written by Valerie Morales
If last week had not happened to the country and her, if Tulsi Gabbard hadn’t conflated expediency with passivity, and if she had just taken a side, she could have continued her political badass way of shaming female members of her own party for notoriety. At the very least, Gabbard likes verbal warfare and soaking her venom in pejoratives. She famously said Hillary Clinton was “the personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.” This after Clinton accused Gabbard of being a Russian sympathizer. While the use of the word rot by Gabbard was both intentional and overreaching, it created imagery of the Clinton silhouette as a decayed thing having lost its relevance. Tulsi 1. Hill 0.
Gabbard wasn’t done creating car wrecks. She baited Kamala Harris in a similar fashion, choking her with the truth. Kamala’s crucifixion was on a debate stage as Gabbard prosecuted Harris for her criminal justice record, particularly for locking brown and black people up. Harris was never able to overcome Gabbard’s attacks, couldn’t change the story, and her money dried up. Tulsi 2. Kamala 0.
But when the moment came to lead and not belittle, Tulsi Gabbard was paralyzed. She refused to vote yes or no on impeachment. The vote she did cast, “present”, was a weakened blah that exposed the myth of Tulsi Gabbard. She’s not street no matter how tough she can talk on a sunny day, despite her previous blood scores. When the stakes are high, Gabbard is hoisted by her own petard and she lacks perception. Impeachment 1. Tulsi 0.
The woman who excoriated Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris, and now Nancy Pelosi, didn’t have the heft to say either yes or no on impeachment. Her insularity in an iconic moment was jarring in its academic opaquenesss. Either way she played it, there was a viable argument to be made. If she had said Trump was wrong but I don’t want him impeached so my vote is a no, or, if she said I am not sure that what he is being accused of rises to the level of impeachment so I vote no, both would have angered her party but in both instances she would have made a case and stayed true to her narrative as an independent and volatile political provocateur. She would have illustrated that she believes in something more contractual than tearing women to shreds. She would have listened. Digested. Analyzed. And made a decision. Discernment would have ruled the day.
But what she did was play both sides against the middle in a banal act of ambiguity. Her anodyne compliance backfired and Gabbard sabotaged her campaign in one fell swoop. Upon further review, her Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton toughness seen through the prism of her impeachment no-vote was just a theatrical and rhetorical mess. Melodrama. Calculating. But not character. And it certainly wasn’t justice.
What we want of the people that are elected to represent the people is simple. Be willing to stand in there and do what is difficult. It is what Eleanor Roosevelt meant when she said you must do the thing you think you cannot do. We have moments in life where we are asked to show up and tell the world who we are. What Gabbard told the world? She was smaller than every single person in the room.
There is something paternalistic about Tulsi Gabbard’s system of triggers. Women get her rebuke and men get her poetry. Whether she holds women to standards that men, by nature of their penises, skip, or that men shouldn’t be punished while women have to carry wounds and scars, Tulsi Gabbard is withholding. She rationalizes the why of Donald Trump, denying him the same accountability that she demanded of Hillary Clinton and Kamala Harris before she damned them to outer hell. It exposed her as fake tough. When the lights are on she can shame Kamala Harris and Hillary Clinton because women hating women is patronizing behavior the gutless romanticize. Gabbard is loathe to follow the same prescription with men as she crucifies women, preferring idolatry and the great white father.
The lie of Tulsi Gabbard isn’t that she choked. The lie is that she haloed herself so we would believe she’d never choke. She stabbed herself in front of company and upon the altar. It brings to light questions about fealty and future transactions. Who exactly is Tulsi Gabbard loyal to? The Russians, as Hillary Clinton alleges? Or, closer to home? Did she want to fuck over the Democratic Party and Nancy Pelosi in some kind of reverse sisterhood thing?
Perhaps. But she is also running for president and women are watching. How are we to analyze who she is presenting to us? Bold enough to drag up Kamala Harris’ mass incarceration record but weak enough to not say yes or no on impeachment? How are we to consider her a serious presidential candidate when she couldn’t even make a decision? How then would she, when the stakes are much more enormous, how can we trust her to be decisive, forthright, formidable, and honest in the face of scrutiny, disaffection, and tension?
She wants to ferry in and out of difficult situations unscathed and on her own terms. After her “present” vote, she was scheduled for an appearance in New Hampshire but canceled it. Be bold all the way sister. If you can vote “present” then you can stand up in front of voters on the campaign trail and explain why.