Ellis: Gabbard Gets It

2020 hopeful Tulsi Gabbard has the right experience and a fresh perspective.

by Simon Ellis | 2/28/19 2:25am

 While growing up in Hawai’i, Tulsi Gabbard has been a household name in my family since I was old enough to start caring about politics. The seasoned congresswoman’s intent to join the congested Democratic heat may have come as a surprise to some. Dubbed by Vox as the “Long-Shot Democratic 2020 Candidate,” Gabbard might just actually have the tricks up her sleeve to reunite a polarized democratic populace, and possibly even challenge President Donald Trump to the Oval Office in 2020. A veteran, a woman of color, a hard-liner on terrorism and foreign policy, and a social progressive rolled into one, Tulsi Gabbard is the American Democratic candidate of the future. Whether you agree with her policies or not, Gabbard has a shot at meaningful bipartisan appeal and might not be such a long shot.

Negative headlines regarding Gabbard’s previous stance on the queer community have plagued her early campaign, but she has made no effort at denying her past opinions and has acknowledged her changed positions. While her past record of not only abandoning the queer community, but actively advocating against it, are certainly troublesome, she has done what no supposed Democratic leader before her has done: provided an unconditional apology. Opposition to mixed messages regarding same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights from candidates are nothing new for the Democratic party, and followed both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during their respective campaigns. While both figures ultimately changed their stances in recent years, neither were free from sin or able to provide an apology past the likes of “I’ve changed my mind.”

Gabbard, on the other hand, has not only issued a formal apology acknowledging her beliefs, but backs a record of walking the walk when it comes to the queer community. Not only has she sponsored and co-sponsored a number of bills that support same-sex marriage and protections for the LGBTQ community, the Human Rights Campaign gave her a perfect 100 score for her votes taken in the 115th Congress to support equality. 

Additionally, Gabbard has taken steps to solidify her socially and economically progressive record on a number of issues, from introducing federal legislation to decriminalize marijuana, to opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership and advocating for universal healthcare. While Gabbard assuredly places herself solidly among the left on many social and economic issues (her endorsement of Bernie Sanders in 2016 may even warrant her placement slightly farther left), her stance on foreign policy may be what tips the scales in her favor come primary season.

Gabbard’s nuanced and experienced views on issues from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory to her opposition of Obama-era foreign policy in Syria are certainly a change from the seemingly blindly dictated decisions of President Donald Trump. Like playing darts with a blindfold, the Washington Post notes how Trump’s foreign policy approach has not only devolved into “chaos,” but has failed to follow any sort of consistency. Gabbard on the other hand has consistently made her anti-terror message clear, advocating for elimination of terror groups like ISIS while also restoring peace to the Middle East by withdrawing unneeded American intervention. Her views on foreign policy are not at all perfect and may not even be close to being considered “traditionally liberal” — which could prove to be her X-factor. 

Gabbard’s ardent support of socially and economically progressive issues combined with her experienced and nuanced views on foreign policy allow her to appeal to voters on both sides of the isle. In a time in which the American electorate is as polarized as it has ever been, the versatility and plasticity of candidates like Tulsi Gabbard may be what it takes to cross the finish line come next November. While I do not support all of her views, past or present, she has the unique ability to differentiate herself from an arguably heterogenous democratic field, and I would not be surprised to see her receive the nomination at the 2020 Democratic National Convention.