Rep Tulsi Gabbard has raised enough money from enough donors but needs to poll higher to qualify for the Democratic debate in September. So far only eight candidates have qualified.

NASHVILLE, TN – Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) has an impressive resume’. She’s a former combat pilot, has served six years on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, is a practicing Hindu, and scored the biggest take down in the debates by calling out Kamala Harris for putting away hundreds of black and brown people on marijuana charges while Harris was California’s Attorney General.

Gabbard’s idea of public service stems from the concept of Aloha, which means hello or good-bye in Hawaiian. “Aloha is a promise to protect all living things, the earth we inhabit, the air we all breathe and the water that gives us all life. We are all connected. We are brothers and sisters,” says her website. She comes from a racially mixed family and is one-quarter Asian.

Gabbard had more google searches after last week’s debate than any other candidate. She wants to negotiate a new Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) and a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia and China, supports a green energy economy, small businesses, Medicare for All, sustainable agriculture, breaking up the big banks, and criminal justice reform. She is not pacifist but she opposes regime change wars that “are bankrupting our country”. Oh, and she’s a surfer.

Gabbard is solidly progressive on the issues, but unlike Sanders and Warren, she may not remain in the race because she isn’t polling high enough to be included in the September debate. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) sets those rules.

Unfortunately for Gabbard, the quality of her character is not enough to pass the DNC’s bar. So even though she was a standout in the last debate and millions of Americans are now familiar with her name, they may not get to hear about her plans to transform Washington politics into creating a more equal and just society.

She started doing that on her first day in the House six years ago. “I called my mother and I said ‘Hey, can you make 434 boxes of Hawaiian macadamia nut toffee that I can give to all of my  soon-to-be new friends?’ She thought it was a great idea,” Gabbard said.

She wrote handwritten notes to every one of her colleagues in the House and attached them to her mother’s toffee. Many Republicans crossed the aisle to thank her and asked her how they could work together. Gabbard has been busy on bi-partisan policy-making ever since.

Gabbard cited the First Step Act as an example of bi-partisan criminal justice reform. She said Democrats were not as lucky with comprehensive immigration reform or with a voting bill she sponsored. It would have paid for voting machines that create paper ballot copies and required candidates to report aid from foreign governments. Sen. Mitch McConnell killed the bill last week calling it “partisan”. It had bi-partisan support but not enough.

The Democratic debates Gabbard might not be invited to, make the centrists, who sound like Republicans, seem reasonable and to make the progressives look like they are out of their minds. The DNC could have the League of Woman Voters organize the debates, as they once did, and have C-Span broadcast them. Any one of C-Spans hosts would do a better job than CNN’s empty heads who don’t speak for themselves. They read anchor copy for a living and ask questions others have written.

In last week’s debate, Jake Tapper constantly interrupted the candidates in mid-sentence. Any decent reporter lets his respondent answer a question before asking another. Tapper’s performance was nothing short of disgraceful and the DNC was complicit. They approved the format.

Tapper was like actor John Banner who played Sergeant Hans Schultz in the TV sitcom, Hogan’s Heroes. Shultz frequently feigned ignorance by saying “I see nothing! I hear nothing! I know nothing!”  But to posture that way while asking loaded questions of presidential candidates is not funny. It’s disgusting.

And that’s what Tapper did when he belligerently asked about taxing the middle class to pay “for a government-run program” like Medicare-For-All. That question mixed actual language from the health insurance industry with a Republican talking point about how most people like the health insurance they get at work and are loathe to give it up.

But what would people say if they could get the same healthcare but pay a lot less for it than they do now?  Nobody asked that question and none of the candidates mentioned it either. The debate was just another sideshow distraction from two real events the Democrats should have been talking about last week but didn’t.

First, last Monday Sen. Mitch McConnell got 13 right-wingers lifetime appointments to various federal courts. Because democrats mounted no opposition, Trump’s picks sailed through the approval process. We will all live with their anti-choice, pro-big business, anti-Green New Deal, and anti-voting rights decisions for decades to come.

Secondly, a DNC lawsuit against Wikileaks and Julian Assange was dismissed last Tuesday by Judge John Koeltl in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Koeltl ruled that Wikileaks is an “international news organization” and that Assange is a “publisher”. Koeltl wrote that releasing stolen Democratic emails was constitutionally protected regardless of how Assange got them.

Daniel Ellsberg was once in Assange’s position in the infamous Pentagon Papers case. He was not convicted. But the Democrats, like the Trump administration, are trying to prosecute Assange for the crime of committing journalism. During last week’s debate, there was no mention of the lawsuit getting tossed and the candidates were not asked where they stand on Julian Assange’s extradition. Not a peep from anybody.

The Democrats need a timeout to reexamine themselves and their priorities. But the old guard is too busy protecting its turf from young upstarts who threaten to take over the party.

According to Politico, only eight of the candidates currently qualify for the September debate. Gabbard is not one of them. If the Democrats ultimately select a candidate who looks like a Republican, walks like a Republican, and sounds like a Republican, who will voters choose: the duck dressed out in Democratic clothing or the real thing now sitting in the White House?