Chelsea Manning is apparently running for the United States Senate to represent the State of Maryland. I say ‘apparently’ because although she’s filed her intent with the Federal Elections Commission (which will allow her to raise campaign funds), she hasn’t yet filed with the Maryland State Board of Elections — which is necessary if she wants to actually appear on the primary ballot.
She’s running to replace Senator Ben Cardin. Cardin is usually rated as one of the most liberal Democrats in Congress. He’s a consistent F with the National Rifle Association, he’s been a proponent of the Affordable Care Act, he supports Net Neutrality, he’s been consistently in favor of raising taxes on higher income earners, he voted against the war in Iraq, he’s been active in expanding protections for foster children, and he’s fought for stricter ethical standards in government. Cardin also recently released a report on Russian efforts to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States.
I like and, for the most part, respect Ben Cardin. I’m not a fan of his open Zionism and I question his occasional willingness to consider environmental compromises, but overall I think he’s been a good legislator. I don’t know enough about Chelsea Manning to like her, but I respect the way she accepted responsibility for leaking classified military and diplomatic information.
I completely understand why the military and the diplomatic corps needs to keep secrets. I also completely understand why there are times those secrets need to be revealed. Most leakers and whistleblowers try to avoid responsibility for their leaks. They want the information out there in the public, but they don’t want to suffer the consequences of leaking the information. Chelsea Manning, to her credit, leaked the information, got caught, pleaded guilty to some of the charges, went to trial on some others, and got sentenced to 35 years in prison.
There are folks who consider her a hero, and there are folks who see her as a traitor. Both arguments have merit, in my opinion. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. Sometimes betraying your country is heroic; sometimes standing up for your country is cowardice. I’m not terribly interested in whether Chelsea Manning is a hero or a traitor or both; I just want to know what her ideas are.
So here’s me — I like and respect Cardin, I respect Manning. Some people have said she shouldn’t run a primary campaign against a solid, reliable, mostly liberal Democrat. To which I replied, “Piss off…let her run. Let her engage in the marketplace of ideas, and let the good people of Maryland decide which candidate’s ideas they like the best.”
I still feel that way. But I have to say, Manning’s campaign announcement video makes me wonder what the hell her ideas are. Here, watch:
It’s not just that the video is awkward (though it is), or that her voice-over is wooden (and lawdy, it is). The thing about the video is that with a different candidate and a different voice-over, this could easily be a right-wing nutcase propaganda piece. This is what she actually says:
We live in trying times. Time of fear, of suppression, hate. We don’t need more…or better…leaders; we need someone willing to fight. We need to stop asking them to give us our rights. They won’t support, they won’t compromise. We need to stop expecting that our systems will somehow fix themselves. We need to actually take the reins of power from them. We need to challenge them at every level. We need to fix this. We don’t need them anymore. We can do better. You’re damned right we got this.
Substitute a short-haired Aryan face for the image of a trans woman, exchange the footage of the Nazi rally with a BLM rally, and replace the voice-over with a deeper, more menacing voice and that video would be appropriate a pro-Trump candidate.
I really like the idea of more trans folk running for office. I also like the idea of old privileged white guys — even those who are solid Democrats — being challenged by younger and more diverse candidates. And I really like the idea of shaking up the Democratic Party, which has been a moral and political Tower of Jello these last few years.
But that video? It’s grounded in fear, not in change. It’s not about politics, even; it’s about Chelsea Manning. It suggests that the world is in turmoil and in order to fix it we need a trans woman. And hey, that may be true. But being a trans woman isn’t, in itself, enough. Be a trans woman with ideas and tell us what those ideas are.
If you want to take the reins of power, first tell me what you want to do with them.