I Want Bernie For President, But I Want to Promote Tusli Today
I know it seems absurdly early, but for the past several weeks I’ve been thinking about the November 2020 United States presidential election.
2020 feels like a possibly historic election when we consider who is currently president of the most powerful country on the planet as our global civilization seems to be entering a Crisis period (see: Strass-Howe generational theory). I will be very surprised if the 2020s are not to the 21st century that the 1940s were to the 20th century.
For that reason, as an American citizen, I’m taking very seriously my vote and my voice and thus have started this blog, which will be specifically on issues relating to politics and current events.
In addition, for the first time since 1992 when I became old enough to vote, there seems a legitimate chance to get a truly progressive candidate into office who might help steer the civilizational ship away from the impending icebergs on our horizon.
Now, in 2008 I remember thinking some of same things about Obama. So my disappointment with the reality of who Obama was as president — a neo-liberal in terms of economics and foreign policy, slightly liberal on social issues —versus what I projected onto him, has made me more cautious this time around. So cautious that I’ve been writing and re-writing this first post for about a month now.
That said, a few weeks ago the candidate who I am already very comfortable with backing for president, Bernie Sanders, entered his name into the race and I’ve already donated to his campaign and signed up to make monthly donations. I’ve admired Bernie since I first learned about him as a political science student at the University of Southern California in the early 1990s. As a result, I am confident to say that I think he’d make a fine president, easily the best of my lifetime.
One of the reasons for this is Bernie has been a consistent advocate for progressive politics ever since his days as mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s.
While I’m under no illusion that he’ll be able to achieve all of the goals he has set forward, I do believe he’ll fight for those things. More than that, he has long talked about his belief that real change always comes from the bottom up and thus, I think if he became president, it will be behind a massive movement that he will then mobilize to take on the entrenched powers that have, for too long, been sending the US and our modern world in the wrong direction, a direction of winners and losers, elites and the rest of us.
I think he’ll then be able to use that people power and the bully pulpit of the presidency so that even those in opposition parties will recognize the political suicide in standing too strongly against him.
That’s not something Obama did, or even tried to do, even though he had a Democratic Congress, a mandate from the people and a crisis in the financial meltdown of 2008 that made people ready for the hope and change he promised. I believe his not following through on those things was a big contributing factor to creating a cynical US electorate that allowed for a Trump presidency.
I promise to elaborate more on Sanders in future posts. But today, I want to talk about another presidential candidate who I really want to have an impact on the campaign. And that candidate is Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard.
For a few reasons.
First and foremost, just as Sanders did in 2015–6 with economic issues like wealth inequality and universal health care, I believe Gabbard’s candidacy will widen the conversation to include an issue that it is well past time we discuss: reducing the US empire and using the money saved with that reduction to address important domestic issues.
It’s also an issue, in spite of what you might hear in mainstream media outlets and from the Washington political class, that the American people seem ready to hear a politician talk about.
Americans are growing weary of war. A September 2018 poll asked 1,210 adults about the 17-year war in Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history and found that 57 percent of Americans, including 69 percent of military veterans, would support a decision to remove all troops from Afghanistan. And 43 percent of Americans — the highest result in the poll — believe the U.S. should be less involved in conflicts around the world. 33 percent said the same level and only 12 percent want it more involved.
In spite of such numbers, when Gabbard has tried to talk about why she believes strongly in non-intervention, response from members of the corporate media has been to call her names (“Assad apologist” here or “toadie for Assad”) often without being able to back it up.
In January, the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald talked about why Gabbard is facing such ire. He said not only is Gabbard being attacked by mainstream Democrats for supporting Bernie Sanders in 2016 and accusing the DNC of cheating him but because “she’s been questioning a lot of Washington orthodoxy that both parties support, including why we continue to try and change the regimes of countries far away like in Syria and why we continue to prop up regimes that make the world hate us like we do in Saudi Arabia. … She deviates a lot from the Washington consensus … and that’s what Washington hates the most: people who are independent-minded and critical thinkers.”
One of the aims of this blog is going to be pointing out narratives used in political discourse to direct our thinking. One way to become aware of them is to look for repeated phrases, such as “Assad apologist,” about people who are challenging those narratives.
Anyway, Gabbard is not an Assad apologist. She has gone out of her way to call him a “brutal dictator.” Just type in “Gabbard Assad brutal dictator” in any search engine and you’ll find links to her saying this phrase. Some folks, like this YouTuber, aren’t too pleased with her for doing it!
She’s just merely suggesting that overthrowing him, or doing whatever the U.S. has been up to in Syria, is not in the best interest of the citizens of either the United States or the Syrian people.
