Why I Support Tulsi Gabbard’s Bid for President

The 2020 Presidential Election is only six months out. Before long, political ads and propaganda will descend on us like swarms of locusts. The sky will soon grow dark and for this reason, I believe it may be especially helpful to review the lay of the land. When election season begins in earnest, we will be left to navigate largely by convictions established in more agreeable times.

It is sometimes rightfully observed that “the map is not the territory.” I believe a survey of the territory of US politics shows that the old map no longer fits it. It is imagined that a Presidential Election pits a Democratic candidate against a Republican one. I believe this is an outmoded model of what is really at stake. Instead, politics today is best characterized as a contest between democracy and plutocracy irrespective of what a candidate’s Party membership may claim. By “democracy,” I mean a system by which politicians are accountable to their constituents and their constituents’ interests. In the US as in all republics, the accountability is through representation. So “democracy” and “republic” are interchangeable for the purposes of this piece. By “plutocracy” I mean to indicate a government in which this link of accountability between politicians and their constituents and their constituents’ interests has been severed. I might have chosen other labels but I believe that democracy (i.e. “rule by people”) and plutocracy (i.e. “rule by wealth”) capture the distinction I would like to draw as well as any. “Republic” versus “corporatism,” or “progressive” versus “establishment” would have been other suitable choices to point to the contest that I believe defines our political situation today.

I believe that thinking in terms of democracy versus plutocracy or (republic versus corporatism) is one of the best ways to understand the 2016 election and its results. President Trump promised a departure from the plutocratic policies that had been ascendant over the last several presidencies and which had enabled corruption and unprecedented concentrations of wealth to an exclusive handful of individuals and corporations. The campaign slogan of “Drain the swamp!” as well as President Trump’s unseemly epithet “Crooked Hillary” for his Democratic rival spoke to voters’ frustration with the status quo. His promises to build a wall on the Mexican border and to withdraw American troops from foreign engagements also resonated with the feeling of many voters that their country was no longer providing for their own opportunities.

Many readers may object to lending any credence to these claims but I don’t think that such objections bear very much weight. I am not arguing that President Trump’s approach to the present situation is the only one or even a good one. I am only noting that he spoke to many voters that Clinton failed to reach and this fact requires no more evidence than the results of the election. Some may again object that Clinton won the popular vote but the fact remains that, as outlined in the Constitution, the popular vote in itself does not determine the outcome of an election. Perhaps this should change, but to dispute it here is impertinent to the theme of this piece. What I hoped to show with the comparison of last election’s presidential candidates was that the one who promised accountability to his constituents was the one who was sworn in as President some months later.

In this way, I believe that the 2020 election is similar to the 2016 election. President Trump defeated Hilary Clinton by establishing himself on a platform that stood in direct contradiction to Clinton’s policies of aggressive military engagement, which is, in itself, perhaps the quintessential expression of plutocracy since the US military budget has more than doubled since 2003. During the impeachment proceedings against President Trump, Congress passed a bipartisan legislation to increase the military budget by $150 billion dollars so that today, the government spends close to a trillion dollars per year on the military.* The bulk of this money is paid to arms manufacturing companies like Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin. Of course, taxpayers that ultimately foot the bill of the military budget while stockholders of these companies pocket the greater part of profit. For a glimpse into this relationship, one can note that the value of stock in all of these arms manufacturing companies soared immediately after the media announced that Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani had been assassinated. This makes sense when it is understood that a war promises immense profits for these companies because it signals substantial increases in defense contracts. President Eisenhower used his farewell address in 1961 to warn the American people of this positive feedback loop between politics and arms manufacturing companies, which he famously referred to as the “military industrial complex.”

Because of the sheer magnitude of money involved in these informal relations between defense contractors and the politicians that shape foreign policy and military initiatives, I believe the military industrial complex is a quintessential example of plutocracy in action. Defense contractors gain economic opportunities by lobbying politicians to push for increases in military spending through more wars. Politicians, in turn, are compensated in any number of ways. Many will recall that Dick Cheney served as the CEO of Halliburton before gaining the Vice Presidency and aggressively pushing for a US invasion of Iraq for which Halliburton was offered the contract for a job for which it was the only company allowed to bid. This is perhaps among the more flagrant examples of plutocracy in its natural habitat. 

