Tulsi Gabbard never held much political power inside or outside the party. So why should we care about her defection?

by Ari Paul, FAIR

The announcement by former Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard that she was leaving a Democratic Party driven by “cowardly wokeness,” under the “control of an elitist cabal” which is stoking “anti-white racism,” was met with mixed media enthusiasm. While the New York Times and Washington Post passed on the story, other major centrist media (NPR10/12/22CNN10/11/22USA Today10/11/22; Guardian10/11/22LA Times10/11/22) thought it worth a headline.

Presidential hopefuls Joe Biden (D) and Tulsi Gabbard (D) attend the

For right-wing media, Gabbard’s leave-taking was a more significant story. Fox News, where Gabbard has appeared as pundit and occasional fill-in host (HuffPost8/13/22), celebrated her departure with coverage painting the Democratic Party as an out-of-touch social justice machine (10/11/2210/12/2210/13/22), while promising that Gabbard would actively support Republican election efforts (10/12/22) and attack the Biden administration (10/12/22).

Other conservative outlets likewise trumpeted her announcement (National Review10/14/22), even talking of (another) presidential run to challenge the Democrats from the right (New York Post10/14/22). An op-ed at The Hill (10/16/22) propped her up as a voice of reason against “socialism.”

Because Gabbard had supported Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ bid for the presidency in 2016 (Washington Post2/28/16), and eventually endorsed Joe Biden in 2020 (NBC3/19/20), the right-wing press found in useful to present her as a disillusioned progressive who, as Ronald Reagan claimed, didn’t leave the Democratic Party, but rather was ideologically left behind by an increasingly socially liberal party platform.

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