Tulsi Gabbard has been slowly edging toward leaving the Democratic Party and, it now seems more likely than not, launching a spoiler candidacy to peel disaffected left-wing votes away from the Democrats. Her “present” vote on impeachment, followed by a disavowal of what she called the “zero-sum mind-set the two political parties have trapped America in,” sets the stage for Gabbard to play the role of 2020’s Jill Stein.
Left-wing anti-anti-Trumpism played an important role in the bizarre 2016 outcome. Die-hard Bernie activists, fired up with anger at the release of DNC emails stolen by Russians that purportedly showed the party had rigged the primary, demonstrated against the party outside its convention hall and tried to drown out the speakers inside with boos. Stein attacked Hillary Clinton from the left, then audaciously staged a grift-y fundraising scheme supposedly to hold recounts in the states she had labored to flip to Trump. Trump’s election appeared to deliver the same shock of reality that had vaporized Ralph Nader’s 2000 support.
But Gabbard’s emergence is another indication that the disaffection that drove these events has not disappeared. Anti-anti-Trumpism has maintained a small but durable intellectual infrastructure. The sentiments that first registered as dissent from the Russia investigation transferred to impeachment, and a chorus of left-wing voices is attacking the effort to remove Trump from office as at best a misguided diversion and at worst a deep-state coup.
The anti-anti-Trump left is not a monolithic bloc. It has differing levels of enthusiasm for splintering the progressive vote in general elections, for Trump himself, and for the ethics of explicit alliances with the right. (Some anti-anti-Trump leftists eagerly appear on Fox news and other right-wing media, while others shun it.) What they share, in addition to enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders, is a deep skepticism of the Democratic Party’s mobilization against the president. The left’s struggle against the center-left is the axis around which their politics revolves. From that perspective, the Russia scandal and impeachment are unnecessary and even reactionary. [Continue reading…]