Chelsea Manning, the controversial government whistleblower who released thousands of classified government documents to WikiLeaks in 2010, announced that she will run for a Senate seat in Maryland.
Manning included a video along with her Twitter announcement confirming her run (which you can watch after the jump), and, well, it’s… pretty intense (despite the emoji at the end of it).
Considered a hero by some, and a traitor by others, Manning’s been busy for the past few months after her release from military prison last May—amassing over 300,000 Twitter followers and continuing to be a vocal supporter of trans rights.
She’s also the subject of an upcoming Showtime documentary, XY Chelsea, that follows her release from prison; it was produced by Laura Poitras, who made the Edward Snowden doc, Citizenfour.
Speaking of Snowden, the other former whistleblower, now living in an undisclosed location in Moscow, hasn’t directly commented on Manning’s run yet—but he did retweet this on Saturday:
Manning, a former intelligence analyst in Iraq for the United States Army, received a 35-year prison sentence for leaking over 700,000 government documents (like this one and this one) to WikiLeaks.
After serving seven years of that sentence, Manning seems to have gotten out just in the nick of time: Obama pardoned her in 2017 as one of his last acts in office, and said he felt “very comfortable that justice has been served.” (Something tells me Trump would not have been so forgiving.)
So, does Manning actually have a chance of winning this Democratic primary? Probably not. But…maybe? Her opponent is incumbent Senator Ben Cardin, a far more Centrist-leaning Democrat in a true-blue state. Cardin has already served two terms and is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, currently leading the charge to investigate Russian influence on the 2016 election.
(Which somehow has prompted various ridiculous conspiracy theories that claim Manning’s candidacy is actually a Kremlin plot.)
Some Democratic critics dismiss Manning’s candidacy as more of a “celebrity statement” than an actual, viable run for office. But, hey, let’s face it, maybe that’s just the road we’re going down these days anyway, and over the years Manning, who fought for gender-reassignment surgery while in military prison, has become a symbol to a range of people, including trans rights activists and freedom-of-information-loving Libertarians.
Obviously, for your average dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, Manning could certainly be considered “too radical.” But her advocacy for LGBTQIA causes, and strong views on racial justice and police violence may be appealing to voters who are sick of the same old/white/straight-business-as-usual that can be expected from Cardin, who columnist Glen Greenwald called “one of the most standard, banal, typical, privileged and mediocre politicians in the U.S. Congress.”
In any case, if elected, Manning will be the first transgender member of the U.S. Senate.