The last we heard from Tulsi Gabbard, the one-percenter in the statistical-noise tier of the Democratic presidential sweepstakes, she had threatened to boycott tomorrow night’s debate. In a campaign video released on Wednesday, the representative from Hawaii accused the DNC and their “corporate media” partners of attempting to “rig the 2020 primary” against early-state voters. The events aren’t true debates, Gabbard declared, but “commercialized reality television” (via Townhall):
I am seriously considering boycotting October 15 debate to bring attention to DNC/corporate media’s effort to rig 2020 primary. Not against Bernie this time, but against voters in early states Iowa, New Hampshire, South… –> https://t.co/x5P3GFGbyn pic.twitter.com/UgKCj6DGI0
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 10, 2019
That’s quite a list of complaints for someone who actually qualified for the debate tomorrow. That’s not to say that Gabbard’s wrong in every instance. She’s certainly correct that these aren’t really debates as much as they are the rhetorical equivalent of gladiatorial combat, but Gabbard didn’t seem to mind that much when she swung a figurative mace upside Kamala Harris’ head in July. Harris has never recovered from that blow, and she might have been the happiest about Gabbard’s proposed boycott.
As for the DNC “rigging” the contest through polls … meh. The DNC has few measures to consider when limiting participation on stage, and polls are arguably the most “democratic” of them. The other measure is donors, which isn’t exactly broadly “democratic” either. The only other options are regular Democratic caucuses in each state to determine who gets on stage — which would bankrupt the party — or to let everyone on stage. If Gabbard thinks these are ridiculous “commercialized reality television” events now, try that option and see what happens.
But would Gabbard, currently at 0.7% in RCP’s aggregate polling, really sacrifice the opportunity of a nationally televised appearance to make a stand for her principles? Of course she wouldn’t:
I will be attending the debate.
— Tulsi Gabbard (@TulsiGabbard) October 14, 2019
In other words, this was an extended publicity stunt. That’s too bad, because if Gabbard had been serious and objected on the proper terms, perhaps both the DNC and RNC might have reconsidered their debate strategies. The better method for primary debates with a crowded field is to pair off candidates and have them debate each other for limited periods of time. That would allow each candidate roughly the same amount of time to address the nation without forcing them into political stunts to grab attention. Gabbard’s not far off the mark about debates being nothing more than entertainment; game shows are a closer model to what we have now than reality television, but YMMV.
Anyway, Gabbard now says she’ll participate, and that has to make Joe Biden pretty happy. It doesn’t hurt to have your wingman on stage, only this time perhaps Gabbard will take aim at Elizabeth Warren rather than Harris. No sense clubbing the comatose, after all.