“Tulsi Gabbard is not afraid of you, America!” outspoken conspiracy theorist Niko House loudly exclaims to a neatly packed theatre in Downtown Manchester while introducing the Hawaiian Congresswoman and presidential hopeful. The crowd did not wear any outward sign of support for Tulsi Gabbard, although the occasional glimmer of a bright red “Make America Great Again” hat spotted the gathering. Despite Gabbard’s campaign feverishly sending out emails to her supporters pleading for donations to raise over $100,000 in 24 hours to keep her campaign afloat, House confidently tells the crowd Gabbard’s “party is just getting started.”
Gabbard, an Army National Guard veteran, spends a few minutes illustrating her anti-war and isolationist policies to the crowd, promising not to get involved in another nation’s conflicts. However, Gabbard dedicates most of her time at the historic Rex Theatre explaining that the country needs to be sharing ideas and perspectives and that she is the only candidate that can attract people from varying ideologies. Many candidates claim they can bridge divides across the aisles, but Gabbard makes it a point to prove it to the room.
She asks the crowd to raise their hand if they are a Democrat, then Republican, then Libertarian or independent. A few shy Democrats raise their hands followed by a few more vocal Republicans, and then the crowd erupts as 90% of the hands in the room sprout into the air declaring they are independents or Libertarians.
While attracting people from all political parties, Tulsi Gabbard also appeals to people many Democrats may see as undesirable. She has received endorsements and compliments from several white nationalist and alt-right figures such as Steve Bannon, Richard Spencer, and Mike Cernovich, as well as from evangelists like Franklin Graham.
One Gabbard supporter at her rally on Monday night sees these connections as positive, saying “Tulsi appeals to everyone, there is nothing wrong with that.” However, these ties have led to Gabbard receiving plenty of negative feedback in the press, leading potential voters away from her campaign and her diehard supporters fighting to maintain her innocence.
This past October, former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton slyly alleged Russia is supporting Tulsi Gabbard financially and through pro-Gabbard bots online, as well as claiming she is being groomed by the Republican party to run as a spoiler third party candidate. This attack by the former secretary of state ignited Gabbard to wage a war against the media and Democratic National Committee, claiming she is being smeared in the press and that the DNC is rigging the election.
Gabbard’s current battles include a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton for defamation and a separate case against Google for infringing on her free speech by allegedly suppressing her advertisements after the first Democratic debate. These accusations and court filings may be unpopular with Democratic voters but have fueled Gabbard’s support among alt-right figures, Trump enthusiasts, and those who feel exiled from the Democratic party.
Gabbard’s supporters in New Hampshire are fervent in their love and commitment to the campaign, and greatly sympathize with her regarding her claims of unfair treatment by the Democratic establishment and the media.
“Tulsi is a good person, she never lies….and the thought that some people think she would ever run as a third-party candidate for Russia or whatever is ridiculous to me.” one choked up volunteer exclaimed while selling pins for Gabbard at the New Hampshire Democratic dinner.
Gabbard’s supporters also greatly admire her for taking on the establishment. “She can’t be controlled by the party…she’s a soldier, she believes in service and doing what’s good for the people and for the country over personal gain…and to some extent that isn’t what [the Democratic Party] stands for.” Prince Agarwal, a voter from New York, stated after being asked why he thinks Gabbard receives unfair treatment by the media and her party.
Some supporters of Gabbard believe that she is being suppressed by the media and attacked by the DNC through more nuanced plotting. One elderly New Hampshire voter who wished to remain anonymous believed Hillary Clinton and the Democratic establishment are “going after Tulsi because she is challenging the military-industrial complex, and they are making money off the wars she is trying to stop.”
Another anonymous Gabbard supporter echoed this sentiment separately, stating “one of the biggest reasons she is anti-establishment is because she is anti-war, and the establishment is war, and they get a lot of money from the war industry [and] the military-industrial complex, and that threatens literally trillions of dollars of profits and the revolving door between industry and government. She threatens that system.”
It is unclear whether the theories that Hillary Clinton, the DNC, the military, and the media are cohorts in taking down Gabbard’s campaign hold little or any truth. These claims may be truths bubbling on the surface waiting to be exposed by a whistleblower or could just be conspiracy theories destined to stay mummified in the threads of Reddit. Either way, they are real to Gabbard’s supporters, continuing the cycle of frustration and hatred towards the political process and the media.