It makes sense that Gabbard, who is a major in the US Army and served in the Iraq War and thus has seen firsthand the collateral damage of regime change missions by the U.S., would have US foreign policy as her number one issue.
In her appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast she talked at length about this topic. She mentioned how the news stories that the Russians meddled in the election in 2016 almost never included that the United States had done the same thing to Russia in the 1990s.
This two-faced behavior is all-too-frequent, where the U.S. does something in another country but then say other countries aren’t allowed to do it in the U.S. or to its allies.
The common term for this kind of thinking is “American exceptionalism” but it seems to me just one of the nastier byproducts of supporting an empire. What goes for you goes only for you. You are the top dog.
The problem, of course, is that the more interconnected our world is becoming, the more the rest of the world is aware of this double standard. America loses any sort of moral authority it may once have had when it acts in this way.
Gabbard makes both a moral case and a pragmatic one about why she is against regime change, mentioning the unintended consequences of such actions. On Rogan’s podcast and on her recent appearance on The View she mentioned the horrendous slave trade that has arisen in the power vacuum that the Obama Administration created when it went into Libya and took out leader Muammar al-Gadaffi in 2011.
And how in Iraq, Libya and Syria, the regime-change policy created a power vacuum and allowed terrorist organizations like Al Queda and ISIS (who the United States claims are the enemies in the War on Terror) to grow in strength there.
Now, the fact that propagandists resort to “we promote these policies to help the people in these countries” to rally people has a bright side because it suggests an inherent good nature in us. However, even a cursory study of US history shows that humanitarian reasons are most often not why the US is involved in these conflicts and thus using them as justification is manipulative in a really dark way.
With Gabbard as president, though, I feel confident that such behavior would stop. Look at a recent tweet she wrote, “The United States needs to stay out of Venezuela. Let the Venezuelan people determine their future. We don’t want other countries to choose our leaders so we have to stop choosing theirs.”
Meanwhile, as the Intercepted podcast detailed in an early February episode (“Trump Headlines a Benefit Concert for Imperialism”), the Trump Administration is turning to the CIA’s 20th century Latin America playbook in overthrowing democratically elected (usually left-leaning) leaders in its actions regarding Venezuela.
“All of the mass murder, the sanctions, the regime change, the election interference, the covert support for anti-democratic forces determined to be good for so-called free markets is today, as it was in the 1950s, sold in the name of bringing freedom and democracy,” host Jeremy Scahill said in his opening monologue.
Scahill detailed how both Democrats and Republicans talk about the “cleaner” policy of economic sanctions, but the reality is that such sanctions don’t harm bad leaders like Nicolas Maduro but are “aimed at punishing the Venezuelan people by depriving them” of food, medicine, wages, and of their very humanity.
Why do this? Well, former Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield has an answer: sanctions will “accelerate the collapse.”
“We should do (sanctions) understanding that it’s gonna have an impact on millions and millions of people who are already having difficulty finding enough to eat, getting themselves cured when they get sick or finding clothes to put on their children,” Brownfield said. “We don’t get to do this and pretend as if it has no impact there. We have to make the hard decision: the desired outcome justifies this fairly severe punishment.” (One of the worst things about this quote is in between “millions and millions,” Brownfield laughs … I’d like to be charitable and suggest it might be a laugh of discomfort? Whatever the reason for it, it sounds terrible.)
Ultimately, what he is saying is we need to punish the people so they’ll rise up against their conditions to take out Maduro, who will then be replaced by a leader who is friendlier to U.S. interests.
Gabbard doesn’t buy into that bullshit and because she actively opposes it she is being called a Russian agent or an Assad apologist or whatever other smear the war-supporting media members and politicians want to throw against her. Don’t believe it.
The good thing, though, is that Gabbard won’t take this sort of critique lying down. That gets me to the second thing on my list: Gabbard is a fighter.
Listen to her announcement speech; she doesn’t hold anything back. Like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, she wants to take on the wealthy elites. She wants to take on Big Pharma.
Her tweet in response to Trump’s position on the assassination of journalist Jamal Khasshoggi by the Saudi Arabian government is a great example of how she doesn’t mince words: “Being Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not ‘America First.’”
Now, what about her stances on various progressive issues that have dominated the political conversation this decade? Here is a list on her old website of the her stance on various issues. Looking at them, she looks very solid: She strongly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership; supports re-instating the Glass-Steagall Act, arguing as many have that had it not been repealed in the late 1990s the financial crisis of 2007–8 would not have happened; supports increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour (I’d hope she wants it to go even higher but it’s a start); supports universal health care; and supports making community college tuition free for all Americans and making all four-year public colleges tuition free for students with an annual family income of $125,000 or less.
