Tulsi Gabbard cultivated an image as an anti-war progressive, but her endorsement of Joe Biden, and support for conservative positions culminated in an exit from the democratic party which revealed her right wing and racist politics.
She made headlines on October 11, 2022 with her announcement that she was leaving the Democratic Party. In her statement, Gabbard provided a litany of reasons for her decision. She condemned the Democratic Party for being under the control of an “elitist cabal” of warmongers that are driven by “cowardly wokeness” and who divide the people with “anti-white racism.” Gabbard further decried the Democratic Party’s support for “open borders” and its demonization of the police. The Democratic Party, according to Gabbard, has also weaponized the national security state against its opponents and brought the world closer to nuclear war.
On the last point, there is no argument. The Democratic Party has ridden on the back of its Russiagate conspiracy theory to serve the repressive imperatives of the national security state and expand censorship. Democratic Party support for a New Cold War against Russia and China has greatly increased the chances of nuclear exchange. Gabbard’s decision to leave the Democratic Party would have been a welcome development if it were for these reasons alone. However, Gabbard’s overall message for leaving the Democratic Party risks discrediting this all too important task of the movement.
The biggest problem (and there were many) with Gabbard’s statement is her citation of “anti-white” racism in the Democratic Party. While bemoaning “wokeness,” Gabbard plays into a racial politics that have zero basis in reality. President Joe Biden is the architect of the mass incarceration regime that targets Black Americans disproportionately for imprisonment and/or state sanctioned murder and his policy record as president remains firmly pro-police . It wasn’t too long ago when Gabbard was condemning Kamala Harris for her role in fueling the U.S.’s racist criminal justice regime. Furthermore, her reference of “open borders” ignores the fact that Biden has terrorized migrant populations such as Haitian asylum seekers with even more ferocity than Donald Trump.
The “anti-white” racism trope is thus nothing more than a dog whistle that represents another form of identity reductionism. Liberal identity reductionism promotes “diverse” faces in high places to entrap workers and oppressed people into the Democratic Party. White identity reductionism channels economic anxiety and mistrust in the ruling class into a politics of whiteness that supports the program of the GOP. In both cases, class struggle is suffocated under the weight of duopoly partisanship. Gabbard says that the Democratic Party stands for a government of, by, and for a powerful elite but fails to mention that this is the function of the duopoly in its entirety.
In 2019, this author provided critical support to Tulsi Gabbard when the Democratic National Committee (DNC) sought to prevent her from the first debate of the 2020 Democratic Party primary. Gabbard’s rhetorical opposition to the U.S.’s endless wars brought the ire of the entire Democratic Party machine down upon her. Still, the limitations of Gabbard’s politics were evident from the beginning. Gabbard voted to expand sanctions on Russia, Iran, and the DPRK (North Korea) in 2017, an act of economic warfare. According to Code Pink, she has been an ardent supporter of the War on Terror and has voted for bloated military budgets year after year.
Ideologically, Gabbard has always embraced the core rhetoric of the War on Terror while professing opposition to U.S. wars. But her politics have only devolved further into the so-called “conservative” faction of the U.S. political establishment since the end of her 2020 campaign. Gabbard spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this past February , a haven for GOP activists awash in corporate cash. In a recent appearance on Tucker Carlson, she expressed support for the use of air strikes in the ongoing War on Terror. And as a high-ranking member of the U.S. military, Gabbard has not been shy in publicizing her participation in the U.S.’s militarization of Africa.
It should be noted that the Democratic Party’s incessant attacks on Tulsi Gabbard have only strengthened the hand of the war machine. But her exit from the Democratic Party has hurt the cause of peace more than it has helped. Mixing identity reductionism with brief anti-war soundbites is a recipe for sowing political confusion among the masses. Leaving the Democratic Party while regurgitating culture warrior politics only draws suspicions that Gabbard has chosen to align herself with the GOP side of the duopoly. Such behavior reinforces the myth that no political choice or activity outside of the duopoly exists for the masses.
The cause of peace is serious work. Leaving the Democratic Party is a critical step in developing a mass movement with an anti-imperialist orientation in the United States. In fact, it is the first step toward building a legitimate “left” political tendency of any kind. There is no room for identity reductionism in this equation. To dabble in any form of it is opportunism, pure and simple.
Tulsi Gabbard is right about one thing, however. Nuclear war is closer than ever and Democrats are indeed leading the charge. But the Democrats are no weaker now than they were when Tulsi Gabbard identified as one of them. Gabbard may have left the Democratic Party, but her politics have little to offer the masses but more of the same establishment opportunism that has brought humanity to the brink of nuclear extinction.