It's official: Chelsea Manning is running for the U.S. Senate.
After reports circulated in the news media of a federal election filing, the transgender whistleblower confirmed her political aspirations for the Maryland seat Sunday on Twitter, in a post that included a fundraising video.
— Chelsea E. Manning (@xychelsea) January 14, 2018
In 2013, Manning was sentenced to spend 35 years in prison for violating the Espionage Act, after sharing classified government documents and other sensitive materials with WikiLeaks while serving in the U.S. Army. President Obama, calling the sentence "very disproportionate," commuted most of it before he left office.
The crime led Manning, who came out as trans in 2013, to be hailed as a hero by some and a traitor by others. News of her Senate run showed how divisive a figure she has become, eliciting enthusiasm from progressives as well as antipathy laced with transphobia from the right.
Notably, James Woods, the conservative actor who speared a homophobic and hypocritical campaign against the film Call Me by Your Name, misgendered Manning — a transphobic response adopted by other conservatives in their critiques.
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) January 14, 2018
Chelsea Manning: “I want to run for Senate.”
Dems: “What are your qualifications?”
Manning: “I was convicted of espionage against the US and am a dude who now wears a dress.”
Dems: “Well howdy! You’re our gu...uh, gir...uh, whatever! Welcome aboard!”
— John Cardillo (@johncardillo) January 14, 2018
— JohnDesantis (@Trumpfan1995) January 13, 2018
Critics also pointed out Manning's lack of political experience — although this attack rings hollow from supporters of Donald Trump, who never held a political office before he became president.
Gay journalist Glenn Greenwald and longtime Manning defender — he famously helped publish classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden in The Guardian — took to Twitter to burnish her accomplishments in response to naysayers.
Chelsea Manning's leaks:
* 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
* fueled Arab Spring by exposing corrupt regimes (Bill Keller)
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) January 14, 2018
And political experience is not what Manning is promoting. In her campaign video, she positioned herself as "someone willing to fight" and "take the reins of power" from the political establishment:
We live in trying times, times 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 us. They won’t compromise. We need to stop expecting that out systems will somehow fix themselves. We need to actually take the reins of power from them. We need to challenge them on every level. We need to fix this. We don’t need them any more. We can do better. We’re damn right we got this.