Because all of the forces that were at play four years ago have only intensified during President Trump’s term in office, I believe the 2020 election will be very similar to that of 2016. This means that the election is a contest between democracy and plutocracy. Despite running on a platform of opposing plutocracy in 2016, President Trump has scarcely delivered on this promise. Instead, we have seen increases in military spending and, despite assurances that the bull market on Wall Street is the same thing as a flourishing economy, such assurances ring hollow for many people who are working multiple jobs and still struggling to make ends meet. For this reason, I believe the best candidate is the one who is able to demonstrate that she will champion the cause of democracy—“a government of, by, and for the people,” to quote Lincoln’s immemorial words.

I believe that the only candidate who has repeatedly demonstrated true and bona fide integrity behind this cause is Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who is also a member of the Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees, an Army Major, and an Iraqi war veteran. No candidate is more qualified in foreign policy than she. No candidate has taken such a principled stance against the military industrial complex’s encroachment on our republic than she. And, not surprisingly, no candidate has been so consistently slandered and misrepresented by apparatchiks of these same plutocratic interests as Tulsi Gabbard. Such attacks could be expected for the simple reason beneficiaries of the military industrial complex ensure their financial interests by marginalizing anyone who opposes it. Gabbard has repeatedly shown that she is willing to oppose the rampant influence of the military industrial complex. She has also repeatedly shown her willingness and ability to engage in productive dialogue with people of all political persuasions. While this has earned her the antipathy of many of her fellow Democrats, I believe this shows that she understands that the real issue is not between the two parties as we know them, but between democracy and corporate interests. I think it is largely for this reason that she outstrips all of her Democratic primary rivals in respect to her appeal amongst Republican and Independent voters.

Many Democrats are concerned with “electability” and raise “who can beat Trump” as the foremost priority in their choice of a candidate. In the meantime, many of the same people contribute to the marginalization of the best candidate for the job. I believe people when they express these concerns, so I urge them to consider casting their vote in a way that is consistent with them. 

If I may speak personally, I first heard of Tulsi Gabbard when she resigned as Vice Chair of the DNC in protest of the committee’s lack of transparency in the primary process. Gabbard would go on to endorse Bernie Sanders in his presidential bid. I did not hear of her again until April of last year, when I discovered she intended to run for President in the 2020 election. Since then, I have been repeatedly impressed by her demonstrations of integrity and her willingness to consider issues in a critical, clear-headed,  and independent way. I am not especially political but I know enough about Gabbard’s positions to recognize when they are misconstrued by corporate media. In piece like this, I cannot hope to convince readers that Gabbard is the best candidate for the job, nor would I wish to. I believe the facts speak for themselves, so I only wish to request that they be allowed to do so. For those who are concerned over such issues as Gabbard’s record on LGBTQ rights, her meeting with Bashar al-Assad, the allegation that “the Russians have their eyes on her” and “she is being groomed by them,” and that she intends to run as a Third Party Candidate, etc… I ask for your goodwill and request that you inquire into the facts of the matter. In every case, even if I was initially sceptical of her decisions, when I looked further into these allegations, the truth always at once exonerated Tulsi Gabbard and revealed the gross misrepresentation on the part of the peddlers of such allegations. 

I hope I have convincingly shown that the crucial contest in the 2020 presidential election is between democracy and plutocracy. I believe President Trump has repeatedly shown his willingness to make use of politics for personal benefit. At the same time, Representative Gabbard has repeatedly shown that her involvement in politics is in the spirit of “aloha” and of service, not of personal gain. No other candidate presents such a stark contrast to President Trump as Tulsi Gabbard. For this reason, I believe that Gabbard, a veteran, a Congresswoman, surfer, and an Army Major, can go toe-to-toe with him on the debate stage in a way that most other candidates have shown they cannot. I hope that my fellow voters will agree with my assessment and that in November, together we can confer on Tulsi Gabbard the authority to look President Trump in the eye and say, “you’re fired.”

