By Donna Smith, Advisory Board Chair – Progressive Democrats of America
It’s been just four short days since Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, HI-2, announced she will make a run for the presidency in 2020. The attacks against her began growing rapidly — many surrounding her early adult, early career, and very ill-advised comments and work in opposition to LGBT rights and more specifically gay marriage. She deserves to explain those words and actions. And so she has. She said she was sorry. She admitted she was wrong, and she has spent her entire Congressional career working to uphold decency and equality for all people.
When she was 22 years old, Gabbard made what would be heard now as some terrible slurs against gay people. I’ll admit, I didn’t like that one bit. What I have liked less is the outrage shown today, in 2019, by many activists, campaign operatives, pundits, and even some perceived friends, that anyone who had spoken the words that Tulsi spoke so long ago could even remotely be fit to serve as president. I am outraged by the outrage, the sexism, and the deep-seated hypocrisy of many of those vilifying Tulsi now.
Just today, I heard one of the people most critical of Tulsi about her remarks 15 years ago defend NJ Sen. Cory Booker for his learning about pharmaceutical profits. Just about two years ago, Booker cast a vote (again) to protect Big Pharma. “Let’s not beat up on people when they are right on our policy now,” the younger, male activist said of Booker. Oh, and Tulsi?
Then, what about then Sen. Joe Biden on Anita Hill? Hmmm. Another pass now that former Vice President Biden is so flawless on #metoo, eh? Sure. But Tulsi?
Even our beloved Sen. Bernie Sanders — and I sincerely mean we love Bernie — has apologized just this month for not being observant enough about the apparent hostile work environment for many female campaign staff in 2016. Bernie said he was wrong and he will continue to do better. I accept that.
But what of Tulsi? Why the attack when this woman who speaks of love, service, duty, country, honor, peace, and aloha for her entire Congressional career says she is sorry, she was wrong, she evolved? And she didn’t just promise to do better. Tulsi has — for many years — proven in word and action that she is not the same person who so newly-adult, from-a-very-conservative-upbringing made some now regrettable choices. Why?
Is it in part because she is a woman? No one among us thinks of anything but love when we think of what our LGBTQ sisters, brothers and others have gone through. But let’s not diminish the sexism involved in holding a woman candidate more accountable for her personal history than we do the male candidates. And for heaven’s sake, Democrats, let’s not destroy our solid chances to recover this governance from the grips of real problems — the aggressively destructive, ultra-corporate agenda from which we can either save our nation and planet or not. I would trust Tulsi over any of them.