“Bigot.” “Traitor.” “Liar.” “Fraud.”
As Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard departs Congress, the vicious name-calling directed at her over the last month still echoes.
What did Rep. Gabbard do to merit such vilification from fellow progressives?
Simple. She dared to challenge the abortion absolutism and gender ideology that are defining principles of America’s secular left, dissent from which is not to be tolerated.
Specifically, Rep. Gabbard had recently co-sponsored two pieces of legislation: one that would mandate life-sustaining treatment for babies who manage to be born alive following an attempted abortion; the other that would prevent biological males, i.e., those transgendering to female, from competing in women’s scholastic sports.
To me as to many Americans, both those proposals seem eminently reasonable. But that is not my main purpose in addressing this matter.
Instead, I want to focus on the hateful rhetoric directed against Rep. Gabbard as yet another example of how our public discourse is constantly being poisoned by ad hominem attacks and the politics of personal destruction, undermining any efforts to engage serious issues on their merits.
Among the pejoratives hurled at Gabbard is that she “vilifies women” with her bill to protect born-alive infants. That would be news to women like Gianna Jessen and Melissa Ohden, who both survived being aborted, and lived only because some medical personnel thought their lives worth sustaining—even though Melissa’s own maternal grandmother wanted her left to die without treatment.
And accusing Gabbard, a woman herself, of vilifying women seems just a clumsy attempt to avoid coming to grips with the central issue here. Should we, while allowing virtually unrestricted abortion, at least draw the line at infanticide? Or—the intent of every abortion being the destruction of a life—should the abortionist be allowed to end that life even after the baby has unintentionally been born alive?
Likewise with the “Protect Women’s Sports Act,” the issue is a serious one, deserving of a strong but reasoned debate. Do the protections for women’s equality in scholastic sports, set forward in Title IX of the 1972 Educational Amendments Act, require that biological males must be permitted to compete in women’s sports? Or—given the undeniable physical differences between men and women—does such a requirement actually disadvantage female student athletes?
For Gabbard, a twice-deployed military combat veteran, the issue is one of upholding women’s rights by respecting women as women.
“It’s the height of hypocrisy,” she has said, “for someone who claims to be an advocate for women’s rights to also simultaneously deny the biological existence of women. How can someone claim to be a champion of women while denying our very existence?”
But to her critics, the issue is reducible to Gabbard simply being “transphobic,” “a bigot,” who is “justify(ing) discrimination” and “fueling attacks on trans youth.” As such, her views should be dismissed as unworthy of consideration. Thus do her critics justify refusing to engage the issue on its merits.
It’s important to emphasize that, despite the claims of her critics, Tulsi Gabbard’s record in Congress has not been that of a “right wing” social conservative. She is not pro-life. She embraces Roe v. Wade and a woman’s “right” to an abortion. And while at one time she did oppose legalizing same-sex marriage—as did Barack Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Joe Biden—she, like they, long ago renounced that position and endorsed gay marriage.
So she has been in lockstep with the progressive agenda on these issues. But because she draws the line at infanticide, and because she wants to protect the integrity of women’s scholastic sports competition, she is a “traitor” to that agenda. She is not just to be disagreed with. She is to be tarred as a “bigot,” and her views excluded from the bounds of acceptable public discourse.
To be sure, there are those on the conservative side of the ideological spectrum who also resort to personal attacks rather than engaging critical issues on their merits. But it is particularly egregious coming from progressives, both because it is so constant and ubiquitous, permeating their ranks in virtually every institution, from schools and college campuses, to media, entertainment, politics and government; and because of the hypocrisy. Tolerance and inclusivity are the holy grail of modern progressivism. Yet while regarding themselves as paragons of both, too many progressives feel they have a right to exclude from the public square any who express views antithetical to their own—even, as in this case, when such views emanate from a fellow progressive.
It is, as I have written before, the intolerance of the tolerant. And it is toxic to our public discourse.