii House of Representatives. It was much worse than other Dems hesitancy around gay marriage. Other Dems were not publicly demonizing gay people. Obama, Clinton, and senior leadership had endorsed civil unions, antidiscrimination laws, and civil rights for years – Clinton campaigned on civil unions in 1999.
Gabbards was an active anti-gay bigot and used her elected office as a platform to spread hate. Apologies are nice, but they don’t change the real harm that Gabbards caused.
Sorry if I came off as hand-wavy, I definitely don’t mean to diminish the pain that LGBTQ people felt at the time. My point was that, unfortunately, it was coming from a lot of directions – but people like Rep. Gabbard’s father certainly didn’t help.
In Rep. Gabbard’s defense, I would say she is not her family. She was relatively young – 21 – when she said those horrible things on behalf of her father. This isn’t an excuse, but 21 is still a formative year. When I think of who I was at 21, vs. who I am now, the difference is night and day. My own views have evolved significantly, largely because I moved away from my family and experienced life on my own terms.
I don’t mean to make light of the past and diminish anyone’s suffering but, to me, this comes down to the nature of an apology – and forgiveness. I was taught that an apology was only genuine if the person changed – and Tulsi appears to have changed. Her voting record on LGBTQ rights speaks directly to that change. You still don’t have to accept her apology – no one can make you do that. But, in light of her actions over the last 15 years, almost half of her life (and the entirety of her adult life), I believe her when she says she is sorry and trust that she will continue working to make this a country where LGBTQ people can feel welcome and loved.
There is a reason why Tulsi is highly rated by the humanist report. I can understand a certain aversion towards some of her former comments – but to be VERY frank – if you think that gay rights are important in your country, but the gay people that are in Syria and are having their homes bombed to bits are an irrelevant point of conversation – then YOU DO NOT SUPOPRT GAY RIGHTS – you support US colonialism with a colonial, whitewashed version of gay rights that is very similar to #whitefeminism. Both real progressives and republicans laugh at the outrageous hypocricy of centrist democrats and their pro-gay-marriage platform. Much like their record on feminism…it’s great to defend women..as long as the woman is rich…influential….white….American.