Why Not Tulsi?

There is much hand-wringing among Democrats over Elizabeth Warren’s departure from the presidential field, which many–Paul Krugman, to name just one–are attributing to sexism among Democratic primary voters. It is commonly said that there are no women left in the race, but in fact there is one–Tulsi Gabbard. Elizabeth Warren quit the race because she wasn’t getting enough votes to be a serious contender. If her failure to gain support is a sign of sexism, why isn’t the same claim being made about Democrats’ failure to vote for Gabbard?

There is one obvious difference between Warren and Gabbard: Warren’s candidacy was welcomed and favored by the Democratic establishment, while Gabbard’s was continually subverted. It is happening again, as Tulsi has been the next debate, and presumably all future debates:

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard — the last remaining woman in the Democrats’ presidential race — has been shut out of the party’s next debate with a rule change that makes it mathematically impossible for her to claim a podium.

“To keep me off the stage, the DNC again arbitrarily changed the debate qualifications,” Gabbard tweeted late Friday. “Previously they changed the qualifications in the OPPOSITE direction so Bloomberg could debate.”
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Under the party’s most recent set of debate rules, any candidate who had won at least one delegate in the party’s first 25 nomination contests had the right to take the stage.

Gabbard, who gained two delegates in American Samoa’s caucuses on Super Tuesday, would have qualified.

But on Friday, party poobahs announced new criteria requiring candidates to hold at least 20% of all awarded delegates by the time of the next scheduled debate in Phoenix on March 15.

So the debate will be between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. How many times has the DNC changed the debate rules over the course of the campaign? Several, and always, it seems, to Tulsi Gabbard’s disadvantage. Why is the Democratic Party so anxious to prevent viewers from seeing Gabbard? Why, when cries of “sexism” are widely being raised, does the DNC go out of its way to bar the last remaining woman from the stage?

It’s an interesting question. I suspect the answer is that the DNC knows how weak both Sanders and Biden are, and fears that Tulsi could make them both look bad. She is not only effective in debate, she is 40 years younger than Biden and Sanders–a fact that might uncomfortably highlight one of their fundamental weaknesses. And, of course, she is a woman. But whether that matters is, it seems, entirely discretionary with the DNC.

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