Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s former chief strategist, is impressed with her political talent. Richard B. Spencer, the white nationalist leader, says he could vote for her. Former Representative Ron Paul praises her “libertarian instincts,” while Franklin Graham, the influential evangelist, finds her “refreshing.”
And far-right conspiracy theorists like Mike Cernovich see a certain MAGA sais quoi.
“She’s got a good energy, a good vibe. You feel like this is just a serious person,” Mr. Cernovich said. “She seems very Trumpian.”
Among her fellow Democrats, Representative Tulsi Gabbard has struggled to make headway as a presidential candidate, barely cracking the 2 percent mark in the polls needed to qualify for Tuesday night’s debate. She is now injecting a bit of chaos into her own party’s primary race, threatening to boycott that debate to protest what she sees as a “rigging” of the 2020 election. That’s left some Democrats wondering what, exactly, she is up to in the race, while others worry about supportive signs from online bot activity and the Russian news media.
Perhaps strangest of all is the unusual array of Americans who cannot seem to get enough of her.
On podcasts and online videos, in interviews and Twitter feeds, alt-right internet stars, white nationalists, libertarian activists and some of the biggest boosters of Mr. Trump heap praise on Ms. Gabbard. They like the Hawaiian congresswoman’s isolationist foreign policy views. They like her support for drug decriminalization. They like what she sees as censorship by big technology platforms.
Then there is 4chan, the notoriously toxic online message board, where some right-wing trolls and anti-Semites fawn over Ms. Gabbard, calling her “Mommy” and praising her willingness to criticize Israel. In April, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, took credit for Ms. Gabbard’s qualification for the first two Democratic primary debates.
Brian Levin, the head of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino, said Ms. Gabbard had “the seal of approval” within white nationalist circles. “If people have that isolationist worldview, there is one candidate that could best express them on each side: Gabbard on the Democratic side and Trump on the Republican side,” Mr. Levin said.
Ms. Gabbard has disavowed some of her most hateful supporters, castigating the news media for giving “any oxygen at all” to the endorsement she won from the white nationalist leader David Duke. But her frequent appearances on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show have buoyed her support in right-wing circles. [Continue reading…]