Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army private who was convicted in 2013 of criminal responsibility for the largest leak of classified information in the history of the United States, has filed documents allowing her to run for the U.S. Senate in Maryland.
Her filing with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, January 11, indicates that she will run as a Democrat. This will require a challenge to incumbent Benjamin L. Cardin in a primary in June. Cardin is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
It wasn’t until Sunday, after several news organizations had run news of the FEC filing, that Manning confirmed, with a tweet that read, “yup, we’re running for senate” followed by a string of emojis, a link to her first campaign ad on YouTube, and the #WeGotThis hashtag.
Certain to figure in reactions to her campaign: Manning is transgender, having served in the army (and done the above-mentioned leaking) as “Bradley Manning.”
Left Wing View
Manning has many admirers. Glenn Greenwald has catalogued the significance of her leaks thus: she “exposed video of US gunning down unarmed innocents & journalists … documented systemic war crimes in Iraq & Afghanistan … helped end the Iraq War by preventing new agreement to keep troops [and] fueled the Arab Spring by exposing corrupt regimes.” Greenwald’s tweet saying as much garnered more than 2,000 retweets and more than 5,000 likes.
Greenwald has also tweeted, “[It’s] hard to overstate what a hero she is to the LGBT community. While imprisoned on a U.S. military base … she announced her transition … She has more courage in her toenail than most who mock her.”
Greenwald himself is a long-time advocate of the publication of government secrets. He worked with a former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, in 2013 to publish documents showing the extent of U.S. government domestic surveillance in the Obama administration. So surely he recognizes a kindred spirit in Manning.
A black woman who on twitter calls herself by the formidable moniker, “Petty Queen Braveneck Exodus Wonderbitch Genius” seems not to be such a fan of Manning, whom she uses to make a point about racial inequality. “White person … steals classified info, goes to prison, gets pardoned, is called courageous, runs for Senate. Black person … steals Swisher Sweets, in run down. Murdered, called an animal… Happy MLK Day!”
Another tweeter denizen, this one with the shorter name “Redacted Tonight,” says that though some have claimed “the left likes Chelsea Manning simply because she’s trans,” that view is “idiotic,” they actually “like her because she exposed what our government does in our name.”
Right Wing View
The reaction of the conservative blog RedState was understated. Their Andrea Ruth wrote, “Ben Cardin … isn’t seen as being in danger of losing his seat.”
As a matter of policy, Breitbart’s pronoun usage doesn’t recognize transitions, so it says for example, “After Obama commuted his sentence, Manning shifted his focus to queer and transgender rights activism.” Aside from pronoun usage, though, Breitbart’s initial coverage, by Penny Starr, broke little ground.
Back in May 2017, Breitbart’s coverage of Manning’s release from prison opened more contentiously, thus: “Former Private Bradley Manning used his get-out-of-jail-card from former President Barack Obama today and promptly rewarded his progressive supporters by presenting himself as a transformed female Chelsea Manning, complete with a coyly opened shirt.”
In some circles, including the pages of Commentary Magazine, and the New York Post, both associated with neoconservatism, Manning is seen as a counterpart to Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Obama commuted Manning’s sentence, Trump pardoned Arpaio. Manning is running for Senate in Maryland. Arpaio is running for Senate in Arizona. The neocon contention is that each represents the worst in his party, and must be opposed by leveler heads in the intra-party contest.
As Noah Rothman puts it, each party has its own “embarrassment to contain” in this primary season.