Why not? The Democratic presidential debates are essentially reruns anyway. May as well recycle the protests. Tulsi Gabbard tweeted out last night that she will refuse to attend the next debate “for a number of reasons.” One of them might be déjà vu:
For a number of reasons, I have decided not to attend the December 19th "debate" — regardless of whether or not there are qualifying polls. I instead choose to spend that precious time directly meeting with and hearing from the people of New Hampshire and South Carolina.
— Tulsi Gabbard 🌺 (@TulsiGabbard) December 10, 2019
Thus far, Gabbard has not explained any of her reasons for boycotting the event, nor for putting the word debate in scare quotes. Not that there aren’t good reasons for challenging the idea that these are debates in any effective sense, of course; they’re mainly game shows based on rhetorical gladiatorial combat. However, for a candidate on the cusp — as the New York Times describes Gabbard’s status in relation to qualifying for next week’s event — one might decide that even a ridiculous event is worth attending if it raises one’s public profile, and Gabbard has had success in exploiting her earlier debates.
How often can one go to the boycott well, though? Recall that Gabbard threatened to refuse to attend an October debate too, in that case spelling out her reasons more explicitly. She offered a curious qualifier of only “seriously considering” a boycott, the reason for which became clear later:
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
In the end Gabbard thought better of it, opting to show up to that debate and then to November’s as well without any complaint. Gabbard and Kamala Harris tangled again in the latest rerun, with Gabbard again getting the better of the now-exited supposed rising star, but Gabbard miscalculated when she tried the same strategy with Pete Buttigieg. He ripped her for buddying up with Bashar al-Assad and exposed her mostly-false demagogic attack on him without breaking a sweat.
Perhaps that’s why she’s “boycotting” again, but that may be a headache for the DNC nonetheless. After all, Democrats are short on persons of color in the next debate, with the six current qualifiers ranging from eggshell to ivory to primer. Joe Biden had to defend the result of the DNC’s elimination process while claiming it’s not “representative” of Democrats, while Cory Booker all but called Democratic voters and donors racists for not supporting people of color to a greater extent. Gabbard, who is close to qualifying for the debate, has Samoan ancestry and is the only practicing Hindu member of Congress, and her presence might have been enough for the DNC to skate on that criticism. Maybe.
Meanwhile, Gabbard at least gets a momentary look in a crowded news cycle with a rerun of her October stunt. And this way she doesn’t get Mayor Pete punching her in the nose. That’s a win-win … unless she shows up anyway. Again. Man, this TV series needs new writers.