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Op-ed

Tulsi Gabbard is half right and half wrong about Hillary Clinton

Missing the mark a little

Win McNamee/Getty Images

By now, you've likely heard about the dust-up between current Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard and former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If you're not, here's a brief background: Clinton suggested — without any evidence — that Russians were backing Gabbard's presidential campaign.

Gabbard responded with a fiery tirade against Clinton that has been widely cheered on the right. Here it is in its entirety:

Everyone I follow on social media is cheering this rant because everyone loves to hate Hillary Clinton. Clinton is deeply — and deservedly — unpopular, so this particular rant is easy to cheer.

On the merits, though, this particular rant is at best half right, half wrong. Or more accurately, a third right, a third wrong, and a third unproven.

First, she is right that Clinton is corrupt, as has been covered extensively here at TheBlaze and elsewhere. I don't know if it's correct to call Clinton a "warmonger," but she is probably what passes for one in the Democratic party, having voted for the Iraq war and supported many of former President Barack Obama's foreign intervention misadventures. And she is correct that the Clintons and their allies have long been considered a force of rot in the DNC — and since Hillary was the last Democratic nominee, it stands to reason that many of her allies are still there.

As to whether there has been a "concerted campaign" by Hillary and her proxies to destroy Gabbard's reputation behind her back, well, I have no idea whether that part is true or not.

Where Gabbard goes wrong is when she suggests that Hillary is the reason she isn't doing particularly well in the Democratic primary. That isn't the problem at all.

Even if it were true that Hillary had turned the entire Democratic establishment and its working apparatus against her, that would not be enough to keep her in the low single digits in polling and lagging in the rear of fundraising.

We know this because of what Donald Trump was able to accomplish in 2016. Before he secured the nomination, literally every major figure in the party was opposed to him. Other than Jeff Sessions (who Trump unceremoniously dismissed and now regularly trashes in public), Trump could not get a single major party figure to endorse him or even say nice things about him until the nomination was completely sewn up.

The reason for that was simple: He had about 35-40 percent of Republican voters behind him, no matter what. Since that represented a plurality, he won. Pure and simple.

If Gabbard had a message that was resonating with Democrat voters, she would likewise be doing fine. Polling would reflect her support, she would be receiving donations, and it wouldn't be a struggle to make the debate stage.

The party bosses can certainly make life more difficult on a candidate in a lot of important respects but they can't flat out shut out a candidate that the voters like — Trump decisively proved that last election.

By the standards of just 20 years ago, Gabbard is not a particularly moderate Democrat. She has been endorsed by Emily's List. She currently has a 100 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign. She is opposed to the death penalty and for legal recreational marijuana. She wants to ban fracking and supports other radical measures in the name of fighting climate change. She supports Medicare-for-all and wants to ban so-called "assault weapons." She thinks income tax rates should be raised back to where they were in the mid-90s. She supports re-entering the Iran nuclear deal. If she were running for president in an open Democratic primary in 1996, she would probably be the most liberal candidate in the field.

But this isn't 1996; it's 2019. And in 2019, even small deviations from the received progressive orthodoxy — like saying that you are not in favor of open borders and that you might possibly favor some restrictions on abortion in the third trimester of pregnancy — are punishable with electoral death.

And that is the real reason that Gabbard — who by all accounts checks all of the boxes you would want to see in a presidential candidate — remains mired in the low single digits in the polls. Not because of a shadowy conspiracy led by Clinton, but rather because the modern Democratic party has moved so far left that even Bill Clinton would not recognize it, if you were able to time travel him from 1992 into this year.

And the reality is that the contrary indicators of Gabbard's internet popularity — such as her favorable internet search results after a number of Democratic debates — are likely due to Republican and independent voters googling her to find out more about the one person on the stage who sounds sort of reasonable.

So Gabbard is half right: Yes, Clinton is a problem. No, Clinton isn't the reason she can't get traction in this race. That's down to the voters, who have pushed the party so far left that it can't even see the California coast anymore.

One last thing…
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