To call someone a Russian asset implies willful coordination and awareness. It is not the same thing as being friendly to the Russian point of view. Nor is it akin to being compromised by knowing the Russians have damaging material—as so many have speculated is the case with President Donald Trump. Think of being a Russian asset as something in between cluelessness and conspiracy. But without further evidence, all Clinton managed to do was to prepare the ground for Gabbard to dismiss all future accusations or revelations as just more grandstanding from a defeated and bitter 2016 nominee.

Clinton’s defenders claim that it was good to expose Gabbard and to prevent a third-party run. This is wishful thinking. Hillary Clinton is not the arbiter of Democratic Party politics. And a third-party challenge isn’t the only way to damage the eventual Democratic nominee…

This is where Gabbard’s efforts, Trump’s strategy, and Russian hopes will coincide. The goal will not be to turn Democratic voters into Gabbard voters or Trump voters. It will be to confuse them, dispirit them, and alienate them from their own party—and then convince them to stay home. This will strike at the Democratic Party’s two most exposed weaknesses: turnout, and the inefficient distribution of Democratic voters in the Electoral College. If Gabbard can convince enough voters that “Russia” is just something that cranky losers chant whenever things don’t go their way, she can strike directly at these weaknesses and do material damage to the nominee.