*I believe this is very telling, since it reveals that our apparently hyperpolarized politicians are willing to bury that hatchet and cross party lines in the interest of increasing the military budget–something which should not be a self-evident matter of policy, to say the least. Moreover, it shows that the impeachment proceedings against President Trump are something of a facade because no reasonable person would at once charge Trump with lack of integrity in his position as Commander-in-Chief while simultaneously approving a $150 billion blank check to the armed forces that are under his charge.

22 Comments Add yours

  1. nikoleta kyprianidis says:

    Lieber Max,

    vielleicht möchtest Du dies lesen, den ersten Teil, der ausführlich über Trump berichtet, kannst to skimmen oder skippen, weiter unten wird s interessanter zum Thema System..

    ❤️ https://www.fr.de/politik/usa-praesident-donald-trump-nicht-groesste-problem-eine-analyse-13528952.html

    Theoria-press △⃒⃘ schrieb am Do., 13. Feb. 2020, 20:16:

    > Max Leyf posted: ” The 2020 Presidential Election is only six months out. > Before long, political ads and propaganda will descend on us like swarms of > locusts. The sky will soon grow dark and for this reason, I believe it may > be especially helpful to review the lay of the l” >

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Max Leyf says:

      Thank you, Nikoleta. I have focused more on how the parties appear different but are actually united over some very crucial issues, like military spending and subverting democracy. I tried to show that it is difference in Erscheinung but identity in Wesen.

      The article makes a great point that the problem is not exactly new but that for a long time it could be ignored because distractions like the Cold War magnetised people’s attention. It’s an interesting point about McCarthy because now the Democrats are arguably more guilty of Neo-McCarthyism. Just see what they did to Tulsi Gabbard. Even on the Senate floor during the impeachment proceedings, Adam Schiff was fear-mongering and insinuating Russian conspiracy.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hesiod says:

    Most excellent! I harp on this all the time; alas, in political journals and newspapers which I sometimes contribute op-eds for, this kind of talk gets an automatic rejection. There’s only a dime’s worth of an illusory difference between the parties — but they fundamentally are the same in their Enlightenment-oriented techno-scientistic ideology. The real battle is found in the means to the same end — which, from a teleological perspective, means there is no real difference since all Western politics is enslaved to the Enlightenment vision.

    The administrative and bureaucratic revolution ushered in by FDR under a crypto-Bismarckian model, however, is showing signs of cracking that much is evident. This contributes to our discontents and the oligarchs are doing their best to patch things up. We can, in my view, divide politics into three groups much the same as you explain here. (1) We have the politicians who are in bed with this administrative and bureaucratic state as managers of the system who exist in both parties. (2) Then we have the illusory opposition (to which I would include Trump) in which we have politicians and other elected officials who don’t give everything to the oligarchs but won’t really change much and therefore the oligarchs put up with them but would prefer them gone (I, personally, also include Sanders in this camp because he’s just a neo-New Dealer who wants to revitalize the aforementioned administrative and bureaucratic system than an actual doctrinaire socialist despite the accusations of being so; his model system of Denmark or Sweden wouldn’t pass the socialist test by the Second International. Essentially, more administrative welfare and less administrative corporatism but the fundamental blueprint and apparatus is still in place; the shift in priority gives the illusion of significant opposition) (3) Then you have the rare politicos who are designated a threat to the system. Alas, we are some ways away still from seeing the Caesar of Spengler’s prophecy.

    All that said, and despite all my education and scholarship in political philosophy, I don’t “care” about politics like activists do. Politics isn’t bringing anyone salvation. Those who think so are equally guilty of being servants of the Enlightenment model. Aesthetics, spirituality, and “enchantment” is the true opposition to the Enlightenment monolith. This probably explains why I have a literary/cultural column!

    Good read Max. Hopefully she’s on your ballot for you when that time comes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Max Leyf says:

      Thank you for you comment, Paul. I am flattered if you think I got something right in respect to politics because I consider you an expert compared to me. I ordinarily don’t take much interest in popular politics either. It is hard to take inspiration at the prospect of arguing over ways to make the Last Man’s existence more painless and anodyne, which is how Liberalism is usually conceived. That being said, I think Tulsi Gabbard is an exceptional candidate and I am humiliated by the way we have treated her. It is an indictment of US culture, in my opinion. “O generation of vipers!”

