Readers may have heard the name “Tulsi Gabbard” recently. Unquestionably a liberal in the modern sense of the word, Congresswoman Gabbard (D., Hawaii) is an interesting character on account of her seemingly unorthodox approach to conventional politics. Her ideas often draw bipartisan support (and hate), making her someone who receives a diverse range of responses from both the left and right. And Gabbard’s ideas merit consideration. Thus, here are three recent bill proposals by Congresswoman Gabbard that liberals and conservatives alike should consider.
#1: H.R.8285, Concerning the Defense of Free and Fair Elections
H.R.8285 prohibits states from receiving federal funding under the Help America Vote Act if those states allow ballot harvesting by third parties. This proposal comes in the wake of several released videos, which appeared to capture fraudulent ballot harvesting in the most recent special Minneapolis elections. Supporters of ballot harvesting often claim that it enfranchises voters who are otherwise unable to make it to the polls. Voter enfranchisement is indeed a valid concern, but H.R.8252 explicitly notes that postal workers, election officials, family members, and caregivers of the voter are not considered to be third parties. One might also be under the impression that absentee ballot fraud is too rare to warrant action. Yet the evidence suggests that it is actually common enough to merit concern. And even if fraudulent ballot harvests are insufficient to sway the results of an election, they undermine American faith in election results. A peaceful transition of power is quite rare in many parts of the world, and it is one of the many things that makes the United States a great place to live—but this is true, only so long as the American people trust the outcomes of its elections. To this end, H.R.8285 bolsters confidence against suspicions toward the elected winner of any federal, state or local election.
#2: H.Res.1162, H.Res.1175, and H.R.8452, Changing the U.S. Government’s Response to Whistleblowers
H.Res.1162, H.Res.1175, and H.R.8452 are a collection of resolutions relating to whistleblowers within the American government. Proposal 1162 aims to fully pardon Edward Snowden, allowing for his safe return to the United States. Snowden has been living in exile ever since leaking thousands of classified documents revealing abuses of power by the U.S. intelligence community. H.Res.1175 offers the same deal for Julian Assange, who was indicted with espionage after leaking classified military documents related to the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Withholding information on the magnitude of what was leaked by Snowden and Assange is a blatant misuse of taxpayer dollars. Imagine an individual discovers that the rent he paid to his landlord was in fact being used to install illegal wiretaps in his home. A reasonable response would be for him to move out and sue his landlord. Yet, in the case of Edward Snowden, this individual would be threatened with imprisonment and even death. To this end, H.R.8452 guarantees that all defendants prosecuted under the Espionage Act of 1917 have a fair day in court. Individuals indicted under the Espionage Act are currently prohibited from speaking about the intent of their actions in a courtroom. This makes it increasingly difficult for true whistleblowers to defend themselves after coming forward with evidence of wrongdoing. The actions of such whistleblowers offer a significant check on both a government’s centralized power and its ability to violate the rights of individual citizens. And such whistleblowers should be afforded increased legal protections.
#3: H.R.8515, Proposing Limitations on the Immunity of Big Tech from Liability
H.R.8515 proposes to limit the immunity from liability of Big Tech platforms, which utilize curated algorithms to display content to their users. Big Tech firms use curated algorithms to select viewer content. A curation process functions by looking through a specific viewer’s search history, likes, shares and other online activity, before cross-referencing this data with new content. The algorithms are designed such that viewers always see more of the things that the platform believes they would like or are interested in. The result is that an individual is prone to getting stuck in an ideological echo-chamber of news, commentary, and political analyses. It’s easy to see how the widespread use of these strategies have contributed to the increasingly polarized political climate. Currently, Big Tech platforms are not legally held liable for manipulating information, due to their legal status as platforms instead of publishers. The distinction is that a platform ostensibly offers a space for the free and open exchange of ideas, while a publisher directly controls the content that its platform produces. If a platform begins manipulating the content that is likely to appear on a given user’s feed, this distinction becomes blurred. This issue has become especially notable, following the explicit censorship by Twitter and Facebook of a recent New York Post story on potentially harmful content about the Biden campaign. Big Tech’s control over the free flow of information is an issue that must be addressed soon. And, if nothing else, Gabbard’s co-sponsorship of this bill brings the issue to congressional focus.
In summary, Gabbard is someone to keep an eye on. Her ideas splash over the traditionally red and blue boundaries of American politics. And in an era of increasing polarization and political chaos, purple politicians might be just what we need.
*The views expressed in this article solely represent the views of the author, not the views of the Chicago Thinker.