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Meet Tulsi Gabbard: a Hawaii Congresswoman, military veteran, and perhaps the most enigmatic Democratic candidate for the 2020 election.
After announcing her run in early January, Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential bid got off to quite a rough start. Almost immediately, Politico reported that her campaign was “in disarray,” and NBC published what essentially amounts to a hit piece on Tulsi, suggesting that her campaign was somehow being propped up by the Russian media (citing evidence from a discredited cybersecurity firm). All the while, she was subject to relentless criticism over her political past, such as her previously-held anti-LGBT beliefs and her meeting with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. As a result, many prospective voters may have dismissed her candidacy early on, hence the reason why she still only polls at around the 1% mark, while other candidates who declared later than her have seen their numbers steadily increase.
But if you simply take the time to look beyond the thin veil of the mainstream media’s narrative, what you’ll find in Tulsi is a fascinating character and a truly compelling candidate—perhaps the best suited to take on Trump in the general election.
Despite her relatively young age (37) in the realm of politics, Tulsi’s experience in American civil service certainly suffices to qualify her candidacy. At the age of 21, she became the youngest person ever elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives. After her first term in office, she volunteered to deploy to Iraq with the Hawaii National Guard in 2004. She eventually returned to politics, serving in the Honolulu City Council and finally, the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tulsi has received much backlash for her past anti-LGBT views. She was raised in a socially conservative household and previously worked with the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, an organization established by her father, Mike Gabbard, in the early 2000s. However, Tulsi explains that her time in the military spurred a change of heart on this issue, and her recent record certainly reflects such a claim. During her time in Congress since 2013, she has a consistent pro-LGBT voting record and has been endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT civil rights advocacy group in the U.S.
Tulsi’s 2020 campaign revolves around the themes of peace and “Aloha.” She has consistently been one of the most outspoken anti-war voices in the Democratic Party, whose leadership has gravitated towards neoconservative foreign policy over the years. Having served in the military, Tulsi cites her firsthand knowledge of the cost of war as the reason she so strongly opposes waging interventionist regime change operations in nations such as Iraq, Libya, and Syria, all of which have proven to yield disastrous consequences. She was the only member of Congress who dared to visit the war-torn Syria, meet with the Syrian people, and discuss a path towards peace with President Assad. She emphasizes that while elitist D.C. warmongers sit in their ivory towers with little regard for the consequences of their decisions, American soldiers sacrifice their lives and thousands of innocent civilians die in foreign nations for these unnecessary causes, which are ultimately funded by American taxpayer dollars.
Ultimately, Tulsi’s stance on foreign policy would enable her to unify voters on both sides of the political spectrum in order to defeat Trump. After all, war and peace are not partisan issues. While American troops are still deployed in Iraq and Syria, warhawks like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo in the Trump administration are increasing drone strikes, actively pushing for regime change in Venezuela, and once again ratcheting up nuclear tensions with Russia. If these issues grow to become more prevalent leading up to 2020, which they probably will, the conversation about foreign policy would inevitably be forced into the spotlight, as the decision for 2020 could be tantamount to a choice between war and peace.
In the general election, Tulsi would likely garner votes from libertarians, many of whom actually voted for Trump due to his anti-interventionist rhetoric on the campaign trail but are now disenchanted by his actual foreign policy. She’d also resonate with veterans and their families, who fear to see their loved ones being hastily sent into battle. After all, when presented with the stark contrast between Tulsi, a decorated member of the National Guard who actually volunteered to serve in Iraq, and Trump, an heir to wealth and power who dodged the draft thanks to “bone spurs,” the choice for them would be clear as day. Strangely enough, Tulsi may even be able to gain support from the alt-right and white nationalists, for they'd certainly hate to envision their fellow white American soldiers dying by the hand of Muslims and “brown people” in the Middle East. In fact, she has actually been endorsed by David Duke and praised by the likes of Steve Bannon and Richard Spencer.
Nevertheless, Tulsi actually maintains perhaps the strongest progressive credentials among all Democratic candidates not named Bernie Sanders. She has long supported left-wing policy proposals such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, tuition-free public college, and raising the minimum wage, and actually quit her position as Vice Chair of the DNC to support Sanders in the 2016 election, to the delight of many on the left. Unlike Bernie, however, she is an up-and-comer who is young, female, minority, and does not carry the stigma of being labeled as a socialist, which could be a huge “turn-off” for prospective conservative voters as well as Democratic Party loyalists.
In the end, Tulsi Gabbard (or perhaps a Gabbard/Sanders ticket) certainly has the ability to shore up a progressive base that will turn out in massive numbers for the general election. But what differentiates her from all the other Democrats, including Sanders, is her unique ability to reach across the aisle and appeal to certain factions of the right-wing, thanks to her unapologetic stance on foreign policy.