      You wrote:

      “All that said, and despite all my education and scholarship in political philosophy, I don’t “care” about politics like activists do. Politics isn’t bringing anyone salvation. Those who think so are equally guilty of being servants of the Enlightenment model. Aesthetics, spirituality, and “enchantment” is the true opposition to the Enlightenment monolith. This probably explains why I have a literary/cultural column!”

      “Amen,” I would say, and just add that a new government needs new citizens, and this initiative of self-renewal is something each of us either does or refrains from doing, and this decision determines the fate and state of the res publica.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Max Leyf says:

      Maybe it’s synchronicity, or maybe it’s just obvious to anyone who can read the signs of the times…

      http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/DisfiguredPraise/~3/gisLvEUimRs/liberalism-as-nihilism.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email

      Like

      1. Following the bouncing links from this post on Disfigured Praise, I came upon The Noetics of Nature with which you may already be familiar.

        The widespread idea that “Christian theology is somehow responsible for the environmental crisis” is primarily advanced by people who apparently don’t know much about Christian theology, imho. (The disfigurement of it, maybe.) While it may not be the “best prospect for the radical reversal that is needed in our relation to the natural environment” for people who don’t identify as Christian or can’t relate to Christianity for whatever reason, I imagine the Christian in all of us might beg to differ.

        I haven’t read it myself, but have added it to my wishlist.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Or, “inter-religious.” as the case may be.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Max Leyf says:

        It’s a very funny question because from one side, as Augustine wrote:

        “…the thing itself, which is now called the Christian religion, was there among the people of antiquity, and was not wanting from the beginning of the human race, down to the time when Christ came in the flesh; whereafter the true religion, which was always there, began to be called ‘Christian’….Therefore I said: ‘This is in our times the Christian religion,’ not because it was not there in earlier times, but because in later times it received this name.”

        And at the same time this apocryphal story about Lincoln shows the other side:

        “How many legs does a horse have?”
        “Four,” said the witness.
        “Now, if we call a tail a leg, how many legs does a horse have?” “Five,” answered the witness.
        “Nope,” said Abe, “calling a tail a leg don’t make it a leg.”

        Like

      4. Then, of course, there is the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant.

        We do seem to talk a lot about “the Elephant in the room…..”

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Hesiod says:

        Ha! Funny that this post you linked here includes the DBH talk on nihilism. That’s one of my favorites. Also because I think he’s spot on with his analysis. Alas, such rare breeds are outcasts. The post itself is also wonderful. Also because that is precisely how I’ve taught liberalism in philosophy.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Hesiod says:

        Can’t say I do. But I know the author. Michael Marder wrote some very engaging work on “elemental politics” which deals with politics from a geo-ontological perspective. The kind of heavy stuff I’m interested in and sometimes write on: https://www.amazon.com/Pyropolitics-World-Ablaze-Michael-Marder/dp/1783480289

        While I still have certain reservations about Marder on some issues, I generally find his work extremely penetrating and thought-provoking. He’s not your typical “political scientist” or theorist; that alone is worth a lot to someone like me. I would intuit this particular book is like his others, complex, complicated, but undeniably profound and provoking much thought. For someone like me and other heterodox political philosophers and theorists who wish to escape the confines of ideological prognostication, the book is probably well-worth the read. Take the tacit endorsement however you wish.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Max Leyf says:

        It just seemed like a very lucid anti-Nominalist approach since it is not as though “whigs” and “tories” etc…are just waiting around for us to slap labels on them. Instead the ideas or “categories” are the condition and means for us to perceive the things we subsequently give names to.

        I was trying to remember if it was Marder that you didn’t like, but it is G. Harman, isn’t it?

