If you’re into identity politics, there’s no denying this candidate is the most individually diverse. She’s Samoan-Asian-Polynesian-European-American (among other things), is Hindu and a vegan, and is running for president as a champion of the Aloha Spirit. She’s met with Modi and Assad, resigned from office to go to war for her country, opposes regime change wars but believes fervently in hunting down and destroying terrorists wherever they are, and is presently a major in the Hawaii National Guard.
Not your everyday hippie peacenik.
In the Not Fake News 2020 Scorecard, I describe her as brilliant, a maverick, and arguably one of the most qualified potential candidates in the arena. An active conservative when young, she’s become a champion of the rights of the individual throughout her career. Her most notable reversal is in the arena of LGBTQ+ rights; she went from a staunch defender of the status quo to a 100% positive voting record in a matter of ten years (according to the Human Rights Campaign).
Her other positions include a rather unique stance on military interventionism: “When it comes to the war against terrorists, I’m a hawk”, but “when it comes to counterproductive wars of regime change, I’m a dove.” She views China as a trade threat, the War On Drugs as extremely wasteful and wrongly directed, healthcare as a basic human right, and some gun control as absolutely necessary. She’s in favor of multiple sudden, even extreme, changes; while willing to discuss with rivals and compromise in the near term, she’s absolute in her convictions.
Gabbard is a controversial figure in her own party; I’ve heard her described more than once as “not one of us”, and a quick look at her record explains why. She was unanimously elected as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, but fought bitterly with then-chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz over the restricted debate format. Her private complaints about internal procedures, in which she accused the leadership of stacking the deck in favor of Clinton, were revealed by WikiLeaks. Shortly thereafter, and ostensibly in order to support Bernie Sanders in 2016, she resigned her position in the DNC (though rumor has it she was asked to step down). Naturally, she’s now despised by her own party’s leadership, which is even now working hard to discredit her and undercut her campaign.
Since then, she’s remained unafraid to speak her mind publicly on the issues. When the House voted to impeach President Trump, she abstained, voting “present”; her goal was to underline her belief that an impeachment could only hurt the party’s chances in the 2020 elections — a belief many held, including Speaker Pelosi, not long before. Her stance on abortion is unpopular among Democrats; she says she’d never have one, but she also believes others might need one: “Abortion should be available, legal, and rare.” That’s a brave statement to make in the modern Democratic Party.
I put no stock in rumors of collusion with Assad and ties with Modi; likewise, I’m confident that she’d never act as a spoiler third-party candidate — and that anyone who says otherwise is guilty of a particularly nasty smear. However, her penchant for abrupt change is one that might reasonably give any conservative pause — including the conservatives in her own party.
Unfortunately, Tulsi Gabbard is also unskilled in oratory. She’s charismatic as all get-out, and she comes across as both smart and sincere, but she lacks any sense of timing. She’s unable to deliver the sharp, punchy lines the major media finds so quotable. As a result, she tends to banish herself to the jump page or, at best, below the fold.
The bottom line: Gabbard is highly intelligent, acts on principle, and researches every issue thoroughly before deciding how to act — but when she does decide, watch out! She’s also a candidate with broad cross-party appeal and the ability to draw and inspire independent support. However, her campaign has failed to overcome the negativity offered by her own party, and it’s unlikely she’ll gain momentum on her own.