Tulsi Gabbard was never going to be president. The Hawaii representative was almost completely unviable throughout the Democratic primary and dragged her campaign well past its expiration date. Gabbard finally ended it on Thursday morning—but not without a twist.
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) March 19, 2020
In her announcement video, Gabbard endorsed Joe Biden, saying that “while I may not agree with the vice president on every issue, I know he has a good heart.” Still, the endorsement is genuinely confusing given Gabbard’s past. She’s consistently positioned herself as an outsider within the Democratic Party. While serving as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2016, she endorsed Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton. Party insiders widely considered her one of the most radical candidates in the field, one a bit too attracted to right wing ideology, and many took to calling her a Russian asset. Gabbard’s “present” vote on impeachment helped cement her darling status among disaffected independent voters and some Republicans, as she even appeared on Fox News several times throughout the campaign.
Gabbard’s seeming political fluidity makes the Biden endorsement even more confounding. She’s consistently positioned herself as staunchly anti-war and anti-American imperialism; her stated reason for staying in the race so long was to keep the conversation going about the U.S.’s endless wars. Throwing her weight behind the candidate who voted for the Iraq War seems to run counter to that.
It’s possible Gabbard simply sees the writing on the wall. She’s a Democrat, after all, and it makes sense for her to throw her weight behind the presumptive nominee, even if she has strong skepticism toward his politics. If she believes Donald Trump is genuinely unfit for office and prioritizes ousting him, that’s the move. But in doing so she’s tossing away her progressive bonafides and squandering her opportunity to become Fox News’ token Democrat. That lane seemed clear and obvious for Gabbard during the primary; endorsing Biden could potentially close it off.
Damn. It's almost like Tulsi Gabbard was obviously a dangerous charlatan with no real ideological commitments.
— Osita Nwanevu (@OsitaNwanevu) March 19, 2020
It’s also unlikely Biden would’ve cleared out a cabinet spot for Gabbard in exchange for her endorsement. Establishment stalwarts running his campaign (and would presumably staff his White House) likely wouldn’t welcome her in. Gabbard’s political cachet is pretty niche, so it’s not like she brings a large constituency to Biden’s corner, either. No matter how you slice it, endorsing Biden makes little political or logical sense based on what we know. But perhaps it’s fitting that Gabbard ended her campaign as confusingly as she ran it.