        Like

      8. Hesiod says:

        Harman. Marder I do like what I’ve read.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Max Leyf says:

        “Marder” I presume you mean? I can correct it. What don’t you like about Harman? I know very little about him except that he seems to be trying to get author’s credit for repackaging a basic metaphysic that, not long ago, was obvious to everyone with a University education (maybe until Liberalism became the order of the day, the Liberal Arts disintegrated, and Universities became Trade Schools Academies of Specialisation). I would be curious to hear from you though.

        Like

      10. Hesiod says:

        Ha. Yes. Marder — not market. I dislike Harman because I find his philosophy just a re-hashing of modern idealism in materialistic-Marxist lenses. Nothing new at all. Worse, he strips the transcendental and aesthetic character of Idealism and Romanticism for a materialized non-Marxist liberalism. What’s new with that? He blends Bacon with Kant. Well, that’s pretty much modern liberalism as it already is.

        Yes, all he does is repackage a basic metaphysic to an ignorant audience (and academe). And so many dilettantes fall for his seduction. (In large part because of specialized reading, imo, where someone only reads a half dozen or so people after 1800 so it’s hard for them to detect the traces of old inheritances and when someone educated in the larger tradition calls it out, they get called “elitist” with all the b.s. about “elitism” that goes on in our world.)

        I dislike Harman on two accounts. First, he is principally my enemy philosophically, aesthetically, spiritually, etc. We stand on opposing ends and reality is a death match as evidenced by the supremacy of so-called Enlightenment model. Second, he offers nothing particularly new, repackages some old philosophers, and then tries to pass it off as new. That kind of intellectual hubris irks me.

        Alas, that’s enough on Harman. It’s good to know you’re acquainted with Marder in some fashion. He’s really on the cutting edge in some political work and is definitely a more insightful read than your TV politics commentator, the NYT, or WSJ.

        Liked by 1 person

      11. Max Leyf says:

        Fixed. And I am laughing at your Manichean construal of the academic momenet, but I know what you mean. It reminds me of Ephesians 6:12:

        “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities (ἀρχάς, “Archai”), against powers (ἐξουσίας, “Exousiai”), against the rulers (κοσμοκράτορας, “Cosmocratoroi”) of the darkness of this world….”

        Still, say what you like about Harman, but he is a better writer than most folks that one is likely to come across. This doesn’t exactly exonerate him if he is guilty of the things you said (I don’t know how far to take this, but, to quote Hamlet, “the devil hath power/To assume a pleasing shape”).

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve long postulated that the Democratic and Republican parties both serve corporate interests and most certainly not ours as a People. They’ve just served different corporate interests until fairly recently in our country’s history, and their service hasn’t been confined solely to defense contractors. We now have universal insurance (which isn’t actually “universal” itself) masquerading as “universal healthcare,” to cite but one example, and those of us who hoped for anything more than concilatory language from President Obama to begin the healing process our country desperately needs to undergo, soon learned that he was as much a corporate Democrat as any other corporate Democrat, not to mention as neoliberal, advocating “market-based solutions” to all our ills. (There’s that prevailing myth of Neoliberalism again. I don’t fault Obama, however. He’s subconsciously internalized that myth as surely as most every other politician in the West.)

    I’d have to agree with Hesiod that politics (as presently practiced, especially) is not the true “opposition” to the crises we face and, apolitical myself for the most part, actually take some solace in the fact that “the bottom line is that less than 20 percent of Americans can pass laws, appoint judges,” etc.

    How you can take any solace in that, one might ask?

    It makes me wonder what the other 80 percent is up to. Well, there are these guys, working toward eliminating corruption in government, and still others promoting truly proportional representation, not to mention the “Walk Out, Walk On” crowd, also not to mention all those artists, writers…. My, the list does go on.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Max Leyf says:

      Thank you for your comment InfiniteWarrior. I think you bring up a very crucial aspect to the situation today when you mention Obama. I imagine I speak for many others people as well when I say that my own enthusiasm and subsequent disillusionment with “Obamamania” has fundamentally shaped my conception of the political situation today. Like you said, a key tenet of this situation is the tendentious proposition that the market is the solution to everything. “Fall down before the Golden Bull, and worship,” we are instructed in so many different ways.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Largely bound up in that whole “prosperity gospel“…thing, if anyone were to ask me.

        Liked by 1 person

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