She also has strong environmental creds and it was her love of surfing in Hawaii that first turned her toward political activism as a teenager.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that her platform includes these things. After all, she was one of the first members of Congress to support Bernie Sanders in 2016. Doing that was a politically risky move for her and it cost her a lot of support from mainstream Democrats. But she did it because it reflected her values.
Third, she has shown an ability to learn from her mistakes. Gabbard is not perfect, who is? Certainly no political candidate is.
For example, I find her comments on torture troubling because it suggests she believes it is an effective way to get information from people. Is it? From what I understand, it is not but I’d have to look into that issue more to really feel strongly about it. Intuitively, it just seems to me like if I was being tortured, I’d say anything — including what my tormenters want to hear even if it is a lie — to make the torture stop.
That all said, a recent video emerged in which she was asked to clarify her position and it seems she has evolved on this topic, as well. It remains to be seen how she’ll answer this over the coming months, but this video gives me hope.
The issue, though, where she has shown the most growth is her outlook on homosexuality. As a younger woman, she worked with her father, a conservative Hawaiian politician, in campaigns to ban homosexuality and abortion. But several years ago, her views started to change. In this video, she explains in a way that I found convincing and heartfelt how this transformation occurred.
One of the things I’ve long disliked in political discourse is how people accuse candidates of being a hypocrite or wishy washy if their view changed over time. Personally, I would find a candidate troubling if they haven’t evolved since their young adult years. I know I was much more militant, much less willing to listen to people with differing opinions as a young person.
No, what is troublesome is when a politician seems to change strictly because it is politically expedient to do so. Or when they are saying they have changed, but haven’t.
That said, a person can, in my opinion, be against abortion personally but not support laws outlawing it. It seems like this may be Gabbard’s stance and I’ve no problem with that. She’s basically saying a woman has the right to choose, but she herself would not choose to have an abortion. That would be akin to a politician saying they didn’t smoke marijuana but supported legal, recreational use. What a world we could have if more politicians could make this distinction!
Fourth, she’s a thorn in the side of the Establishment media narratives, which I’ve already covered but want to reiterate because if there’s one thing I want you to take from this article, it’s that Gabbard will be smeared (and has already been smeared) and the vast majority of it has been and will be nonsense. That’s what happens when you challenge the mainstream narratives (just look at how Bernie was treated in 2015–6 and how they are going after him since he announced in recent weeks).
Fifth, she’s young and she’s a woman. I put these last on my list for a reason. For me, identity and age don’t matter so much. However, with Sanders, age is a concern. Our country needs turning around and it’s not going to happen in one term. So whoever wins in 2020, I’d like to think they can stick around for eight years. Can Bernie make it to 2028? Who knows? With Gabbard, I feel confident that wouldn’t be an issue.
That’s why my ultimate dream would be a Sanders/Gabbard ticket, they win, Sanders gets at least to 2024, then Gabbard can run in 2024 … or better yet, he makes it 2028 and she runs then!).
As for her being a woman, well, this is the very last thing on my list. What I want is a leader, no matter their gender or sexual orientation, who promotes the values I believe in. So in 2016, I honestly believed that Bernie Sanders much better represented my values than Hillary Clinton. And one of those values is equality between genders. I want these issues of identity to not matter. I want a country where we don’t see people as black, white or brown, nor as male or female, but as people. Human values.
I really do think Bernie Sanders would have been a better president for all people than Hillary Clinton. So when people accused me of being a misogynist because I supported him over her, well … I’ll be honest, it hurt for a while. I felt like I needed to defend myself. But then I realized that these people didn’t know me and were just projecting onto me. Or maybe they were just using identity politics cynically to advance their candidate. Or both. I don’t know.
The point is, I’m all for anyone of any gender or race to be president and so I’d be happy to have a woman who I believed in, a woman like Tulsi Gabbard, as president of the United States.
It’s most likely not going to happen in 2020, but I’d like her to get her name out there, as Sanders did in 2020, Ultimately, I want her on that debate stage because she will go into the issue of US foreign policy. This is her comment at the end of her Tulsi 2020 website: “Regime change wars are bankrupting our country and our moral authority. We need to redirect those resources into a renewable, sustainable economy that works for everyone and bring about an era of peace. We must put service above self and reclaim our great democracy from the forces of hatred and division.”
So she clearly understands that there is a holistic case that stopping regime-change wars is not only a wise policy for national security and moral reasons, but the financial savings from such an action can then be used to fund domestic goals such as universal health care and free tuition at public colleges, not to mention infrastructure improvements and programs like the Green New Deal.
And with that all said, let the race … long and grueling as it may be, I think we’ll learn a lot about ourselves and our country during the process … begin! Until next time, thanks for reading.