Tulsi Gabbard: You Say Goodbye, and I Say Alo(ha)

This Spring, the Berkeley Public Policy Journal will profile the (many) candidates vying to become the next President of the United States. Starting Tuesday, March 5 – a calendar year before Super Tuesday – BPPJ will feature weekly posts written by Goldman students who are taking a look at who’s running and why. We note that these posts feature author opinions that do not represent BPPJ, the Goldman School of Public Policy, or UC Berkeley.

By Nick Draper

In January, Hawai’i Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard joined the growing list of Democratic candidates hoping to take on President Trump in 2020. While the field features no shortage of longshot candidates, Gabbard stands out as a House member with no national base and many positions outside the current Democratic mainstream, particularly on foreign policy and LGBT rights. That said, she has a compelling personal story and defied the odds in her rise to political power. In 2002, at the age of 21, Gabbard became the youngest woman ever elected to a state legislature in the United States. In 2003, she enlisted in the Hawai’i Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Though she filed for re-election in 2004, she did not actively campaign and served in Iraq until 2005. Today she continues to serve as a Major in the National Guard.

  • Gabbard’s military service is critical to her political identity, and she has consistently opposed American military interventions abroad since her election to Congress in 2012. At first glance, this appears perfectly in line with progressive Democratic foreign policy positions. However, Gabbard he has also declined to call Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad a war criminal and even met with Assad during a trip to Syria in January 2017.
  • Though she currently publicly supports LGBT rights, Gabbard has long been associated with an extremely anti-LGBT hindu sect. Her record as a Hawai’i state legislator provides further evidence. She once opposed a bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples and delivered an impassioned speech against a resolution opposing bullying of LGBT students in Hawai’i public schools.

On many other issues, Gabbard supports progressive policies. She backs Medicare for All and a Green New Deal, which are increasingly the standard for establishment Democrats.. However, her campaign has thus far failed to gain traction in the crowded Democratic field, as the once promising Congresswoman has fallen out of favor with many party activists, and strategists have puzzled over her decision to avoid the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. While a successful primary showing is not out of the realm of possibility, a Gabbard presidency currently appears to be the longest of long shots.

Nick Draper is a Master of Public Policy candidate at the Goldman School of Public Policy and a Senior Editor of the Berkeley Public Policy Journal.

This article is an opinion piece, and the opinions expressed represent the author alone. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the Berkeley Public Policy Journal, the Goldman School of Public Policy, or UC Berkeley.